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Intuitive Eating: You Eat Therefore you Think

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Intuitive Eating – Getting your Mind into your Food

What does our brain have to do with eating anyway?

Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.

If you have struggled at all with eating or weight issues, you’ve no doubt heard that people eat “mindlessly” or that eating is often used to deal with emotional issues that may have nothing to do with hunger.

Even if you have NOT struggled with eating, you’ve likely heard these terms. Food, eating, weight-they are all a huge part of our culture.  Especially now that approximately 33% of Americans are overweight, and another 34% are obese.  The implications of these numbers are staggering.

There’s always the search for the magic pill, the miracle exercise plan, the instant fix. There are thousands of diets, immense numbers of diet books, and a new weight loss guru every day showing up on the internet.

Celiacs have a special challenge with weight loss due to the absorption issues in the gut; and then there are also hormonal wackiness in some celiacs. The idea of intuitive eating is a huge subject, and one that I have wanted to discuss for quite a while.  It’s such a huge subject that I was hesitant to tackle it, as it is a very individual journey.

I listened to a podcast where Carla and Shauna discussed their views on intuitive eating.  They also expressed what a giant subject this is, and provided their own personal views on intuitive eating.  (Carla also mentioned she was gluten intolerant, which of course I found very interesting.)  The podcast gave me the kick in the butt I needed to write this.

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So what the heck is intuitive eating?

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In their podcast, Carla and Shauna renamed it “mindful eating” which I like quite a bit.

I have written in the past how awareness of what you eat can benefit you from a health and weight perspective.

Authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch have written a book titled Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works I read this book several years ago, and keep it handy for reference, which I still do from time to time. On their website, they give this definition:

“Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts.  It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person does not change because you ate a so-called “bad” or “fattening” food. “

The truth is, that intuitive or mindful eating is going to have a slightly different definition for everyone.

We attach so much emotional value to food. In its most basic form, food is fuel.  But to many of us, food also represents celebration, tradition, and family fun time.  To some of us, food also represents loneliness, comfort or escape and that’s where we start to run into problems. Not only do we eat when we’re hungry, we eat when we’re bored, lonely, upset, happy, driving, watching TV, or any other time.

Imagine if we ate only when we were low on fuel

Imagine if we didn’t let food define us, allow it to control if we see ourselves as “good” or “bad” (ie: “I was good today, I only ate lettuce” or “I was bad today, I had a chocolate cake”.) Maybe then we could start to get this obesity crisis under control.  Maybe we could separate our feelings of self from our eating pattern.

Intuitive eating is not a diet, just as eating gluten free is not a diet.

And food has no inherent control on who you are.

It’s my personal opinion and experience that a combination of intuitive eating and structured eating is the way to go for weight (fat) loss.

For maintenance eating,(staying at your “happy size” when you get there)  I think a full on intuitive approach is definitely a great way to go.  I do think that as you are actively losing weight, that there may need to be an additional component of calorie control.  You absolutely can eat too much, even if it is “clean and healthy” food and never lose the fat.  In these instances, you would have to limit your caloric intake by measuring/weighing/using portion control.  Calories do matter, I don’t care what zealots of any given diet plan say.

To lose weight (fat) there must be a higher caloric expenditure than there is intake.  That means you may feel hungry.

Feeling hungry is not fun, but it won’t kill you either, especially if you have a lot of fat to lose.  This is why I think that a more structured eating plan is necessary in a fat loss phase, especially for celiacs whose gut hormones may be a bit wacky.  If you feel hungry and you are intuitively eating, you would eat.  But that won’t help you if you’ve already eaten the maximum calories for the day which will still allow you to lose weight.  You end up spinning your wheels and getting frustrated, “I’m doing everything right but I’m still not losing weight!”  In these cases, almost always, it’s a case of too many overall calories.  Even if they are healthy calories.

Carla had a great idea on the podcast.  She suggested keeping a food diary which indicates not just what you eat, but how you feel before, during and after eating an item.  I think this is a fantastic idea.  I suggest keeping a food diary… be sure to add in the awareness component to your writings.

The key in the beginning is to keep the diary without changing anything.  No judgments on yourself, just write it down as this helps set the baseline of where you are now.  What you eat, how much you eat, and how you feel – before and after you eat.  After a week or two, you will see a large increase in your awareness of what you are putting into your mouth, how often you are putting food into your mouth, and how it makes you feel.

Now go back and review your diary.  Notice anything? If you notice that you are eating when you are already full, then stop doing that. If you notice that you are eating after a meeting, then stop doing that. (It’s like the guy who goes to the doctor – Doc, my arm hurts when I do this – the Doctor responds with “stop doing that”).  I know I know – it isn’t that simple… right? Some things aren’t that easy to just stop.  I get that! The key is “awareness”.  As you become more aware, the “just stop” will take care of itself in time.

I know I am over simplifying, but the most important thing is to do something. Today. Now.  If you are unhappy with how you look or feel, it is up to you to make a change. You can do it.  You are stronger than you think.

