Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to a balanced lifestyle

  • Tiffany Calcutt of Harvest Nutrition and Wellness in Peterborough has lunch outside on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Tiffany Calcutt of Harvest Nutrition and Wellness in Peterborough has lunch outside on Thursday. Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Tiffany Calcutt of Harvest Nutrition and Wellness in Peterborough has lunch outside on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/2/2021 5:12:14 PM

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Tiffany Calcutt had to completely change the way she interacted with clients.

As the owner of Harvest Nutrition and Wellness in Peterborough, Calcutt had traditionally operated in a way that really mimicked what she learned in school: counting calories, focusing on weight loss, protein, exercise. It varied from client to client, but it almost always meant a trip to the scale to track progress.

But unable to meet people in person, forced Calcutt to take a step back and look at how she did things on a more philosophical level.

“I started to recognize there’s so many other ways to gauge improvement,” Calcutt said. “COVID gave me the space to learn how to divert from the scale as a matrix for progression.”

What it led to was the discovery of the 10 principles of intuitive eating.

“It’s definitely an established form that I’ve come to learn about,” Calcutt said. “And it’s very well researched.”

It has totally made her rethink the only approach she ever had.

“I no longer felt that’s an ethical way to go about my work,” Calcutt said.

It’s hardly a new idea, first formulated by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch with the release of their book in 1995. Since then there have been a number of revised editions, but the messaging remains the same: make peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting and rediscover the pleasure of eating.

As Calcutt dove into researching the topic, it immediately made sense.

“It’s not a fad diet. In fact, it’s a non-diet approach,” she said. “That’s what I loved so much about it.”

The 10 principles include:

1. Reject the diet mentality

2. Honor your hunger

3. Make peace with food

4. Challenge the food police

5. Discover the satisfaction factor

6. Feel your fullness

7. Cope with your emotions with kindness

8. Respect your body

9. Movement – feel the difference

10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition

Calcutt said the principles “are not complicated, not super scientific,” and “you’re going to have a more peaceful relationship with food.”

“The 10 principles work all together,” she said. “It’s meant to be taken as a whole.”

It’s about recognizing when your body tells you when it’s hungry and acting and not waiting for the next pre-determined time that eating is allowed. But at the same time knowing when you’re full.

“The 12th cookie doesn’t taste as good as the first or second,” Calcutt said. “We’re not really satisfied when we eat when we’re not hungry.”

It’s about looking at food and nutrition through a lens that promotes a positive relationship and taking weight out of the equation. But that doesn’t mean it won’t require paying attention and working to take the necessary steps.

“Making change is hard no matter what,” Calcutt said.

Calcutt read an estimate that 90% of diets fail. And it’s not that the person necessarily failed, but the diet in fact failed them.

“So do you want to go on a diet with the odds stacked against you?” Calcutt said.

Being open to eating what you want will lead to a more balanced approach.

“If you’re craving chocolate, go get some. If you’re denying it, you’re more likely to binge,” Calcutt said. “This way chances are you’re not going to overdue it. It’s about recognizing food is meant to be pleasurable. There’s a process one goes through when you strip off those rules.”

More often than not, Calcutt said, the goal of weight loss is tied to any number of other factors. She’s now about promoting a true health perspective and determining the behaviors associated with food.

“Ones that many people don’t even realize are there,” she said. “Eating is emotional and we can’t take that away.”

It’s about letting go of all the clutter and craziness that culture has taught about how a person’s body should look.

“The modern currency is our appearance; it’s an appearance-driven world,” Calcutt said. “But we’re not all meant to look the same way.”

Calcutt now works with her clients to bring back a more balanced approach without all the limitations.

“Eating is meant to pleasurable,” she said. Restrictions lead to overeating and binge eating and can be more harmful to the mental side of eating. “People need to not be stressing when it comes to food.”

Calcutt said it ultimately comes down to what works for each individual person.

“Nobody else should be making the rules for you; it’s such a personal journey,” she said.

At the same time, she understands that the culture created around dieting makes this approach hard for people to embrace – even some of her longtime clients.

“It’s like going against the tide of everyone around you,” Calcutt said.

She calls it a long-term approach and one that she has embraced in her own life.

“I’m asking myself the same questions,” she said. “It’s an onward and upward movement with some side movements along the way. Ultimately it’s liberating.”

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