Coming from an eating disorder background, I really struggled with intuitive eating, and honestly I still do. I am not as fully recovered from my eating disorder as I thought I was. I especially struggled with it when I was in the recovery progress. It seemed like anytime I would start eating, I couldn’t stop. I would go back for seconds, thirds, and before I knew it I would be so uncomfortably full and would feel extremely guilty. Eating disorders have a way of screwing up your relationship with your body and your intuition. The struggle is getting back in touch with your bodies innate wisdom.
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to health and wellness that helps you tune into your body, and heal your relationship with food. In other words, intuitive eating is normal eating. When we eat out of alignment with our bodies natural needs, it can cause many disturbances. Both mentally, and physically. Intuitive eating is one of the things I struggled with when I had my eating disorder, and it’s something I’m still working on today. I hope that this post will help you reconnect with your body and bring your health back into alignment.
We are all born natural intuitive eaters. When we were babies we would cry, be fed, and then stop eating until we’re hungry again. Kids intuitively balance out their food intake from week to week, eating only when they’re hungry and stopping once they feel full. Some days they might eat a lot of food, and other days they may eat very little of anything. As we grow older and rules and restrictions are set around food, we lose our inner intuitive eater. We learn to finish everything on our plate. We learn that dessert is a reward, or can be taken away if we misbehave. We are told that certain foods are good for us and others are bad – causing us to feel good about ourselves when we eat certain foods and guilty when we eat others. We went from being mindful eaters, to mindless. Eating food for the pleasure of it, not because we are actually hungry and need food. We have all had moments where we snack on chips or popcorn when we watch TV. But this habit has now infiltrated the rest our lives and has disturbed the peace and mindful nature of our bodies that we were born with.
Intuitive Eating is not a diet. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. There’s no counting calories no food restricting. You don’t follow a certain meal plan, and it’s definitely not about going hungry. Instead, it’s about focusing on your internal intuition, like hunger, fullness and satisfaction, and moving away from external cues like food rules and restrictions.
Intuitive eaters give themselves unconditional permission to eat whatever they want without feeling guilty. They rely on listening to their internal hunger and satiety signals and trust their body to tell them when, what and how much to eat. As an intuitive eater, you know when when you feel like eating veggies and also when you feel like having dessert (and don’t feel guilty or have any regrets with either choice).
A couple of years ago, when I began the journey of healing my mind and body, I came across a list of tips. This list helped to guide me when I was working on getting back in touch with my intuition. I wanted to share them with you here today, with the hopes that it helps and inspires you as much as it did for me.
10 PRINCIPLES OF INTUITIVE EATING
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food
Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our obsession to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
8. Respect Your Body
Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
If you struggle with intuitive eating and would like to learn how to reconnect with your body, then let's begin your journey of healing.
Have you ever tried to practice intuitive eating? Share your experience below!