Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was first published in 1995 and it shows. The nutrition info seems a little dated. That said, for anyone trying to make long-term and lasting changes to your eating habits, it's still worth the read.
The authors, two nutritionists Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, discuss their failures in helping clients. Frustrated by their clients' inability to maintain weight loss, they embraced what they call "intuative eating." Unlike "dieting" which is often synonymous with deprivation, calorie restriction/counting, and an emphasis on weight loss, "intuative eating" is a process by which individuals learn to respond to their body's natural cues. The primary focus is on nuturing the body but also includes accepting and celebrating the cultural and emotional context of food.
The consensus among experts is that diets don't work, or they do work, but only temporarily. Sadly, less than 5% of people who lose weight will gain it back within 2 years. Many individuals engage in a lifetime of chronic weight cycling, lose-gain, lose-gain. According to the authors yo-yo dieting is not a failure of the dieter, but a failure of the diet. Most diets are designed for quick results and don't teach people how to eat over the long term. Simply put, they are unsustainable or unrealistic. And because they focus primarily on calorie restriction and weight loss (the quicker the better) they can cause havoc with a dieter's metabolism, all but guaranteeing any positive results will be short-lived.
There's a lot to digest here, and I think most of it is pretty spot on. People trying to lose weight want to have lost it as of yesterday. And even the recommended safe weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week can be too much for a body that has evolved to survive famine. Tribole and Resch recommend throwing away the scale and our diet books. Instead, they recommend tuning into our body, something they admit may not be as simple as it sounds, at least not initially. Unfortunately, the only way to make lasting change is to make sure that food is our friend. And in order for food to truly be our "friend" we have to establish a positive relationship with it. Few will be able to permanently restrict calories or their favorite foods over the long haul, and who would want to? It's just not realistic or a rewarding way to live. However, we can learn to listen to our bodies. For example, it's not uncommon to eat out of habit rather than hunger. We let what is on our plate or in a package/ready-made serving to tell us when to stop eating rather than our feelings of satiety. Many of us eat because it is time to eat, or continue to eat something even when it's not that good.
We engage in emotional eating when we're sad, hungry, bored, angry, etc.
And if we are lucky enough to even recognize hunger we may eat when we're hungry. (They argue that many people don't even know what it feels like to be hungry.)
The key to intuitive eating is self-awareness, both physical (hunger, satiety, and satisfaction) and emotional (using food as a means of coping or avoiding uncomfortable feelings). We need to learn how to differentiate true hunger from emotional hunger and also learn to stop when we're full as opposed to when we've cleaned our plate as the two are rarely the same thing. We also need to put our food choices into the same context that we do other choices. For example, if we say we value health, then our choices should honor that value. What we eat is a choice, and by acknowledging this, we are less likely to feel deprived. It's not that we can't have the cookie or pasta or chips or fries, it's that we don't want those things as much as we want to honor our values. And they say, accurately so, that sometimes simply acknowledging the choice can diminish the power certain foods have over us.
The last quarter of the book addresses eating disorders like bulemia and anorexia. It briefly hints at binge eating which is a lot less clear cut, but a lot more common.
In conclusion, anyone who has struggled with weight and/or those who have an unhealthy relationship food would likely gain some valuable insight from this particular book. It really is a book that highlights the importance of our increasingly complicated relationship with food.