Like most people I have spent the Christmas period enjoying all the food and drink that the season has to offer. In my defence I was working in an incredibly busy city centre book shop (even busier than my usual store as I spent seven weeks working in Leeds rather than rather quieter Bradford) and calories were, on the whole, needed. They possibly shouldn’t have been in the form of Quality Street and crisps but I did eat some carrot batons too. Smothered in full-fat dip. And followed by my own seasonal favourite – shortbread. As I said this is the general eating pattern for many people, particularly in that rather unreal week between Christmas and New Year, and it is the reason why every shop in the country starts in January with both a sale (to get rid of all the mince pies and Christmas puddings before their sell-by dates) and a New Year, New You campaign…I personally don’t want a new me (the old one is pretty darn fabulous in my opinion) but I know that a lot of folk want some guidance, support or just plain kicking up the bottom so I thought I would try one of this year’s offering. I didn’t fancy going on a strict diet or committing to running every day (and we’ve already decided to reduce our alcohol consumption drastically in January) so I decided to read about intuitive eating.
The basic principles of intuitive eating seem to make a lot of sense – reject a mentality which insist you should diet, understand your own body and when it is both hungry and full, understand what shape and size your body is healthy at (rather the size you are told it should be) and to try to deal with the feelings which lead to emotional eating in a non-food-based way. Even better they are things I generally do anyway although I have tried ‘proper’ diets in the past. I suspect these principles could be tricky for some though – as Thomas and many of the experts she quotes point out there is an ever increasing pressure on women, in particular, to be thinner, to conform to certain standards of beauty, to be unsatisfied with who they are. I’m not saying I’m immune to these pressures but I’m not a young girl anymore: I don’t expect to look like a teenager or a model. In fact I would say that this is my only criticism of the book – while every effort is made to address the difference that gender, race, social standing, education and income can make to intuitive eating very little is said about age. One brief mention of the fact that older women may naturally have a slowing metabolic rate. That was about it. I’m a little more concerned about the fact that most women in their fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond have not only been exposed to unrealistic body-image demand for decades and can easily spend as much time on social media as their younger sisters. We don’t want to be fat, we want to look as good as Jane Fonda does in her eighties, we want to pretend we are still young and I don’t feel that this book spoke to us in the same way it will speak to younger women. And that’s a shame as we can be as invested in the diet industry and the ideals of female attractiveness as anyone in their twenties.
That aside this was an interesting read and gave me plenty to think about in terms of how I think about food, the diet industry and my own body. It gives what seems to me to be sensible advice (obviously, since I already seem to do a lot of the things suggested) and is a good alternative to the restrictive, raw food, clean-eating, usual suspects. It may not suit everyone but I would say it is worth a look.