5 Steps To Start Intuitive Eating
I get the fears that come up when initially transitioning away from dieting, following meal plans and controlling your food. If you’re considering Intuitive Eating you are likely at the point where you’re sick of being in the cycle of restriction and binge eating. You realize diets don’t work and you just want to be able to eat like a normal person, but aren’t sure how to start. I’m going to share 5 steps to start intuitive eating to get you started.
1)Let go of all rules. Intuitive eating requires that you let go of the rigidity of everything you’ve learned. This means letting go of rules like “never eat past 7pm at night” and “always eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day.” Intuitive eating supports the fact of bio-individuality, meaning we’re all different and have different needs that shift throughout our life, seasons, and even weeks. Rules come from a place of fear in the mind and are generally created to move us away from something we don’t want. For a lot of people this is the fear of gaining weight.
This space requires curiosity as you begin to silence the diet mentality noise and instead listen in to the inner voice. Once you begin to understand what works for you, the opposite of rules are boundaries, which are more fluid and created from a place of love in that they support you moving towards what you desire. They’re made based on what feels best to your body. I also want to note that it’s important to really be honest with yourself when it comes to setting boundaries, because we can label them boundaries when really they are rules because they’re rooted in fear.
2)Stop labelling food as good or bad. There can be so much fear wrapped up in certain foods and I’ve found letting go of these labels to be an important step of recovering from disordered eating. Many people, myself included can benefit from allowing themselves to eat all the foods their mind fears, so they can show themselves they won’t suddenly gain weight overnight or die of cancer. Those were two of my biggest fears when I was in my various phases of my eating disorder. These are often the most common fears when people are coming from a place of dieting or “clean eating.”
What tends to happen is that overtime as you build a connection with your body you start to feel what foods make you feel good versus which ones don’t and you can make that decision from a place of love instead fear. Instead of decisions being based on what your body looks like, it’s based on what feels good. So often when we let go of the stress around certain foods, we actually realize we do well with them and that it was the stress that impacted our digestion.
3)Understand the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Physical hunger includes a growling stomach, a feeling of emptiness, maybe a drop in energy. Pretty much anything will satisfy physical hunger and we’re able to connect to what our body is actually needing as far as nutrition. Emotional hunger on the other hand involves the mind. We tend to get fixated on a specific food or have cravings. We notice there is a sense of urgency and nothing seems to actually satiate this type of hunger. When we can start to discern the difference between these two types of hunger we can start to get curious about and observe what is actually underneath the emotional hunger.
This is where we get to start understanding why we use food as a coping mechanism. Hint; there’s often a painful or uncomfortable emotion underneath the cravings. Sometimes this can be so subconscious until we start to do the work to dig in a little deeper. I also want to mention that this doesn’t mean we won’t ever eat when we’re not feeling physical hunger. We can eat for pleasure, joy and connection with others too. It’s just when food becomes our only source of pleasure, joy or connection that we may want to look deeper.
4)Start testing out different foods to see how you feel. When you let go of the meals plans, the diets and the rules you get to start learning about what foods make your body feel good. You are deserving of feeling your best, energized and vital self. Once you’ve played around with eating foods you used to fear or labelled as bad, you will likely begin to notice certain foods don’t make you feel great. As a woman you may also notice that your body enjoys different foods at different times during your menstrual cycle. With this step, you will notice that it constantly changes.
This is another reason why diets are ridiculous. We are fluid beings, constantly changing and therefore our needs will continue to evolve as well. This step requires being tuned into your body and noticing subtle sensations and reactions. We don’t want to overthink this step and this also doesn’t mean that we don’t ever eat a donut or fries because we just want to. It’s a practice of self-awareness and noticing what the true intention is behind your decision to eat or not eat something.
5)Learn what a visceral yes and a visceral no feels like in your body. One of my favourite practices is connecting to how my intuition communicates to me through felt sense in my body. You can begin to learn this within yourself by doing a yes/no practice. Start by getting yourself grounded and maybe doing some meditation, breath work or intuitive movement to get into your body. Then begin asking yourself a definite yes question like, “My name is___.” Notice the subtle sensations in your body. Do you feel lightness in your chest? Is there an expansiveness? Is there an opening? Do this with 3 different definite yes questions so you can really understand what a visceral yes is in your body.
Then you do the same with 3 definite no questions. One of mine is, “Do I like scary movies?” What do you feel? Is there more of a heaviness in your chest? Do you feel a drop in your stomach? Is there a constriction in your throat? It will be different for everyone and once you get clear on how your body communicates to you, you can start using this when making decisions on what to eat at your meals or order at restaurants. This takes you out of the mind, where diet mentality resides, and into your body. It’s making decisions based on feeling and you can begin to use this practice in all areas of life. I recommend starting with smaller decisions first and if food feels too challenging maybe start with things like what clothes to wear or what coffee shop to stop at.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Just know that it’s a process and journey of reconnecting to your body, when you’ve been disconnected and controlling it from the place of your fear mind. Intuitive eating is not about being perfect either. I still make decisions from the place of my mind. Sometimes I choose to eat something that my intuition says isn’t a great choice, but I’m more intentional about the reasons why I’m choosing to eat it. Maybe there’s a birthday and I choose to have the cake to celebrate with others and because my inner child wants it. I make that decision from a place of choosing to be happy with my decision. No guilt or shame and then the next time I eat I connect to my intuition again. Intuitive eating is about fluidity, connection and love.