I’m in favor of the flexible, self-directed approach espoused by proponents of intuitive eating. (1) In fact, it could be said that I eat intuitively. I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m not. I only eat foods I like, and I choose what I feel my body needs at the time. When someone asks me what they should eat, my first question is “What do you like to eat?” I believe what you decide to eat should be downright delicious to you.
I don’t believe there’s one diet which is best, and there is no diet that will work for everyone. We should find a way of eating that is personally satisfying, doesn’t make us slaves to the kitchen, and effectively controls our weight without difficulty or drama. Science tells us the body is intelligent, and communicates what it needs through our appetite for different flavors and textures. Last year I read a most fascinating and meticulously researched book on this topic and highly recommend it: The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker (2015 Simon & Schuster).
It helps make clear that something which totally defeats the concept of eating based on intuition is being overlooked. This same factor is responsible for triggering cravings and binge-eating episodes in many of my clients. What is it?
Schatzker calls it “Big Flavor.” Hyper-intense synthetic flavorings concocted to create specific responses. Such as inhaling an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos when you weren’t even hungry, because your tongue is chasing the flavor hit again and again.
DORITOS® COOL RANCH® Flavored Tortilla Chips
Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, And/or Sunflower Oil), Maltodextrin (Made From Corn), Salt, Tomato Powder, Lactose, Whey, Skim Milk, Onion Powder, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrin (Made From Corn), Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Dextrose, Malic Acid, Corn Syrup Solids, Buttermilk, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Acetate, Artificial Color (Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5), Spice, Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate.
The point that Schatzker makes very well is that flavors are chemical signals which relay information to our bodies about the nutrients contained in the food. Therefore, if we desire a specific food, such as blueberries or carrots or broccoli, it may be because we need something that’s in it. And satiety is reached when we know we’ve “had enough.” But big, fake flavors pumped into our food distorts things. The flavor receptors in your mouth and gut can’t distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition intrinsic to the food.
Fake flavoring is ubiquitous in ultra-processed “food.” The so-called foods in this category make up nearly 60% of the typical American’s daily diet.(2) However, “natural flavors” are pretty much added to everything in a regular grocery store, even foods we accept as minimally processed, such as fruit jam, butter, or meat.
Molecules and substances are engineered and combined in laboratories to create attractive, hyper-palatable textures and tastes. Even when the label says “natural flavors,” they are actually synthetics based on compounds found in nature. Many ingredients in processed and ultra-processed foods stimulate specific areas of our brains known to respond to addictive inputs. Some ingredients can increase the release of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, which stimulates appetite, making it even easier to overeat. Are some substances in the food supply driving biochemical changes that disrupt normal appetite? Most research on ultra-processed food suggests this is true. (3)
So, does your intuitive eating style include ultra-processed food ? You may not truly intuit what your body needs because it can’t tell you amidst all the chemical noise. Eliminating ultra-processed foods from your diet is the start of life without food cravings. It’s the beginning of easy (!) weight loss and simplified weight maintenance. Eating real food is the foundation for successful intuitive eating. Eat what you truly want…but choose from foods you (or your grocer) could have found or caught in the wild, made from ingredients created by Mother Nature.
Try to reduce your consumption of anything with an ingredient that you cannot picture eating on its own. And don’t be victimized by diet dogma. If it’s fake, it doesn’t matter if it’s labeled keto or vegan. Don’t eat it. Once you ditch the fake foods, you’ll find relief from cravings, real nourishment from your meals, and see positive physical changes occurring. And you deserve nothing less!