Intuitive eating by definition is “a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.”
Call me crazy, but this intuitive eating journey I have been on the past few months has been groundbreaking. It is so simple that is is mind-boggling. How have we forgotten what seems to be so obvious? I’ll tell you how- diet culture. I literally don’t remember a time that I wasn’t involved in some kind of “diet”. Whether it be low carb, low fat, vegan, dairy free, macros or just simple calorie counting- its been a while. Now, before I go offending anyone, I am not bashing these diets/lifestyles. I am simply just saying that for me personally they have never brought me happiness or sustainability. What they did do though, was make me obsessed with food.
I honestly didn’t realize how screwed up my relationship was with food for so long until I took a (thousand) steps back and really dove head first out of my comfort zone. Constantly worrying or thinking or planning my food intake was totally consuming my life. I became obsessed with every meal or every bite that went into my mouth which essentially backfired, because having so much “control” only left me completely out of control when I could no longer ignore my body’s needs. And it wasn’t just the panic attacks upon seeing pizza or cupcakes, I also realized I had a fear of being WITHOUT food. I had been unknowingly hoarding it because somehow I had become so disconnected from my body.
Here’s another groundbreaking piece of information that is so simple and I still can’t even fathom: our bodies have a set point/weight/type that they like to be at. Remember homeostasis in like 7th grade? Yeah, its a thing. I spent so much time trying to trick myself into these diets that I seriously lost touch with just listening to my natural hunger cues. Your body is a better calorie counter than your mind. It tells us when we are hungry for a reason. It also tells us we are full for a reason. And if you listen, even just a little, you will see that all of this extra work and energy you put into trying to control everything, has been an enormous waste of time and anxiety. At the end of the day you can ignore your needs for only so long, until your body kicks into survival mode and forces you to let go of control.
So what does this mean? Should I just eat cheeseburgers at every meal because they taste good? No. Another thing that is really surprising is that the LESS you restrict these foods, the less you crave them. If you only eat kale and dream of cheeseburgers- you’ll be obsessed with the thought of eating a burger. But, if you eat a cheeseburger when you truly want one, you won’t think about it again. It takes a long time to get to that point after you have been so confused and messed with food for so long, but it is possible. I am not saying that I have had pizza, milkshakes, cheeseburgers without some kind of voice in the back of my head saying it’s not okay- but I have ignored the voice and done it anyway. Not every meal of course, but spread out. Breaking news: nothing. changed. The only thing that changed was that I had more mental space to focus on things that I actually like doing instead of food. It’s not easy and I’m not a professional intuitive eater yet (is that a thing?) but I will be.
So, how can you start? For me, I had to do little by little because I was terrified. First of all, honor your hunger cues and your fullness cues. When you are hungry, eat. Next, forget everything anyone has ever told you about bad foods, good foods, diets, carbs, fats, etc. That is easier said than done and like I said, I literally had to force myself to do this but once you do, you realize that you’ve been living in a bubble. On the same note, make peace with food. Food shouldn’t be your entire life- life should be about everything making up your days with food being only something that you have to engage in to live. Honor your feelings without using food. If you are stressed, don’t grab the chips. Think about WHY you are stressed and how you can actually fix the situation rather than making it worse by downing food. With mindful eating also comes mindful exercise. Again, you are talking to (in the running) world’s most compulsive exerciser. I’ve realized through this journey that a lot of things I thought I “loved” (running) I really don’t like at all. Find ways to exercise that you legitimately look forward to doing.
All in all, honor your body and your health. We are the most complex beings on earth and we have to trust that our bodies were made to know more than we think. Loving yourself is not easy. Everyone is different. Everyone has something that they can pick out and wish they could change. Instead of trying to change it (and realizing even when you do you still aren’t happy), embrace it and learn to respect it. I know this is a touchy topic especially in fitness and I know that it is totally contradicting to everything I have lived by for ten years. I promise you, I wouldn’t be saying this if I didn’t believe it. I want you to love yourself too. You don’t have to wake up tomorrow and be in love with yourself or in touch with your body, but making small changes here and there everyday truly do make a world of a difference. I promise.