4 Ways to Embrace Gentle Nutrition

By Vivien Zhong, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Have you ever apologized for having a big feast? Or felt guilty while eating a delicious dessert? Do you been stress and worry about healthy eating?

If you answer “yes” to one of the above questions, know that you are not alone and it doesn’t need to be this way! You might want to look into the ideas of gentle nutrition! This post will show you why.

What is Gentle Nutrition?

Gentle nutrition is the 10th principle of “Intuitive Eating” developed by two Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Intuitive eating emphasizes that you are the ONLY expert of your body because only you can feel your body signals, such as hunger and stress. Eating should be an intuitive process: when you’re hungry, you eat; when you’re full, you stop. Yes, that’s it! People who eat in response to hunger and fullness have a more positive self-esteem and are more satisfied with their bodies!

Gentle nutrition states that “Taste is important, but health is still honored, without guilt.” It encourages us to change our eating attitude: eating should be a satisfying experience rather than a guilty or bad one. In essence, there is no labeled “good” or “bad” food. However, many people avoid certain “bad” foods because they think a single bite of those “bad” foods would immediately make them unhealthy. That’s where the guilt stems from – the labels that people put on the foods that negatively influence how they feel when they take a bite.

Why is gentle nutrition important?

Eating with gentle nutrition means to choose foods that both honor your health while also offering a satisfying taste! Research shows that worry and stress about healthy eating could have a larger negative impact on our health than the actual food we consumed. When we give ourselves full permission to eat enjoyable foods, we’re less likely to eat to excess, less likely to engage in binge eating, and experience less guilt when eating. We have to keep the pleasure and joy in eating!

So, how can you practice Gentle Nutrition?

Listen to your body.

Reflect on how eating a particular food makes your body feel. For example, your tongue may be the first part of your body to honor when tasting foods, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Ask yourself:

  • How does the food make your entire body feel? Do you like this feeling? Why or why not?
  • Is there any discomfort in the stomach after the meal?
  • Do you feel hungry or full?
  • Which food makes you feel the most or least nourished? The most or least satisfied?

Addition, not restriction.

The word “gentle” means that nutrition is not restrictive. Restriction leads to deprivation, which often leads to binge and guilt, followed by restriction again. Rather, it’s all about moderation and balance. Each food has its own nutritional values, so try eating various types of foods in moderate amounts: not too little or too much. Consume the amount of foods that your body feels satisfied and comfortable with.

Health, not weight.

Our society values thinness, but healthy, beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t have to be “Oh I gained a pound today, I better just have a salad for lunch.” With positive changes in eating and activity, health will improve and body will settle at a weight that is right for you!

Progress, not perfection.

Remember, your health is determined by your long-term dietary pattern, not just a single meal, snack, or drink! It’s okay to eat desserts and treats. Incorporating gentle nutrition into your diet allows you to embody compassion and forgiveness with yourself. Small steps add up and allow you to enjoy the progress along the way.

Happy eating! Take a breath, give yourself permission to eat and enjoy your food. In the comment section below, tell me what you plan to do differently in your next meal 🙂

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