This past summer I began seeing a therapist for what I assumed were “body image” issues. Lol ha ha ha!
Boy. Was. I. Wrong.
Turns out most of my struggles stem from good old “childhood trauma” (trauma seems a little too dramatic of a word to me but it’s what my therapist calls it), in one way or another. During our earlier sessions I was introduced to the idea of Intuitive Eating (IE), and a podcast by Christy Harrison called Food Psych. If you are at your wit’s end with being on a life long continual diet (like myself) give it a listen!
First things first. What is intuitive eating?
What is Intuitive Eating: 10 Principles
I grabbed these 10 principles of Intuitive eating from IntuitiveEating.org for quick reference.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police .Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
I’ve gained immeasurable knowledge on diet culture! I learned that “fat” isn’t a bad word, I learned about fat activism, fat acceptance and heard from so many beautifully powerful women who are definitely changing the narrative around body image and size.
What Intuitive Eating Has Given Me
- From the scale. Obsessively weighing myself every. single. day. Sometimes multiple times a day!
- From nervously trying to remember what diet I’m on each morning. Nothing like the panic of almost eating a food that’s not allowed that day/week.
- From eating only what I’m allowed to or should eat.
Instead I’m asking myself what I WANT to eat! Since no food is forbidden, the foods that used to be considered “bad” lost their “special-ness”. I can have an entire bag of Almond Joy candy bars (I love Almond Joy) in the house and not feel I HAD to finish them all! Because if I eat them all NOW I wont have to worry about eating them later… Lets get it over with.
- Freedom from using exercise as punishment and/or a form of repentance
For the first time I am moving my body out of pleasure and want. Not because I’ve been bad or as a means to be able to eat more later. I have been taking walks because I wanted to, because it feels good physically and mentally!
- Freedom from feeling like a sinful PIG!
… because I ate when I was not physically hunger. I learned that there are different types of hunger. Eating because something tastes good isn’t a sin at all… is called “taste hunger” and that is OKAY!! 🤯.
Food in all it’s forms were created to be tasted and enjoyed… otherwise God could have bypassed the whole eating and digestion bit. Right?
While I have obviously (read above) gained so much from eating intuitively, I don’t agree with all interpretations I’ve come across. IE can be a bit extreme. Some supporters of IE mockingly paint all “diets” or ways of eating as the evil.
Also, The idea that NO foods are bad or off-limits kind of bothers me because I truthfully believe some “foods” are bad for my body and mind. I think they should mention this more. For example, “carbs may make some of you feel like crap” or “gluten may not be right for body” etc. But, this could be the chronic dieter in me speaking.
In the end I gained weight, which is to be expected when beginning an IE journey. Unfortunately, it lead to me feeling even more uncomfortable in my body and that was hard for me to accept.
I JUST NEED MY CLOTHES TO FIT!! To which IE’ers would say, “Just Buy new clothes! You aren’t supposed to fit the clothes, the clothes are supposed to fit you!” 🙄
What Now? IE + Keto!
I have now transitioned on to a Keto diet while holding onto the parts of Intuitive Eating that serve me best. I’m almost afraid to say, but Keto has been working for me. I am feeling healthy and really well mentally. My energy has much improved and dare I say I’m shrinking?
I still have anxiety around the scale and mirrors because if I see progress I automatically think about failing or messing up and that’s not a good place to be.
If you are or have tried keto or Intuitive eating I’d love to hear about your experience and any tips you are willing to share with me!
Thanks for reading!
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