Intuitive eating and neurodiversity

Hello pals, i have been wanting to write this for a while! Intuitive eating is not flawless. Intuitive eating is a framework for eating and feeding that was created for privileged and neurotypical people in mind. Thats not to say that marginalised people or neurodivergent people cant eat intuitively, it’s more that the framework itself is not comprehensively adequate or inclusive. Let’s go through a few reasons why.

Introspection

Introspection refers to the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. It’s how we unpack our beliefs, our societal conditioning, its how part of the “listening to the body” process. Not all of us have the ability to introspect, and intuitive eating requests a lot of it. Intuitive often demands a type of introspection that is not This kind of language isn’t often trauma-informed or neurodiversity- informed. An example of this is when we are exploring food-related experiences and possible food-related traumas, someone people are more easily triggered, or unable to pinpoint what the overwhelm is, or the commonly used “mindfulness” tools aren’t effective. This may result in someone becoming even further traumatised or reluctant to open up about their relationship with food.

Food neutrality is nuanced

In my private practice, i work with disabled and neurodivergent people for most of my day. Clients will commonly communicate to me that their sense of taste, smell, texture and sound are very sensitive, which makes some foods down right unappealing and inedible for them. I also have clients who have experienced food related-trauma, food insecurity and sensory processing differences and to them, food is definitely not a neutral experience. Food neutrality is not inherently a bad thing at all, but i do think that removing emotion and feelings from the eating experience can be invalidating and often not a trauma informed way of looking at the eating and feeding experience. If food is not neutral to you, thats valid. Food neutrality can be a wonderful way for us to reframe our morality around food but i think its a slippery slope and invalidating heightened responses around food can be easily done the way many people talk about food neutrality.

Intuitive eating can be hard if we are not in a regulated state

Many intuitive eating resources assume that we are in an emotionally regulated state, can access our hunger cues and, can listen to our body. Many neurodiverse people find it difficult to be in a constant/consistent state of regulation. This is not inherently a bad thing, but frameworks like intuitive eating that request us to be able to access our intuition, body cues and to be able to regulate our nervous system enough to “listen to our body” can induce a lot of shame and guilt for someone who finds these things difficult or unaccessible at times. Intuitive eating does offer some wonderful practices that can help people connect more to the body and its cues (I teach these in Food Freedom Fundamentals) but these don’t always work for everyone. I don’t believe that intuitive eating is inherently problematic necessarily, but i do think it’s not as comprehensive as it needs to be if its going to be seen as an inclusive framework.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m in no way aware of all the intersects that food has with our lived experiences, i continue to grow everyday and am still learning to understand my own sensory “issues”. Not long ago i definitely wasn’t as aware of the many nuances. I continue to learn everyday, my work and my beliefs change daily. I hope we can normalise people changing their perceptive when they have more information and awareness on a topic. When it comes to being a health professional that was trained in out racist, fatphobic, and ableist society, i don’t think it’s helpful to place blame on ourselves for not always being aware of thing. But we can respectfully hold each other accountable and prioritise learning from people with lived experience.

Maddie xx

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