We’ve made it all the way to the last Intuitive Eating Principle – #10 Honor Your Health. What exactly does it mean to honor your health? Well, the truth is, there is no “cookie cutter” formula for honoring your health. There is not one set of steps or rules for everyone to follow. The secret lies in listening to your own body, and deciding what is best for YOU. What works for you may not work for someone else, but that is the beauty of the journey that lies in getting in touch with your own body.
I love this quote from Michelle Stacey…
“We will not be healthier, both psychologically and physically, about our food until we learn to love it more, not less…with a relaxed, generous, unashamed emotion. In the process, it may be that we will have to redefine fundamentally the concept of “eating well”.” – Michelle Stacey, author of Consumed: Why Americans Love, Hate, and Fear Food
“Eating well” is now more than ever being discussed in our diet and wellness culture. Our entire country is worried about food in some shape or form it seems. Each day there is a new headline or health trend. This does not help us honor our health. In fact that worry and stress over food contributes to poor health. Have you heard of the French paradox? The French have a longer life expectancy, take less medication, and have markedly lower rates of heart disease than the United States. Yet when you look at their diet it would appear, by United States standards, to be not very healthy. France actually has the highest per-capita dairy fat consumption like cream, butter and cheese of any industrial nation (Guyenet 2008). This paradox could be in part because of their relationship with food. They have a more positive attitude towards eating and it is viewed as a pleasure.
The book Intuitive Eating states that healthy eating is having a healthy balance of foods AND having a healthy relationship with food. These are both equally as important and we cannot truly be healthy if one of those is out of balance. There is a reason that the tenth principle in the Intuitive Eating process is honor your health with gentle nutrition. It takes time to work through all of the other principles and create a healthy relationship with food before gentle nutrition can be introduced.
Gentle nutrition means taking care of yourself and your health. It means incorporating many types, colors, and kinds of foods. Gentle nutrition means eating foods because you want to, and because you are listening to what your body wants and needs.
So how exactly do you honor your health with gentle nutrition?
- Expand your options: Eating a wide variety of foods is so important when honoring your health and trying to become in tune with your own body.
- Think about the taste, quantity, quality and characteristics of the foods that you eat. Ask yourself how you feel when you eat certain foods? Consider the pleasure factor.
- Be aware of your body: After eating certain foods, listen to your body and how it reacts. If your stomach hurts after eating a specific food, maybe hold back or lessen your portion of that food. Likewise, if a certain food boosts your focus and supplies you with energy, try incorporating that food more often.
- Practice eating enough and not too little, working though the previous Intuitive Eating principles can help with this one.
- Eat enough fruits and vegetables. This one can be really challenging especially in eating disorder recovery or for somebody who has chronically dieted. This is because a lot of times veggies become a main staple in the diet and we get sick of them! That is okay and normal. It can be helpful to think of more enjoyable and fun ways to include fruits and veggies. Cook them into foods, add butter, cheese, olive oil and whatever else you find delicious!
- Continue allowing yourself to have all foods. There are no forbidden foods!
- Don’t beat yourself up: You are going to have less than stellar days and that is okay. There will be days where life happens and maybe you aren’t able to be so in touch with your body and need to eat what is available and convenient. Understand that this isn’t a setback; this is part of the process and life. One day or even one week does not change our health or impact us as much as wellness and diet culture makes it seem.
Principle #10 of Intuitive Eating really unites all of the other nine principles. Honoring your hunger, making peace with food, respecting your fullness, and respecting your body are all parts of honoring your health. It is a journey and takes time to figure out what works best for you. I hope you can find peace in the uniqueness of you and your body during your journey of honoring your health.
As always if you have questions or feel like you would like to work towards Intuitive Eating or any other nutrition related concern you can contact me here!
Contributed by: Rachel Hickman, Lipscomb University Dietetics Student and Melissa Giovanni, MS, RDN, LDN, CEDRD