If you are like most people who have a constant battle with weight or yo-yo dieting, then you probably don’t know about intuitive eating. It’s based on the way we were meant to eat, but nowadays, there are so many temptations on offer that sometimes we eat when we aren’t hungry and this is the opposite of intuitive eating…
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is using your intuition to know what to eat and when to eat it. If you are not a naturally intuitive person, you will probably find this hard and may need to do some extra work on developing your intuition first, but if you have good gut instincts and intuitively know when something feels right or wrong, then you can use this to help you get the body you want.
If you are happy with your body, then you can use the same process to maintain your body weight. It works for everyone. All you need to do is to listen to your intuition whenever you feel the need to eat something – are you really hungry or are you trying to distract yourself from feeling a difficult emotion? Or are you just bored? It may help to get your journal and write out when you got the urge to eat, what you wanted to eat and how you were feeling at the time.
The next thing is to look at what you want to eat. Did you have a craving for that big bar of chocolate that’s sitting in your cupboard? Or maybe it was a bag of salted peanuts or a big slice of toast dripping in butter? You might even get the urge for one of those things just reading this! That’s how powerful these ‘forbidden’ foods can be, calling out to us even when we don’t need to eat them because we’ve just had a big meal! Again, you might want to journal around why you want to eat that particular food, what is it about that food, which makes it so desirable? Do you always go for that food when you feel a certain emotion? Do you eat that food when you’re bored? Why? What feeling does that food give to you? Your intuition will give you clues about why you want that food at that time and it’s usually linked to childhood. Did your parents give you sweets as a reward for doing your homework? Does eating cakes remind you of going to your granny’s house and baking together? A lot of these foods will give us the same feelings we had as a child – love, comfort, joy and happiness. The key to intuitive eating is to know why you want to eat those foods so you can release any cravings. The idea is to be in control of your eating, so you can choose to eat a cream cake, rather than being controlled by the cravings.
I thought this wasn’t a diet?
That’s right. When you learn to use your intuition and eat when you are hungry, then you will gradually start to notice the body you were meant to have. Sometimes, you may put on weight, if you struggled to gain weight. It’s not all about losing weight. It’s about finding the natural weight you are meant to be and maintaining it. This means there are no diets, no counting calories and no giving up any foods. No foods are bad. If you categorise food into good and bad foods, the bad foods become ‘temptations’ and it is difficult to resist temptation, so already you are putting yourself in a challenging situation. If you know that all foods are Ok to eat then you won’t have that guilt when you eat anything that is calorie-laden. That’s not to say that all foods are equal – we know that’s not true! A banana is much healthier than banana bread, but that doesn’t matter . If you listen to your body, and what it needs, you can eat a variety of foods. When you start listening to your intuition you may notice changes in your eating habits and choices.
I noticed that I was eating out of habit, just because it’s what I’ve always done. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner and sometimes a morning and afternoon snack. I have had some jobs where I’ve been given a 12 noon lunchtime and I’ve eaten a sandwich and a yoghurt when I wasn’t even hungry, just because that was my scheduled time for lunch. That isn’t intuitive eating. It is difficult when you work somewhere like I did, where you only get that one chance to eat before going home at 5pm. If I hadn’t eaten at noon, I know I would have been hungry about 2pm and I would have struggled with low blood sugar and low energy, if that was the case. If you are in the same position, see if there is anything you can do to change your lunchtime, or if there is any flexibility for a quick break later to eat? I also noticed recently, that it didn’t make any difference to my weight or energy levels, when I ate more for my dinner. I used to keep my meals lighter in the week and indulged at weekends, but when I started to follow my intuition I realised that my body was needing a bigger meal, at times. I tested this for a week or two and noticed no change in my body weight; however, I felt much better. This may be the same for you too, you might notice you go from eating soups to having a bowl of pasta. I, like you, have been programmed with the diet mentality of thinking it is better to eat soup than pasta, but when you give your body what your intuition is telling you to give your body, your weight naturally stabilizes.
How can I make Intuitive Eating Work for Me?
I will be running an introductory program or challenge for this soon; however, here are some tips you can use:
🍭 Keep an intuitive eating journal (record cravings and emotions)
🍭 Try to only eat when you are hungry and stop eating when your intuition tells you your body is full
🍭 Enjoy every mouthful of food – notice the taste and texture – this is mindful eating
🍭 Listen to inner, gentle nudges to eat certain foods (these are not strong cravings) as your body may benefit from the nutrients that food contains.
🍭 Notice how your body feels after eating a certain food – if you feel bloated or uncomfortable, maybe it’s a sign that it wasn’t a good food for you to eat – there are no ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ foods, but there may be some foods that aren’t a good match for your particular body.
🍭 Eat a variety of foods from all food groups – don’t restrict carbs or go on any faddy diets unless you have been advised to go on a special diet by your medical practitioner or dietician.
DISCLAIMER: If you are morbidly obese, then your medical practitioner, or dietician, will have provided a special individualized eating plan or diet for you and you will still need to follow the diet you have been given from them. You should always check with your medical practitioner before starting any new eating plan or diet.