Intuitive Eating Ireland: “Society pushes weight loss, it’s everywhere”

Its January 2022 cover stars are Sinéad and Gillian Crowe, better known as Intuitive Eating Ireland.

“We are moving into more educated lands where weight does not define us.”

*This article contains a reference to eating restriction, weight loss and diet.

Sinéad and Gillian Crowe are “intuitive eaters in training” – this is how they describe themselves on their Instagram account, which at the time of writing has over 25,000 followers.

The Galway sisters have spent the past few years questioning their historical ties to food, as well as creating space for other Irish people to do the same. Dieting and weight loss may have been seen as crucial to a healthy lifestyle for decades, but Sinad and Gillian want to change that.

Last year they talked to her about intuitive eating — a framework they’ve adapted to help repair their relationship with food, listen to their bodies, use instinct to make sure they’re eating what they need to survive, and know when it’s right for them. Re hungry when they are not.

The concept of intuitive eating itself has been around since the 1990s, but has seen a bit of a revival in recent years — especially online. Far from overhauling the myriad of physical and mental problems that diet culture can cause, intuitive eating has recently been compared to self-care—a commitment to recognizing what your body needs and rejecting the power of a primal diet.

Sinad, a nutrition therapist, was in her mid-20s when she first discovered the concept, but she wasn’t ready at the time to fully accept it. “I wasn’t ready to give up on that goal, I had to live in a smaller body,” she told her, “so after another two years of overeating and struggling with choppy dieting, Jillian and I started to talk more seriously about it.”

“We were thinking, ‘Is this what life is about? Are we really going to spend all our time together talking about our new diet? The conversation became boring and boring so we made a pact to stop talking about it couldn’t be dieting what I associated with anymore.”

Jillian, a yoga teacher and social worker adds, “I thought the fact that I liked chocolate was something to fix! [intuitive eating] It has been on my shelf for a long time before I look at it. One day Sinad pulled it out of her purse and realized I already had it.

“We’re never ready before the moment we’re ready and that’s okay. Not being an ‘intuitive eater’ isn’t another reason to shame ourselves—we have enough of that in our culture.”

Gillian and Sinad Crowe

Although the concept of intuitive eating and its ten basic principles have grown in Ireland in recent years, it is far from the only shift away from diet culture that this country has seen – and beyond. Where once dominated by magazine covers with a “Get ready for a bikini body this summer” feature, the runways were only ruled by size 0 models, and larger bodies, medium and super sized, were represented in the media more than ever before.

Regardless of this, the refusal to follow a diet in the wider community is still considered largely taboo. However, there is one place that is not within the small factions of Instagram, where thousands of users have been gathering together in an attempt to retrain the way their minds think about food, learn about the types of exercise that work for them, and achieve happiness. A healthy lifestyle does not focus on dieting.

Seenad says gaining the support of others is essential when venturing into a world beyond restrictive eating. Before the Instagram community, she and Gillian had each other. This, she says, was crucial.

“We were very supportive of each other, and were able to wrap our heads around it together and talk about our fears and anxieties,” she says. “One of people’s biggest fears is that you’re doing something drastic, and you’re doing something drastic. Society pushes weight loss, it’s all over the place. Asking can lead to a lot of suspicion, especially if you don’t have a support system.”

“Many people are texting us that they are the only person in their family or friendship group who is not trying to go on a diet. Last month we had our first Zoom event and people shared their own experiences and struggles around Christmas time, and it was really quite therapeutic. It enhances that sense of connection.”

Gillian says she sees slow change eventually in the wider community, on her Instagram page, wanting something more important than a tangible diet. She says a systemic shift will take a lot of time, but as with anything, you have to start somewhere.

“It was great to see how many people are ready, and also desperate, like me, for a change,” she says. “We were ready to stop hating our bodies and try to fix ourselves.”

January can be a difficult time for anyone who has experienced an eating disorder, or has had an incomplete relationship with food. This month saw the conversation become more focused with the return of the switchover to Irish television. The health and wellness program, which has long been a funder of televised television, received new criticism this month, perhaps most importantly from the National Eating Disorders Association Bodywhys, which said it was a frequent tease for many users of its service.

Hundreds of tweets, a trending hashtag, and one petition from Sinéad and nutritionist Joe Moscalo later, RTÉ has ​​defended the chain for “evolution” over the years, stating that it is now taking “a more holistic approach to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as losing weight.” But for many, the transformation wasn’t enough. As Sinad says, it’s great that such a popular show advocates healthy behaviors, “but the reality is that people are going to see a physical transformation.”

“That’s the side that entices the masses. It’s going to be hard to get the same viewership if they don’t focus on losing weight. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try though. Until they get off weight scales and calorie restricted diets then it’s not good enough. “.

So what’s next? Podcasts such as The Maintenance Phase have shown that there is an alternative narrative to dieting. TV shows like Queer Eye have proven that “Transformation” doesn’t always have to focus on the physical aspect. But will we ever reach a point where making positive changes to the body isn’t determined by weight loss?

“It’s so prevalent, it’s hard to imagine a life where people don’t live their lives and want to be smaller,” Senad says. “This may always be there, but we’re moving into more educated areas where there’s no weight we’ve come to know. It’s one of the many factors that determine health, but it’s Not the only factor.

“I’m not judging anyone who eats, I’ve fallen into this trap for two decades. But when we engage in health-promoting behaviors, find movement we enjoy, eat a nutrient-dense diet, stay hydrated, practice sleep hygiene and manage stress – When we do that, we improve our overall health. If more people are aware of this, we may find ourselves not just focusing on losing weight.”

As is the case for many Irish women, Sinad and Gillian grew up at a time when the only way to better yourself was to be smaller, and the only bodies worth shouting about were skinny. They say access to anti-diet substances, as well as the support of a dedicated community, would have made a huge difference in their attitudes toward health in their younger years.

“It’s only in recent years that I’ve thought about what health means to me,” Gillian says. “Now I understand health as a very comprehensive concept of not only physical health but also mental, emotional, spiritual and social health.

“As traumatic as my journey has been with stressful eating behaviors and body image difficulties, I’ve learned a lot about myself and realized how resilient I am. It has also given me the gift of being part of a community of people committed to seeing and feeling the essential good no matter what it looks like.”

You can follow Sinéad and Gillian Crowe at Intuitive Eating Ireland here.

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