Body Image, Eating Disorders & Intuitive Eating… A Special Pre-Event Q&A with Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD (Part 2)

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD,  co-author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, answered some important Intuitive Eating questions for us in yesterday’s post, What is Intuitive Eating? (Part 1).  Readers found out, perhaps surprisingly, that research shows Intuitive Eaters are actually healthier, both physically and mentally.  Today’s post (Part 2) is a follow-up Q&A with Evelyn and delves a little deeper into the intersections between body image, eating disorders, recovery and Intuitive Eating.  Evelyn will be presenting “Intuitive Eating: Making Peace With Food” at a free community event in Baltimore on Sunday, November 21, 2010.  All are welcome.  Her talk will be followed by a book signing and casual reception.  Please visit our Events page for more information.

Q & A with Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD (Part 2)

In your book, you have a chapter entitled “Respect Your Body” – what kind of role does body image play in becoming an intuitive eater?

Body image is often at the core of people’s struggle with eating and weight because their initial desire to lose weight or change their body in some way may have been the catalyst for their first diet.  Unfortunately the first diet often leads to more diets, and a long relationship with dieting and weight fluctuations can wreak havoc on a person’s metabolism, their relationship with food and their overall self-esteem.  As mentioned above, diets have also been shown to result in increased weight gain (rather than the intended weight loss) which can perpetuate further body dissatisfaction. In other words, as stated in the book, “body vigilance begets body worry, which begets food worry which fuels the cycle of dieting”.

That being said, in order to move towards becoming an intuitive eater you really have to learn to respect your body.  Respecting your body doesn’t necessarily mean immediately liking every aspect of your body.  Respecting your body means treating it with dignity, and meeting its basic needs.  It means accepting your genetic blueprint, getting realistic about what is a healthy weight for you and letting go of the unrealistic and unhealthy weight expectations you’ve set for yourself along the way. Chapter 12 in my book and my presentation in Baltimore on November 21st will delve into some more specific steps involved in this process.

Can someone who has had an eating disorder become an Intuitive Eater?

Yes they can, however, timing and readiness are key factors that must be considered in order to do so safely and in a way that does not create risks for relapse.  When an individual is in the throes of an eating disorder, he or she is not capable of accurately hearing biological cues of hunger and fullness.  In this situation, their “satiety meter” is broken, a consequence of complex interactions of mind-body biology and malnutrition.  In the beginning of treatment, nutrition rehabilitation usually requires some sort of eating plan (often under the direction of a nutrition therapist). With proper treatment and input from their providers, individuals with eating disorders can determine the best timing and their readiness to begin transitioning from a structured eating plan to more intuitive eating. Ultimately, when a person recovers from an eating disorder, she trusts her inner body wisdom. She/he is at peace with mind and body, and finally, enjoys the pleasures of eating according to natural hunger and fullness cues and without guilt or moral decree.

In your experience, what are some of the most frequent reactions or responses people have had after learning about and incorporating intuitive eating into their lives?

One of the most common reactions from people who make the shift into Intuitive Eating, is that they marvel at their new sense of freedom and peace—freedom from:

  • Worrying about every single morsel they put into their mouths.
  • Judgment from their incessant food-police critic.
  • Worrying about what other people think about their food choices.
  • Pre-occupation about eating the “right” or “wrong” food.
  • Counting—calories, carbs, or points.
  • Guilt, judgment, and self-worth related to food and body.

Consequently, their anxiety is markedly decreased, and they can participate in life—on what’s happening — right now, in the moment.  No more distraction.  When someone is constantly worried about what they eat—it’s akin to talking on the phone to a person who is simultaneously emailing or surfing the net.  The distracted person is saying the right words, but the connection is missing.

I never tire of hearing the genuine surprise of “taste discovery”, when someone finally gives herself unconditional permission to eat.   It’s not unusual for some to discover that they really don’t like a particular food that they have lusted after, and felt guilty while eating it.  When you have unconditional permission to eat—you really get to taste and experience the food, without judgment.

When someone embraces Intuitive Eating (and “gets it”), it is very empowering—because ultimately, the individual becomes self-attuned, and the expert of his or her own body.

Who could benefit from attending your workshop on November 21st, 2010 at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt?

This will be a great opportunity for individuals who’ve struggled in anyway with their relationship with food or weight including those who struggle with yo-yo dieting, compulsive overeating, weight fluctuations, restrictive diets, disordered eating or any type of general anxiety about food and weight.  This will also be a helpful presentation for parents or caregivers who are looking for ways to help their families develop an emotionally and physically healthy relationship with food.  Professionals who work with individuals around eating and weight can also benefit from learning more about Intuitive Eating.

In addition to attending your workshop on Nov. 21st and reading your book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, can you recommend any other supportive resources or additional strategies for individuals or families who are interested in intuitive eating?

On my website I have an entire collection of articles, interviews, research, trainings, and supportive resources related to Intuitive Eating. I would suggest starting there. You can also sign-up for my e-newsletter to receive ongoing news and research about intuitive eating.

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If you missed Part 1 of this special Q & A with Evelyn Tribole, we suggest you take a moment to go back and read it here.   Part 1 is important to understanding what Intuitive Eating is all about and provides links to additional research supporting the intuitive eating principles set forth by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and her Intuitive Eating co-author Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA.

You may also be interested in some of these past entries from The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt Blog: