Let’s start off by saying, listen to the podcast Chalene released entitled: INTUITIVE VS INFORMED VS RESTRICTIVE EATING. Sometimes it helps to hear these things. But if you’re looking for the down and dirty, we’ve got that right here. You see, one of our major goals in the 131 Method is to teach people enough about food and their bodies to never have to diet again. Traditional diets simply don’t work. Following other people’s food rules doesn’t lead to becoming an informed eater. Intuition may lead you down a slippery slope. (More on that later). But becoming an informed eater just takes information, and a little self-discovery.
We used to bat this phrase around a lot. It really was a huge goal of the 131. Help people eat intuitively instead of restricting, dieting, or following other people’s food rules. We preach that no two people are the same, therefore, no two diets should look exactly the same. However, the word intuitive gets a bit tricky. Someone who eats when they’re hungry and never food shames themselves could be classified as an intuitive eater. But they might also be 50 pounds overweight. That intuition serves no purpose if the desired outcome remains illusive.
Sure, we love hearing from people who embrace their food choices and shun guilty feelings! However, it’s entirely possible to be an unhealthy intuitive eater. Because what is that person basing their choices on? Just hunger? “Bad vs. Good” foods? A diet? A meal plan? Food rules and restriction? Or maybe even too much food freedom (like, ignoring signs from the body to abstain from certain foods).
“Bad and Good”
Check yourself before declaring that you’re “bad” or “good” based on food choices you made. Perhaps you made an informed decision today to do something that doesn’t agree with you. That doesn’t make you a bad person. You weren’t bad. You aren’t bad. We’ve got to stop waking up each day and thinking, “is this a good day or a bad day? We must stop beating ourselves up lamenting, “Oh, I was bad today.” No you weren’t. You made some informed decisions and you can make better informed decisions tomorrow. (Better in terms of your health, that is). But even if you don’t make better decisions tomorrow, that doesn’t mean you are a worse person. It doesn’t make you a better person because you eat a certain way or you exercise a certain way. The whole health picture involves so much more than your meals. Focus on movement, food selection, sleep, stress and relationships too.
The difference between the two lies in making choices about the types and quantities of foods to eat based personal experimentation, history and education. If you eat kale, tomatoes and quinoa because you heard they’re super-foods, yet they consistently leave you with digestive discomfort, you’re not practicing informed eating. That’s a food rule bestowed by the “healthy people.”
Informed eating doesn’t mean that you’re informed of someone else’s rules either. Informed eating means that you are informed on how the body works. Our bodies all do really incredible things. Our DNA’s are like, 99% the same. We all sleep, burn calories, produce hormones, digest food, grow and age. Now, we do all of these things at varying degrees, speeds and frequencies. And that’s why it’s important to know how your body does all of those things. Which foods make it run optimally, or leave you tired and bloated? Which boost energy and which leave you craving sugar? When you know about your body, you know how to make informed choices. You might still indulge in frozen yogurt knowing you’ll regret it in the morning. But at least you chose from an informed place rather than not thinking about it at all.
Where it gets Tricky
So, in the above example of eating kale and quinoa because everyone says those things are healthy, one might choose to keep eating them because, well, everyone says they’re healthy. That “healthy” classification is, in fact, an intuitive way to choose foods to eat. However, if someone constantly feels bloated, tired or achy after eating them, and forges on because of the health factor, it’s no longer a wise choice.
Furthermore, if you were to just go by how you felt, and not actually what you knew, that also could be dangerous. For example, if you regulated your hunger hormones, or even slipped into mild ketosis, even by accident, you might lose your 3 p.m. sugar cravings, and even your normal hunger. So if you intuitively say, “I’m not hungry, I won’t eat,” and that went on and on, it wouldn’t be healthy. (The caveat there would be informed fasting…but even fasting requires a ton of informed decisions).
This type of eating sometimes resembles an eating disorder, or orthorexia. It’s when the food rules you’ve set control where you go, what you do, if you can eat out and affects family or social situations. When you restrict, you place all of the value on what it is you can’t have, and that becomes your focus. And think about how the brain works. If there’s something you can’t eat, that’s all you end up thinking about.
You know you’re eating in a way that’s very restrictive if you shun a certain food or food group because in your mind you’ve made a rule about it. Maybe the rule is that’s it’s too high in carbs, or you never eat fruit, or it contains a drop of oil. But it’s because you convinced yourself of a rule after reading someone’s book, listening to a friend or hearing a podcast. Or maybe you belong to a”food tribe” like: “keto for life” or primal paleo” or “veganism.” Often, food rules become established due to fitting into a group, and not informed choices about your specific body. If you refuse to eat food someone else prepared, only eat foods you’ve weighed and measured, or set up a narrative preventing you from easily living your life…that’s restrictive. You no longer have power.
The Bottom Line
Restriction is not living. Food rules almost ensure you obsess about what you cannot have. Food controls your life rather than the other way around. Get real with yourself about things you’ve declared, and where rigid behaviors prevent you from having food freedom and confidence.
Informed, as opposed to intuitive eating, puts the power back in your hands. You decide! You need not wonder if you can eat a certain food. Don’t follow someone’s else’s plan or definition of what’s healthy. You already know how your body’s going to handle a certain food and how you’ll feel tomorrow. And then, you decide: are the consequences worth it, or not? From there, don’t label yourself as good or bad because of that choice. Don’t give your choice that kind of power. An informed choice is simply a decision you make while factoring in what you know about your body and how our bodies work in general. None of this defines you.
Comment below if you agree!