The first thing I want to say is I am not a Registered Dietitian or a Nutritionist. I have a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion but if you are needing/wanting medical advice please contact an RD or MD. The opinions I will be sharing are based on MY experience and should not be used to diagnose or treat an eating disorder.
When I first learned about intuitive eating 10 years ago, it was a foreign concept to me. I had been off and on a diet since 4th grade so I hadn’t trusted my body in almost 20 years.
When I went to therapy for binge eating disorder the first thing my therapist said to me was,
“Diets cause disorders.”
As a frequent dieter, this hit me… HARD. I’d tried just about every diet out there and had never had anyone tell me that was “wrong”. It made no sense to me at the time, but the longer I was in therapy the more I realized my therapist was right. Diets, or any program that encourages weight loss even if you don’t call it a diet, presents the opportunity to cause an eating disorder.
A few weeks ago I heard a powerful statement.
Not everyone who has been on a diet has an eating disorder, but everyone who has an eating disorder has been on a diet.
Wow. Did that blow your mind the way it did mine?
Almost 3 years ago I found myself back in diet culture because I “needed” to lose weight. I’d just had my second baby and back surgery and I was told I needed to lose weight.
I was “successful” at weight loss but when I reached my “goal” weight everything changed.
I suddenly became way too focused on the scale and feared gaining the weight back more than I ever did while I was losing.
I felt a ton of pressure and I also couldn’t seem to not gain weight back, even though I wasn’t bingeing and my exercise hadn’t changed at all.
What I know now is my body was fighting me because the weight I “thought” it needed to be at wasn’t where it wanted to be. That’s hard to admit and thats very hard to accept, but after I fought it for several months I finally decided I couldn’t anymore.
There had to be another way. I knew Intuitive Eating was recommended during my treatment and I knew the principles made sense. It was time to fully embrace it and walk away from diet culture, even if that meant I could be unsupported and misunderstood.
My well being and overall health was on the line and that is more important to me than what people think of me.
What is intuitive eating?
“Intuitive eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. It is an inner journey of discovery that puts you front and center; you are the expert of your own body. After all, only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Only you know how hungry you are and what food or meal will satisfy you.”
(This definition is from the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch)
At it’s core, I believe intuitive eating is about trusting your body, which is something I hadn’t allowed myself to do in a very long time. When we are hungry we are told to drink more water or eat more veggies. Carbs are bad, dairy is too. You shouldn’t eat too much fruit and speaking of, you should rarely eat a banana because its so high in sugar. It’s exhausting trying to keep all the good and bad foods straight and I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was going crazy listening to the diet mumbo jumbo and constant “change” in what we “should” be doing.
Intuitive eating doesn’t mean you eat donuts everyday and don’t care about nutrition. I think that is a common misconception that IE means nutrition doesn’t matter. It does. But, it also means that sometimes you just want a donut and you shouldn’t feel ashamed because you have one.
It’s balance and honoring your body and what it wants.
Sometimes your body wants donuts… sometimes it wants spinach.
How do I start Intuitive Eating?
The decision to become an intuitive eater is not an easy one. When I made this decision I knew it wasn’t going to make sense to a lot of people. I knew there would be judgement and a lack of support. That has been true in some cases, but I have also found that many people want freedom. There are a lot of people who feel the way I felt and want a way out. The good news is there is a way out!
Another way to start the process of deciding whether intuitive eating is right for you is to listen to podcasts. I’ll share a few that I started listening to as I was deciding whether or not to dive into intuitive eating.
- Nutrition Redefined by Stephanie Webb
- Food Psych by Christy Harrison
- Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield
I have a lot more time to listen to a podcast than to read a book on most days, so podcasts have been really informative. I try to listen to a few each week that can help me learn more about this beautiful way of honoring my body. They also remind me that while this work often feels tough, there is a reason I am doing it and in the end, it will be worth it. I’m finding it already is, just a few months in.
What are the Intuitive Eating Principles?
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with your food
- Challenge the food police
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with your emotions without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise- feel the difference
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition
My plan is to share my journey along the way. Once again, this is simply MY journey, with my opinions and experiences. Everyone’s journey will look different. And really, it should if you are digging inward to find out how to heal yourself.
When I dream of my future as an intuitive eater I see peace, hope, joy and love… and that makes me smile.
I know this could take me a very long time to fully grasp and understand, it may take me years. That’s ok.
I want to spend less time focused on how I can become smaller and focus more on the things that matter like my family and experiences that bring me joy.
That is my why now.
I am changing.
I am growing.
I am still learning.
It may look broken to some, but I believe it is beautifully broken and that God knew this would be where this journey would take me all along.