Over on the Gluten Free Fitness Facebook page in the discussions tab we have a “goals and accountability” section where you can post your goal and get support and a kick in the butt if needed, so swing by and join us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please pipe up on what you think of intuitive eating, your experiences and opinions.

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Gluten Free Fitness Infographic

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Gluten Free Fitness Infographic

Something a little different this week as we have created an infographic to help show off some of our previous work on the topic of celiac disease and fitness.  The links to the information found within the infographic can be found on our site.  Do take the time to click on posts you haven’t read yet and learn more about the fabulous information we have sent your way in the past.  Oh yes, and don’t forget to provide your feedback.

 

Please include attribution to www.glutenfreefitness.com with this graphic.

Gluten Free Fitness Infographic

 

 

The Paleo Diet for Celiacs?

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Paleo Diet for Celiacs?

I’ve been struggling mightily with this one.

Seriously, I just deleted a couple pages I’d already written, and then decided that was very stupid.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve said before that living healthfully and gluten free is a lifestyle, not a “diet.” I just hate the connotations that come along with the word diet.  There’s so many wacky “diets” out there.  And for some reason, whenever something is a “diet,” there’s always individuals who seem to latch on to the ideas or principles presented, as the next great thing that is going to cure cancer and clean your kitchen to boot.

In all fairness, the Paleo Diet in it’s purest form is a way of eating, not a “diet.”  It’s kind of exploded beyond that though.

Is that a hotdog?

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A few weeks ago, I was having a e-discussion with my friend about food, eating, and diet.  We share many of the same views about food in general, and she mentioned how she seems to find weight control more successfully and easily when following a Paleo-like diet plan.

So what is this Paleo, you may be saying?

According to Wikipedia (really, where else would you look,) “The modern dietary regimen known as the Paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various human species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic a period of about 2.5 million years duration that ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. In common usage, such terms as the “Paleolithic diet” also refer to the actual ancestral human diet.[1] Centered on commonly available modern foods, the “contemporary” Paleolithic diet consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts; and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.[1]

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That sounds pretty good, for starters, right?

Meats, veggies, fruit, nuts-this sounds like what I talk about all the time.  This Paleo thing sounds pretty good, right? And the fact that grains are excluded makes it a slam dunk for celiacs for, as we know and feel, grains carry the gluten that affect our intestinal wall.

Well, yes, kind of.

I  love the foods that they include – meat, seafood, natural oils, grass-fed butter, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  All naturally gluten free, all can be highly nutritious.  What I don’t like so much are all the exclusions – dairy, legumes, potatoes.  I like beans, and find them a good source of protein and carbohydrate.  Tasty, too.  Same goes for dairy, although I very much limit intake of dairy.  And no rice, ever?

Maybe it’s just the inner rebel in me, but if someone says I can’t have something it makes me want it more.

I’ve recently been reading more from Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple.  He’s taken a riff on Paleo, and called it Primal .

From what I’ve read, his approach is a bit more realistic, and flexible, which I like.  He even indicates that dairy and rice (gasp!) would be acceptable in certain circumstances.

Robb Wolf also has a bit more flexibility in approach, especially for athletes, and I like that quite a bit.  I recently listened to a podcast interview with him and if I am remembering correctly, his Mom has celiac disease.

Another person with some good stuff to say is Dr. Kurt Harris at PaleoNu.  He has a 12 step “getting started” which I like quite a bit, with the exception of meal frequency (I think it’s more individual than he indicates.)

Here’s one of my big issues with the Paleotards, and those non-obsessed, but following one principle I have issue with. Insulin secretion is not, in fact, the devil.

James Krieger did a great overview of insulin on his blog, which I highly recommend you check out.  Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: insulin is not necessarily bad, although it can be circumstantially, and if there is not a caloric surplus, (yes, calories do matter,) fat will not be stored.  I also very much like the analogy that Kurt Harris uses of insulin being like a bouncer at a club.  Logic and reason for the win.  Insulin in the face of a caloric deficit will not magically make you fat.

Also, there is no magic to eating in a Paleo fashion which will make you lose weight.

A higher protein intake is recommended, and that is something I wholeheartedly support.  However, there is no “metabolic advantage” to a higher protein diet.  As James Krieger so eloquently illustrated in another post on his fine blog, the magic isn’t magic… it’s satiety.

Satiety=feeling full.

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A lower carbohydrate, higher protein diet makes you feel fuller.

So, you eat less. The magic happens because you are eating less CALORIES!  Yes, it’s easier because you feel fuller, but it’s not magic.

So is the Paleo or Primal way of eating a good way to go for celiacs?

I think it’s a good start.  My personal approach is more moderate.  I do recommend, and personally choose, to eat whole, naturally gluten free foods most often. That does, for many parts, coincide with the Paleo approach.  However, I don’t like being exclusionary, especially to entire groups of food (like dairy, if you tolerate it.)

Accept no approach blindly.  Do your research, get educated, consult one or more professionals, and make an informed decision.  Don’t be afraid to take bits and pieces from different areas and make them your own.  Find what works for you and call it…. say, the Frankenstein Diet.  I like it. What do you think?

Have you put together your own Frankenstein?  Have you tried Paleo?  Hit it up in the comments!