This blog post is dedicated to anyone who is new to Intuitive Eating (IE), or those who are aren’t sure if its actually possible to make peace with food and their bodies, and live their lives without food rules and restriction. I totally get it, I’ve been there myself a few times.
As a dietitian, I thought that these principles went against everything that I had ever been taught in my many years of schooling. Before I found food peace, I gave IE a few tries but didn’t feel like I could possibly step away from diet culture, being that it was so intertwined with my profession and my own personal judgements (thankfully I did some deep inner work, educated myself about Health At Every Size, and havn’t looked back). BUT, this post isn’t about my journey…it’s about yours. I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and its totally okay to question this nutrition framework.
If you watched my video Introduction to Intuitive Eating + How To Get Started Making Food Peace Today (ICYMI watch it here), I listed a bunch of frequently asked questions that I hear from my clients on the regular, and wanted to answer them for you today. If you havn’t read our first post Intuitive Eating + FAQ, you can read it here. Let’s get started!
“But what if I need to lose weight?“
First, I think its necessary to discuss that intuitive eating is not a weight loss plan – even though many people who are jumping on the bandwagon frame it as such, claiming that you can eat intuitively AND lose weight. This is not how it works.. As dietitians, we can use our best tools and knowledge and take into account your health history and relationship with food to make an educated guess about what will happen to your body when you start nourishing yourself. But the reality is – we don’t exactly know.
One of three outcomes WILL happen – you will gain some weight, your weight will stay the same, or you will lose some weight. Even if weight loss is one of your goals, perhaps it can help to put it on the backburner while you work intensely on other goals that are more of a priority in healing your body.
“How can I tell if I am emotionally eating?”
Separating physical hunger from mental hunger can be challenging, they are often times intertwined. Its actually normal to experience both at the same time. Emotional eating if often seen as a bad thing, that we should only be eating for fueling our bodies and not for pleasure, boredom, or any other feeling. Emotional eating is important to address if you feel like you can’t stop and it is happening all the time and getting in the way of your wellness goals. If you find that you are ignoring physical cues and using food as the primary means of soothing yourself (or numbing out), intuitive eating can help you explore what is driving this behavior.
“How do I stop feeling guilty after I eat?”
Merriam-Webster defines guilt as “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime”. Let’s allow that to marinate a minute (I’ll wait)! Eating is the ability to feed and nourish ourselves, the most basic thing we need to do in order to survive. So should eating EVER be considered a crime? Certainly not, but sometimes it may feel like one.
Perhaps someone or something has given you the idea or rule that “you shouldn’t eat ______”. It could be a news article, a health professional, a coworker, a parent, a social media post, or perhaps you don’t even know where that idea came from. But I challenge you to explore why you think this to be true, and what is so wrong about eating that food? A dietitian can help sort out fact from fiction and challenge the food police, which is the fourth principle of IE. When you let go of food rules and restrictions, you lose the guilt.
“How can I trust that I will know when to start and stop eating?”
Ah, body trust. Something that is never ever talked about or written on a dieting plan. That’s because dieting is really great at helping you get OUT of sync with your body. Are you hungry after only eating a bowlful of celery as your snack? Dieting doesn’t care, dieting tells you to push through it and follow the plan, that those body signals are a sign of weakness and lack of willpower! How does a diet plan know what you and your incredibly complex physiological needs are? It doesn’t, its a one-size-fits-all prescription.
In order to get back in tune with your body, and trust that it knows exactly what to do when you eat, you first have to give your body and brain adequate and consistent energy and nutrients. A starved brain and body (no matter your body shape/size) can’t function properly, and can’t give you reliable body cues. Only then can you start working towards identifying what hunger and what fullness feel like in your body and brain, and eventually build body trust.
“I feel hopeless after so many failed diets. Is my body broken?”
Our bodies are incredibly strong and amazing at adaptation. Despite the fact that dieting often times puts our bodies through hell (intentional starvation, bingeing, nutrient deficiencies, harmful attempts to change its natural genetic makeup…and so on…) our bodies are highly capable of healing. Dieting can slow your metabolism to prevent actual starvation, but you might be surprised at what your body can do once you start caring for it. Intuitive eating teaches you how to take care of and even respect your here-and-now body, versus the pursuit of always trying to change it. You were meant to do so much more in your life!
I hope that this post helped give you information about what intuitive eating can and can’t do for you. We always recommend working with one of our dietitians and intuitive eating specialists, especially if you have more questions. How can we help you?