Getting Started with Intuitive Eating
What even is Intuitive Eating and how is it going to help me?
We are all born with the innate ability to be intuitive eaters. As babies, we cry when we are hungry. We purse our lips and shake our heads in disagreement when we’re no longer interested in food. We know when to start and when to stop eating. Over time, there are many factors that may interrupt this natural cycle of eating, such as parental influences, dieting beliefs, clean plate club philosophy, and cultural stigma placed on food. We begin to ignore those natural signals by avoiding or restricting foods or food groups; ultimately hindering our ability to listen to our bodies Intuitive eating focuses on nourishing your body and learning to reconnect with those natural signals to self regulate, allowing you to find a weight that your body is meant to thrive at (not just a number you are seeking).
Intuitive eating is LISTENING to our bodies.
It’s not restrictive.
It’s giving our bodies what they want, when they want it.
It’s disregarding the “food rules,” and eliminating the strictly black and white mentality of “good vs. bad foods.”
It’s being able to eat without feeling any guilt and deprivation.
It means ENJOYING food of all kinds.
Intuitive Eating is about creating a healthy relationship with food, mind and body. Deeply rooted in research, intuitive eating will help you learn to LISTEN to your body again, as well as nourish and nurture it. By doing so, you learn to heal from the dieting cycle and rekindle your trust in your body’s ability to manage food.
When we give ourselves the freedom to eat what we want without the threat of restricting in the future, we eventually overcome the urge to overeat in the moment. We find balance. No need to eat excessively, we can eat that food again the next time we want it. Your body (and your metabolism) will thank you for this shift ;-)
It’s time for a change.
Insert Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating is not a diet. I repeat, Intuitive Eating is NOT A DIET! If you find yourself wanting to cut back on intake, blame certain foods or food groups for how you are feeling, or ignoring your body’s signals for nourishment, you may find yourself back on the diet train. It’s not uncommon for this to happen - old habits are hard to break! If you find yourself needing additional support in getting started with this, please reach out for help; we’re here to support and guide you through this entire journey!
So many of my clients come to me for support and guidance around healing their unhealthy relationship with food and body. They have spent years - some even decades - of their lives being traumatized by diets: counting calories, points, ounces, endless lists of off limit foods, stepping on and off the scale and missing out on experiences due to all the above. They have lost weight, gained weight, and lost and gained again. By the time they come to see me, they are more often than not fed up with the ever continuous cycle that they have become bound to, recognizing that DIETS DON’T WORK. They start to wonder, “If I’m not dieting, what else am I going to do?”
This is usually when I start to explore some of the basic principles of Intuitive Eating. I don’t ever just dive right in, we need to first carefully assess readiness to take this step, as doing so is often tied up in a slew of emotions. Healing a client's relationship with food is a multi-step process, and this period of initial assessment requires a gentle approach so that together, we can embark on the journey towards healing. Understanding the roots of the relationship with food and body will help us to better understand what ignites the diet cycle, and how we can collectively work together to take an alternative, healthier path. We highly recommend you have a support system in place to help you better understand these roots and truly heal from them. Please contact us for more information on how to get that support, we’re here to link you with a team of trusted providers no matter where in the country (or world) you may be.
We’ve all been there with food. For whatever the reason may be, you start to place rules around food. “I’m not going to eat dairy,” “Snack on only fruits or vegetables,” “Avoid ALL sugar.” This, my friends, is diet talk - the antithesis of Intuitive Eating. Maybe you start counting calories or points, or logging every morsel of food that passes by your lips. However it looks to you, it’s going to prevent you from being the intuitive eater you wish to become.
What happens when we reintroduce those forbidden foods back into our life?
In reality, you are likely going to have all of those foods you’ve deemed off limits again at some point in your life. When you’re stuck in the black and white cycle of dieting, these foods become novelty items that you may want to over consume when you do eventually have access to them. You may find yourself eating at a rapid pace, feeling out of control with your consumption, eating in secret, leaving you feeling flooded with guilt and shame. Following this intake, you commit to restriction once more: “This is my cheat day,” “I’ll start over again tomorrow,”.... and then the diet cycle starts all over again. It is not possible to make peace with your eating if you are constantly removing foods from your diet, deeming foods as “bad,” or placing rules around food and food intake.
Dieting is familiar to so many of us in that with familiarity comes comfort, understanding, and ironically, trust. It can be scary to remove ourselves from the diet cycle; something that we have structured our lifestyle around and accordingly have grown accustomed to. Trusting that our bodies will know what to do with food can be frightening, leaving us to feel anxious or unsure about our bodies’ intuition. When these feelings start to brew it’s not uncommon to want to revert back to what feels familiar and controlled: dieting. Now, this is when I need you to be real with yourself by asking, “How has dieting helped me in the past?”
" If you find yourself wanting to cut back on intake, blame certain foods or food groups for how you are feeling, or ignoring your body’s signals for nourishment, you may find yourself back on the diet train. "
You know that saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” The same concept applies to our eating habits.
Yup, Diets. Don’t. Work.
So how do we do this?
I like to start my clients off with a sensory experiment to really help them connect to the food and eating experience. So often with dieting there is a disconnect between food and body. You are going through the motions with eating, ignoring hunger/satiety signals, eating foods that taste terrible, trying to convince yourself that they are delicious. Alternatively, you might find yourself eating on autopilot, not even being able to recall what you actually consumed. Connecting to your senses and bridging the gap between food and body will help you be more mindful and present in the moment of what we choose to eat; something we all struggle with given our hectic schedules. Let’s get started!
Start with a Sensory Experiment
Choose a meal or snack that you know you will savor; allowing yourself plenty of time to enjoy and tune into the overall eating experience. The time specification doesn’t matter, it just has to work for you!
Grab a journal, a notebook or a piece of paper - it doesn’t need to be fancy. In it, I want you to jot down the following outline:
3. When you sit down to eat, I want you to do so with your full intention - eliminating all distractions and focusing as much as you can on the experience. Avoid eating out of a box or container. I want you to put the food onto a plate or into a bowl, and be sure to eat while sitting down.
4. Be as descriptive as you can with listing adjectives in response to your outline. What smells are you picking up on? Are they smells from the food, or from the environment (such as cut grass, construction, perfume…)? How does the food taste? Bitter? Sweet? Salty? Is the food hot, cold or warm? Is the texture, creamy, crunchy or gummy? How does it look?
5. Check in with yourself as you are eating. Does the food taste good? Does it conjure any memories for you? Provoke any feelings? Are you satisfied with your intake?
Continue to do this sensory experiment on a daily basis, eventually building up to doing it multiples times a day. Just like anything else, this takes both patience and practice. The more you practice it, the more automatic (or intuitive) it will become. to check in with yourself and learn to understand which foods you truly crave, as well as which foods you realized you didn’t actually like. Practicing this habit will also help you to slow down and tune into the signals your body is sending you during food consumption. Download our 10 steps to help you heal your relationship with food download to help keep you on track!
Intuitive Eating is comprised of 10 Principles that all revolve around the central hub of satisfaction. When we are truly satisfied with the foods that we are eating, we no longer experience deprivation - our needs for food have been fulfilled.
Under the process of intuitive eating, we must build a strong foundation where we can ground ourselves upon before we jump to the next step. I know, I know, but you want that instant gratification of seeing the end result! Trust me friends, this one is worth the time it takes to get yourself there.
Practice, practice, practice :)