After practicing intuitive eating for many months, I caught myself examining a food label at the store. I had recently made peace with bagels and cream cheese and was at the store buying more cream cheese when I saw Neufchatel cheese on the shelf right next to it. It claimed to be like cream cheese but with less fat; the nutrition label confirmed this. I did notice that cream cheese was a bit rich for me, so I decided to try this alternative bagel spread. To my surprise, it was more pleasing to my palate. But then I began to wonder whether or not this was my eating disordered thoughts bubbling to the surface.
When I started dieting, the first thing I did was pay more attention to nutrition. And when I started intuitive eating, it was the last thing that I paid attention to. Dieting forced my mind to be hyperaware of the nutritional content of my food, and I think that gentle nutrition is one of the last principles in the book for a reason. The whole intuitive eating process would have been sabotaged for me if nutrition was the focus early on. I believe that it would have pulled me right back into the diet mentality if I didn’t have a solid intuitive eating foundation before tackling this principle.
Gentle nutrition is not a simple concept. It may seem that way at first glance, but there really are several points about gentle nutrition that are important to keep in mind.
- Consuming food that the body appreciates. There are some foods that my taste buds appreciate and some foods that my whole body appreciates. The hard part is finding where those two intersect. I’ve learned that while french fries taste really good, my digestive system is much happier when I eat foods with higher fiber. Although it may seem diet-y to make a conscious effort to add fruits and veggies to my day, my body physically feels better when I eat more nutrient dense foods.1 I genuinely see it this as self-care and not as a dieting tactic.
- Choosing food regardless of the nutrition label. Sometimes I go for full fat food because of its taste, fat content be damned. On the other hand, there are times when I’m drawn to the low fat food because I prefer its taste and not because of the fewer grams of fat. If I can look at a food and be fine ignoring the nutritional content, then know I have quieted the dieting talk in my head.
- Choosing food because of the nutrition label. I know that this may seem to be in direct opposition to #2, but hear me out. If I pick up two brands of ice cream that are equal in taste but one has more fat than the other, I will chose the one with less fat because it is better for my health. What I see on the nutrition label is not driving my decision. The eating disorder is not choosing the lower fat ice cream. I am.
- Nourishment comes in different forms. Some foods are better at providing nourishment for my body and some are better at nourishing my soul and my emotions. Some foods I consume simply for the sake of pleasure.2 All of these forms of nourishment are equally important.
- It’s not about day-to-day consumption. Nutrition guidelines are just that: guidelines. The recommendations are an overall picture of what healthy eating may look like, so it’s more of an average over time rather than what needs to be consumed in a single day.3 Some days I don’t eat many fruits and veggies and other days I crave them. My body is smart and will tell me what it needs.
The eating disorder chatter in my mind was very strong at first and often guided my food choices in regards to nutrition. After the chatter weakened, I no longer based my decisions about what to eat solely on nutritional content. Now I listen to my body and choose a variety of foods because of the flavor and how it makes me feel.
When you read a nutrition label, do you get caught up in diet mentality or do you incorporating gentle nutrition into your life? Please share in the comment section below.
2And, when it comes down to it, life’s too short, right? Eating kale all the time won’t change the end result.
3If I don’t consume the recommended amount of vitamin C one day, I won’t all of a sudden come down with scurvy.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
You’ve made it this far. Now subscribe for regular updates. It’s easy! And you get a FREE Intuitive Eating quiz when you sign up!
YouTube Version: Coming soon!