What Is Intuitive Eating?
When you decide you want to break free from the diet cycle, stop restricting, stop binge or emotional eating, it’s time to try something different. It’s time to step away from counting, tracking and weighing. It’s time to step away from meal plans and learn to listen to your body and eat intuitively. This can be scary, as it requires releasing control and learning to trust your body.
Initially you may struggle to understand the signals your body gives you and that’s okay. It might take some time for your body to balance back out if you’ve been in the restrict-binge cycle for years. Initially, I get my clients to meal plan for themselves. This is not strict or rigid but rather about making a plan to help prevent overeating. The goal is to make sure they are eating enough and regularly throughout the day removing all restriction. This helps let the body know that it’s no longer going to go into starvation mode and that there is plenty of nourishment available.
This will help reduce cravings and binge eating. Initially when I first tried to listen to my body my hunger was dulled and it was easy to continue to under eat for my activity level. I had to therefore make sure I ate regular meals and snacks. The intuitive eating piece comes in here with what you choose to eat and how much. Again it takes time to learn to listen to your body’s signals when you’ve been blatantly ignoring them for so long. Have trust in the process and you will get there.
Intuitive eating means that you honour your hunger signals and eat whatever you want in the moment without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma.
Sometimes this means you choose whole foods that you know make you feel great and give you energy. Other times you might choose something processed that you know won’t make you feel as good, but you still go for it without guilt or shame, because it’s going to provide you nourishment on a different level.
Of course with meal planning it can be a bit harder to choose in the moment what you’re going to eat. When planning it’s important to do it intuitively too and not choose meals based on calories or macros because you’re no longer counting! Intuitive eating also means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. No you don’t have to stop at 80% or whatever “they” tell you. And it’s freakin okay to overeat at times too! Normal eating includes eating for celebration and sometimes sadness too. Just remove guilt and eat again when you’re hungry.
Intuitive eating is a learning process and should be looked at as a behavioural experiment when first starting out.
Perfectionism needs to be removed with intuitive eating as it can turn into a diet with rules too. In the beginning focusing too much on nutrition and eating the right foods can actually be counter productive in learning to eat intuitively. This is why I only talk about food one week of the 12 in my EAT FROM LOVE journey for women. Over time you will learn which foods make you feel great at what times and which don’t.
It’s important not to compare yourself to what others are eating as this can influence how you eat. Always check in with yourself and if you’re unsure about something, try it and see how you feel. Look at each meal and snack as an opportunity to learn what works for your body best. Over time this will become a freeing experience as you release black and white thinking and conquer food fears.
You will likely also find that it’s easier to eat healthy for you consistently when you remove restriction and rules. You’ll find the amount of time and severity you binge/emotional eat decreases and this helps big time with those negative thoughts in our head.
The book Intuitive Eating is a great read for those of you new to intuitive eating. Just remember not to approach intuitive eating with a diet mindset. An important piece with intuitive eating is that once you are no longer using food to cope with emotions, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with these uncomfortable emotions that you’ve been pushing down for years. You will need to learn how to sit in uncomfortable emotions, process them and then release them.
The last thing I’ll say that I never see mentioned when people are talking about intuitive eating is looking deeper at what is causing these uncomfortable emotions. Our belief systems, which are learned in childhood create our thought patterns, which lead to emotions and then our actions (eating). The deepest work we can do is to look at updating these belief systems to shift our thought patterns, so that they no longer trigger these uncomfortable emotions. This my friends, is the power of the cognitive work I do with clients. If you’re interested in doing this deeper work send me a message at Empoweredvitality@richelleludwig.com to book a free Choosing You Chat to see if we’d be a good fit to work together.