Telling yourself that you have to stop eating crisps is easy. Take action? This is another thing. Wouldn't the problem lie rather in our relationship with food? How can we improve our relationship with it?
It is this question that we explored with Karine Gravel. Karine completed a Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate in nutrition at Laval University. She is a pioneer of intuitive eating, trainer in intuitive eating, speaker for Corporate Challenge and author on the blog myEquilibrium.
Daniel: Your specialty is intuitive eating. Where did you get this idea to be interested in this subject?
Karine: I had a mother on a diet, like probably several of you. There is something that bothered me about this. My mother, I found her beautiful and I did not understand why she deprived herself.
Then, at the beginning of my Doctorate, in 2009, my thesis director who handed me an article on intuitive eating. This approach is now very popular because we know that restrictive diets don't work.
Daniel: Looks like we've come a long way in terms of body diversity, but at the same time, we're bombarded with weight loss ads. Does it make sense to go on a diet after all?
Karine: It's funny, because what you describe has a name; nutritional cacophony. It can create stress, skepticism and anxiety in some people. Diet culture is a term we use more and more and it encompasses everything that leads us to think that we should lose weight.
When we take the time to linger, we notice that a lot of things in life lead us to want to lose weight but this one does not make us smarter or happier!
Daniel: Are you questioning the weight loss goal?
Karine: One of the principles of intuitive eating is to reject the culture of diets. The goal is to improve our relationship with food and with our body. It is rather to see how one can take care of his body while avoiding going to war with him.
Daniel: In your practice, there are certainly people who come to see you to lose weight. What are you telling them?
Karine: I ask them why they want to lose weight and what are their motivations for losing weight.
Often times when people want to lose weight, it is not their first diet. One statistic mentions that in Quebec, 45% of women attempt at least two diets per year.
In intuitive eating, we work with natural weight. It is the weight at which our body is comfortable and in which we feel good with an optimal level of energy. The natural weight is not always our dream weight however.
Daniel: Is there a psychological component in your work?
Karine: I am interested in psychology indeed! The correct answer is unique to each person.
Before, nutrition was very prescriptive and medical.
Intuitive eating is more about being interested in the person who eats. We will try to understand the person, their perception of physical activity, what they like and what they don't like.
Daniel: Does intuitive eating also work for physical activity?
Karine: Yes! I had met a kinesiologist for the race and he had told me about the perception of effort rather than minutes per kilometer. I loved his approach!
If you do physical activity just to lose weight, it might be seen as a chore. Everything is connected! It's important to find an activity that you like and that makes you feel good.
Daniel: The problem with intuitive eating is that if I follow my intuition, it will send me to chips and chocolate bars! What is my problem?
Karine: In intuitive eating, there is the concept of forbidden food with which we should get rid of. These are often foods with which one feels guilt. What I suggest is to take the time to taste the food and eat it slowly. Often, we will eat less.
We must try to keep a global vision of our food. You have to give yourself the right to eat what you want to eat. By removing the dichotomy of good and bad foods and keeping a more objective view, it becomes easier.
It's okay to have favorite foods and less. You shouldn't force yourself to eat foods you don't like either.
Daniel: Looks like the message is starting to get across in terms of intuitive eating and body diversity. Do you think we are approaching the end of the fight?
Karine: Certainly not, but we are making progress. I remember during the 90s there was a lot less diversity. The diversity of bodies on television and in commercials does a lot of good for people.
Daniel: Is there a danger in promoting body diversity? Can this lead to trivializing bad habits?
Karine: You can't deduce a person's lifestyle habits by looking at their body. They are two separate things. We can promote healthy lifestyles and body diversity at the same time.
When we think of people we know, we realize it. You can be active at all weights, just as you can eat well at all weights. The reverse is also true.
We can work on our lifestyle, but not so much on our body weight which is not a behavior.
Personally, I have already wondered if running was a sport for me because I don't have a slim body like the ones you see in magazines. I would have missed out on one of my favorite things in the world!
Daniel: Are you proud of the work you have done? Looks like your message is starting to get through.
Karine: It's funny, there's the food guide, but also the guideline for health professionals and when I read that we recommended a more intuitive diet, I was really happy!
It feels good to see all of this. It's satisfying to see this message put forward. Sometimes it's a long process, but in the long run it's really satisfying.
It's durable and you don't have to start over every year.
Daniel: What are your next projects for 2021?
Karine: These days, I write a lot a lot and something will come out later in 2021. Not to mention my newsletter, my blog Karinegravel.com and my online conference in collaboration with the Augustines Monastery.