Intuitive eating is the health buzz word floating around the nutrition realm right now, but often my clients come to me frustrated – “I’ve worked with a nutritionist before and they just told me to listen to my body and eat intuitively, but how is that supposed to help me with my weight loss goals?!” Does this sound like you?
Are you tired of people telling you to eat intuitively and wondering what the heck it even means?
Unfortunately, some well-meaning words are becoming overused and the definitions are becoming obscured.
Played out health buzzwords include ↓
>> intuitive eating, a lifestyle change, mindful eating, superfood etc.
These phrases have good intentions; they play a big role in opposing the damaging diet dialogue, but without context they are super flimsy and unhelpful.
So, I’m going to help you uncover the facts and explain what the deal is with intuitive eating and how to break down this concept.
What is Intuitive Eating?
In simple terms, intuitive eating is about eating what your body is telling you it needs and trusting it. It’s an alternative to dieting that allows you to become the expert of YOU. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense because who knows you better than yourself?
Eating intuitively should be a no-brainer, but the modern world is noisy. Instagram, magazines, diet books, calorie apps, and other humans muffle the sound of your body’s natural inner wisdom.
The idea here is to get out of your head and into your body – a dietary grounding technique if you will.
Your body, unlike your mind, is upfront and honest. It’s constantly guiding you through physical and intuitive signals.
The thing is, you’re usually caught up in the non-stop chatter of your mind (thinking, worrying, feeling) which keeps you disconnected from your body and the messages it’s sending you.
So, the first step to intuitive eating is to get in touch with your body.
This is where most people get stuck and intuitive eating goes down the wrong road…
Why Does Intuitive Eating Fail?
Intuitive eating is not meant to be a diet, but can become one as books have been written about it with principles + rules just like any typical diet.
Intuitive eating fails when it turns into some kind of diet with rules + restrictions because rules + restrictions do not allow you to be intuitive.
Intuitive eating fails when you’re not being intuitive ↓
- Trying to eat like or think like a thin person…
- Making food choices while feeling afraid of weight gain….
- Using it as a way to eat less…
- Employing it as a dieting tool and TRYING to do it…
- Feeling uncertain how food affects you both mentally and physically…
- Disregarding your body’s natural signals – energy levels, hunger cues, stress, response, food cravings, etc…
The greatest challenge with intuitive eating is deciphering where a message is coming from.
Is it your mind, body, or environment that’s guiding you?
The goal is to listen to your body for guidance in making food decisions, rather than rigidly depending on your mind which is overflowing with information from external sources.
You’ve been conditioned to think there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to eat. Your mind will tell you things like ↓
- “That’s way too big of a portion size, you will gain weight.”
- “You can’t eat bread; all carbs are evil.”
- “Pasta is a bad food, so you need to avoid it.”
- “You should start every day with a smoothie like your skinny friend.”
- “Don’t eat a snack now, you just ate a few hours ago.”
Intuitive Eating is not a test — you can’t “fail” or “succeed.” There are no set rules of “rights” and “wrongs”… your body is different every day. You can get tripped up here because diet dialogue confuses your natural instincts.
A popular intuitive eating book, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, states that French women naturally eat slowwwerrr and smalllller portions… this can be misleading because it makes you think intuitive eating is eating slower and smaller portions, but it may be the opposite for your unique body’s needs.
Intuition is an immediate understanding or knowing something without reasoning.
HOW can I make Intuitive Eating work for me?
The first step may be to not label it intuitive eating. Try phrases like normal eating, working with my body, or eating to feel good.
But the biggest tip to help you work with your body’s intuition is to:
>> Get more connected to your body in general.
Start with these questions each morning ↓
- How am I feeling physically today?
- How am I feeling mentally today?
- What does my body need today to feel good?
- What does my mind need today to feel good?
In time, this process will become more natural and fluid. You will know exactly what your body is telling you to do to feel good and will hear it speaking to you throughout the day.
- Example: “I need something warm and grounding for lunch to feel happy, whole, and energized…”
Feeding your body what it wants and needs instead of restricting yourself is associated with lower rates of disordered eating. Plus, it’s quite liberating to eat what you truly want to eat. Next time your body desires a big bowl of pasta… give yourself permission to go for it! Eat it, enjoy it, and gently notice how your body (not your mind) feels from it.
Intuitive eating requires a degree of surrender which can feel pretty scary when you’ve been trying to tightly control food and your body.
Remember: your body is equipped to handle food and so are you.
Through eating more intuitively, you will build trust – with yourself and with your body – and can move towards a more peaceful relationship with food that feels like freedom.