by Sydney Lopez, ATC

Are you ever so busy you become grumpy with a growling stomach and headache? Did you possibly forget to eat, or worse, ignore your body’s hunger signals in order to get a job done? Industrial athletes lead busy lives and have jobs which require lots of energy to meet its demands. Listening to your body’s hunger signals is one of the key pillars of an approach to food called Intuitive Eating.

Unconditional Permission

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based self-care approach to nutrition and movement. To be an intuitive eater, one works to be fully attuned to their hunger, fullness, and cravings. Most importantly, intuitive eaters remind themselves daily they have an unconditional permission to eat.

This mindset goes against most traditional approaches to nutrition, as diets typically employ rigid rules and restrictions. However, evidence has repeatedly demonstrated restrictive behaviors lead to binge eating, massive weight fluctuations, guilt, and at the root, fear surrounding specific foods. This fear, at its heart, is a fear of not fitting within our traditional idea of “health,” which oftentimes includes thinness. Therefore, certain foods are labeled “good” and “bad.”

When we work to accept an unconditional permission to eat all foods at any time, fear surrounding specific foods lessens as we are habitually exposed to them time and time again, eventually viewing all food neutrally. A neutral approach to food supports our ability to decide what, when, and how much to eat based on our body’s cues.

Guiding Principles

This approach to food follows 10 principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

    Know weight loss and dieting is not the key to physical or mental health.

  2. Honor Your Hunger

    Eat at the first sign of hunger, depriving yourself leads to an instinctual drive to overeat as your body thinks it may not have food readily available in the future.

  3. Make Peace With Food

    Give yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all food.

  4. Challenge the Food Police

    Reject any perspectives which value certain foods or food groups as “good” or “bad.” All food can provide nutritional, cultural, and satisfactory value.

  5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

    When we eat what our body and mind wants and desires, our satisfaction is met and we can more easily be in tune with how much food truly makes us feel full.

  6. Feel Your Fullness

    Listen and observe the signs your body is telling you about your level of fullness before, during, and after eating.

  7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

    Recognize when you are choosing food to cope with specific emotions and give yourself grace. Think about how and when you may be able to work through these emotions in a different way with a mental health provider.

  8. Respect Your Body

    Respect your genetic makeup and the body shape you were born with. Work to reject comparison to others.

  9. Movement–Feel the Difference

    Use and do movement that genuinely feels good. Do not use movement as punishment or penance for eating specific foods.

  10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition

    Choose foods that make you feel good while honoring your body’s needs.

Implementing a New Approach

This approach can be used by anyone of any background with any job because at its core, it uses your own body and mind to guide food choices. So, “as an industrial athlete, how does Intuitive Eating apply to me,” you ask?

Nutritional advice is often raised in the industrial setting when we are told by physicians simply to “lose weight” without much coaching on how to lose weight. The Intuitive Eating principles hone in on choosing meals and food which keeps us full longer and more energized throughout the day without cutting out entire food groups. Within more diverse populations, instead of labeling specific cultural foods as “unhealthy” or “bad,” Intuitive Eating embraces these foods and focuses on how they make an industrial athlete feel.

Try This Out!

Check out this infographic exercise to implement Intuitive Eating with the Hunger and Fullness Scales.

Sydney Lopez, ATC || Sydney is an Injury Prevention Specialist in Fremont, CA, with experience as an athletic trainer in both the collegiate and professional settings. She also has spent time working in a physician extender role in a primary care clinic. When not working as an athletic trainer, she can be found hunting for sea glass at the beach and cuddling with her two cats.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for further injury prevention education and tips for the industrial athlete from Work Right NW!