To kick off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016, I wanted to write a post on the concept of Intuitive Eating and how I have started to learn to navigate those waters. I hope you enjoy. Know that I am sending you love, light, and prayers wherever you are on your journey to freedom with food <3.
Years ago, when I had my eating disorder, I sat in therapy sessions and listened to professionals tell me that I was learning how to practice “intuitive eating”. Honestly, I thought these people were crazy. An eating disorder is often accompanied by denial, which I certainly had, but I also just didn’t understand what this term meant and how it was possible to attain it. Haven’t heard the term before? Here’s the official definition (Wikipedia):
Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body’s natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.
Three (ish?) years later, I’ve found myself having the “a-ha” moment.
I finally get it. I have finally learned what it’s like to find freedom in food, exercise, and healthy living. I know what it’s like to have food be used primarily as energy to fuel my body in an efficient way, while still leaving room to sprinkle in the fun things. It’s a beautiful thing, and I am so thankful for those therapy sessions many moons ago because they were planting seeds in me that have just now blossomed. I will have moments at random times where I think “Oh, so THAT’s what they meant. That’s how they wanted me to feel! That’s what they wanted me to learn.” And now, I feel that it is my responsibility to share what I can on this subject.
With an eating disorder there are many pieces to the puzzle which I could probably write a few thousand posts on. This post specifically focuses on what Intuitive Eating has looked like for me and the freedom I have found from it. Even if you don’t have the definition of an eating disorder, our society is sick when it comes to this subject and often we are practicing disordered eating without even realizing it. Here is a list of what I define Intuitive Eating as and how it has been applied in my life and given me freedom with food:
-Intuitive eating is being able to eat when I am hungry, stop when I am full and feel satisfied. Instead of wanting to eat more and more, I am content when I have eaten enough to give me the energy that I need. I used to want to keep eating and eating despite feeling uncomfortably full. These days, I rarely eat to the point of discomfort. I don’t want to, so I don’t. It didn’t used to be that simple.
-Intuitive eating is feeling like I don’t need to cut out anything or ban it from my diet. While I try to eat healthy most of the time and include plenty of fresh produce, protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats into my diet, there isn’t one thing that I’ve banned from my diet (there are things I don’t eat, of course, but those are just things I don’t like. Nothing is illegal). When you practice intuitive eating, you acknowledge that all food is legal, and you are in control of what enters your body. “Banning” or labeling foods as “BAD” can be destructive and lead to feelings of guilt and shame, which should never be associated with food.
-Intuitive eating is having your own “hunger clock” in your body and listening to it. There are days I am hungry every two hours, and there are days when I eat a bigger breakfast than normal and only need a light lunch. There are days I want a giant salad for my meal and other days I crave chicken and sweet potato. Our bodies are SMART, you just have to listen to them! I used to make myself only eat at certain time increments, which led to me being overly hungry, cranky, tired, and under-fueled. Once you learn to be in tune with your body’s natural clock, everything runs more efficiently.
-Intuitive eating is not feeling guilty after enjoying a couple slices of pizza and some ice cream with friends on a Friday night. Our society is SO bent out of shape over these types of things and magazines read headlines like “WORK OFF THAT SLICE OF PIZZA AND WINGS!” after the Super Bowl. Gosh, this makes my blood boil. Exercise and food is meant to nourish and fuel our body so we can thrive, BUT food is also a part of celebrations, holidays, and fun things! While it shouldn’t be the focal point of any of these things, deprivation tactics or trying to “make up” for what you ate is so pointless, depleting, and shameful to your body. Food CAN be fun. Intuitive eating practices show that you can enjoy these foods in moderation, and then move on with your life. And, NO GUILT is associated with this practice! Practice positive self-talk for both yourself and your peers.
You have to start with listening. Ask yourself the questions…are you hungry? Are you full? Are you satisfied? Are you feeling dessert tonight, or are you wanting to pass? How do you feel after you eat a particularly balanced meal? Why are you feeling guilty? It takes time to develop this practice. As I’ve said, it’s taken me years to start to really get a handle on it. I’m not a registered dietician or doctor, so I can’t coach anyone on how to go through this, but I do know it’s important to start asking yourself the hard questions. I’m thankful to have entered into freedom with food and I hope it is something our society learns to do as well. It isn’t easy, and I’m not perfect at it. I definitely have moments and days of weakness. But overall, I have learned and know that I feel my best when I focus on nourishing my body, not depriving it.
I could say so much more on this subject but I wanted to at least scratch the surface. My point in writing this is about learning to be in tune to your body’s signals and give yourself compassion, grace, and kindness.
“Eating healthy and exercising is your way of loving yourself enough to take care of your body.”
Know that you are beautiful, loved, and cherished always and forever no matter where you are<3