One of the first things many people say when presented with the idea of Intuitive Eating or Health at Every Size (HAES) is “isn’t that just encouraging obesity?” I think it’s important to clear up the misconception that embracing eating in a mindful and intuitive way is the same as a food free for all. Yes, for many people who have just started eating intuitively the process involves a high percentage of “play foods” as our bodies will likely crave the foods we have been restricting. However, if we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat what will nourish and satisfy us in the moment without judgement the urge to eat those forbidden foods really does start to diminish.
This process is called habitation and if you have ever had a favorite food consistently for even a few days in a row you probably have an understanding of what this looks like. Night one when you decide to have pizza for dinner it sounds fantastic right? Well let’s say the next night you meet up with a friend for dinner and they really want pizza so you go to their favorite pizza place with them. You might be a little less excited about your dinner. Then say the next night your significant other says they really want pizza for dinner-at this point you might say no way! It just doesn’t sound good to you at all. The process doesn’t always happen this fast, but this is a good example of habituation which is the idea that foods become less desirable as we are exposed to them consistantly.
It can be really hard to trust this process! Especially with foods that we have restricted severely. I know there have been several points in my intuitive eating journey where I’ve had the thought of “oh my gosh am I ever going to stop wanting *fill in the blank* food all the time”? It takes trust in the process as well as taking some time to sit back and really think about the thoughts we are having when we eat the food. For example, often if we feel like a food is not losing a little bit of its luster as we keep eating it, that can be a sign that we are still unconsciously restricting the food in some way or labeling it as bad/unhealthy. (Even just that thought of “am I ever going to stop wanting this food can help keep us in this cycle).
Once we get through this initial process of helping our bodies feel safe with the foods we had been restricting, most people find they are eating a wide variety of nutritious foods they truly enjoy, as well as being able to enjoy play foods without guilt when it’s what their body desires. To me that’s not promoting obesity, that’s the definition of a balanced diet and most importantly, a balanced relationship with food.
Questions about HAES or anything else food/body image related? Let me know!