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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

This is the last in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body

Principles #9 and #10 are about incorporating movement and nutrition, respectively. Though the 10 Intuitive Eating principles aren’t meant to be addressed in order, it’s often recommended to leave the last two on the back burner while you’re working on the others.

Taking the focus away from movement and nutrition probably seems counterintuitive coming from a dietitian, and even more so when you have a chronic condition, as it’s probably the exact opposite of what you’ve been told since your diagnosis.

Don’t I Need to Exercise and Eat Healthy to Manage My Chronic Condition?

Contrary to popular belief, just because intuitive eating recommends touching on these principles last, doesn’t mean that it’s “against” activity and nutrition. The problem is, these two concepts are often presented as external rules to follow, like “You should exercise for X minutes per day,” or “You need to avoid X food if you have Y condition.” Without working through the other eight principles, it can be easy to slip back into diet mentality, set rules around your eating, and become your own food police, only to find yourself stuck in the diet-binge cycle again.

How Do We Merge Inner Wisdom with External Knowledge?

Throughout the series, I’ve touched on the idea of attuning to your own inner cues of hunger, fullness, satisfaction, emotions, and symptoms to help guide your food choices. But what about all the *science* that says salt can raise your blood pressure, or saturated fats can increase your cholesterol? What if you can’t feel your symptoms and don’t know how “well” you are until you have labs done?

Although science in and of itself may be a “perfect” system for acquiring knowledge, the fact that science is executed by humans means that there is plenty of room for error and biases. With nutrition science in particular, the path between food and health is riddled with so many confounding factors, that it’d be naive to think that we could control for all of them. Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening when headlines scream, “X is good for you!” “Now X is bad!” “Wait, X is good for you again!”

Even the best studies only tell us what happens to certain people under certain circumstances in a controlled environment. That doesn’t mean that we should throw out science altogether; we just need to look at it differently.

Look to Science for Questions, Not Answers

When we’re struggling or in pain, it’s natural to want to find the answer. And that’s what science promises to be all about. But instead of treating the latest research as though it’s the be all, end all, what would it be like to zoom out and approach it with curiosity, like “Hmm, it’s interesting that this study produced these results. I wonder what would it be like for me?”

We’re not lab rats. We’re humans with different life experiences and needs that go far beyond the confines of straight science. Intuitive eating teaches us to stay curious when it comes to our body’s wisdom; what if we approached outer wisdom with that same attitude?

What is your relationship with exercise and nutrition like? What, if anything, would change if you approached it with curiosity instead of compliance?

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