Intuitive eating is a framework created by Elyse Resch and Evelyne Tribole in 1995 and is way of eating that is guided by your own hunger cues rather than following diet-rules. While it may seem like this is something we all naturally do, it isn’t always the case. Subconsciously we are bound to certain eating rules designed to guide us towards a lower weight. If you think that intuitive eating means eating whatever you want whenever you want … you are not entirely right but also not entirely wrong. It doesn’t mean we should stuff ourselves with junk food all the time, because we think that is what our body needs. It is about learning how eating certain foods make you feel and what emotions they bring up.
An important principle of the intuitive eating framework is learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger cues. While the former is the biological urge to fuel your body, the latter is driven by emotions such as boredom and sadness which will lead you to feel guilty afterwards. We are taught that a cookie is bad and an apple is good, which will give the cookie a lot of power and eating it will lead to feelings of guilt. Intuitive eating rejects this distinction between good and bad foods, giving all foods equal power or, rather, no power.
I talked to dietitian Alessia Couvreur, a real inspiration, helping others feel confident and healthy in their bodies without focussing on weight loss and dieting. She was willing to give us an interesting insight about how she uses this approach with herself and her clients.
You use a different approach than most dietitians. What has driven you to do this?
“As a dietitian I learned how to lose weight following the diet rules, but the relationship with my mind and body got worse. I became obsessed with weighing myself and I thought it was normal at the time, because this is what I was taught in school. I first learned about intuitive eating through Instagram and at first I was a bit sceptical. I eventually learned how to trust my body again started to focus on how I felt rather than how much I weighed. Because traditional diets fail in 95% of all cases, I thought this approach would help my clients as well.”
Why do you believe that intuitive eating is a successful approach?
“We are all born intuitive eaters and we know how much food our body really needs. We live in a society that is obsessed with dieting and unrealistic body images. We follow diets that tell us when, what and how much to eat and that is how we lose touch with our own body. We blame ourselves when diets fail which crushes our confidence, while actually nearly all diets fail. Diets don’t account for the human factor in all of us, they just focus on numbers. I feel like my approach has given my clients some sense of calmness which has encouraged them let go of the inner struggle.”
How do you guide your clients throughout this process?
“Right now I guide them through the ‘Back To Basics’ program in 6 one-on-one sessions. Every story is unique so my approach is very personal and I listen to what every client needs and we work with that. I give them exercises to do at home so they can actively continue the journey. In February I’ll launch a new online course that everyone can follow at their own pace.”
You eat plantbased yourself, is this a health-related decision?
“I tried a month-long vegan challenge once. I really liked it and the way it made me feel and I never ate any meat or fish again. I’m also a big animal lover and want to contribute to a greener world. That way I don’t have to feel as guilty when I make a less sustainable choice such as taking a plane or buying new clothes.”
Interested in Alessia’s approach? Visit her website: themindsetdietitian.be or her Instagram page @alessia_themindsetdietitian.