Okay, so you’ve heard a lot about intuitive eating and you understand the basic principles but you still have questions? I feel you, the principle seems really straight forward; listen to your hunger and fullness cues, respect your body, embrace gentle nutrition, and move your body in a way that feels good for you. But where do you start? And what hiccups might you face along the way?
Don’t worried, I’ve got you covered, I answered all the most common questions I get asked about intuitive eating right here. If you still have questions feel free to ask away in the comments or reach out to me via email or Instagram DM and I will answer them directly!
If you don’t yet understand what intuitive eating is I recommend you read this post first outlining the principles of intuitive eating.
Does intuitive eating just mean eating whatever I want?
Kinda. With intuitive eating you have to fully give yourself permission to eat whatever you want whenever you want. To some that may sound really fun and glamorous, to others it may be really scary.
You might be thinking,”if I give myself permission to eat whatever I want I will just binge pizza and ice cream all day and that can’t be good for my health”. That might be true in the beginning, but it is just a part of the process that you have to work through. Once you go through a period of eating this way your body will start to trust that you always have access to these foods and they will start to lose their luster. As you move through your intuitive eating journey you will start to pay more attention to how those foods make you feel and you will likely naturally start to incorporate more nutritious foods.
Once you have stopped feeling judgment around what you are eating, become more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues, and learn to respect your body you can start being a bit more intentional around incorporating more nutritious foods. It is important that this step does not take place until you have completed all of the other steps or it could push you backwards in your journey as you may use “gentle nutrition” as an excuse to start labeling certain foods as “good”.
So to come full circle yes, you do get to eat whatever you want whenever you want, but that will look different the further you immerse yourself into intuitive eating.
Where should I start?
Start by making a list of rules you have around food. They could be broad like “don’t drink your calories” or more specific like limiting yourself to a certain portion size of a specific food. If you can, keep this list with you in your wallet or on your phone so you can keep adding things as they come up in your day to day life. Then pick a couple self imposed “rules” to challenge. Start breaking these rules and see how you feel? Stop counting calories or measuring specific portions sizes, try plating your meals based on what feels right and notice how those changes are affecting your mental health and your physical energy. You may notice that you aren’t hungry as quickly after a meal, you may notice you can’t really identify your hunger fullness cues. You may realize it’s causing you more stress than you anticipated it would. Identify those changes and what you want to do about them!
You may have rules set in place that you don’t even realize exist because you have been adhering to them since childhood! Keep challenging yourself as things come up. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the way you are responding to these rules consider purchasing the book and reaching out to a therapist or Registered Dietitian specializing in intuitive eating and eating disorders.
If challenging the rules feels too overwhelming at the beginning, another great place to start is by changing how you talk about food. Notice when you are using the words good or bad when you are referring to food or yourself for eating the food. It is a simple change but it will make you aware of how often you are imposing those judgements on food or yourself. You may be shocked by how frequently you and those around you are imposing judgements on food.
Am I going to gain a bunch of weight when I start intuitive eating?
Maybe. Or maybe you will lose weight or maybe your weight will stay exactly the same. The point of intuitive eating has nothing to do with your weight, in fact it is quite the opposite. It is to help you stress less about the number and focus more on how you feel and your energy levels.
There is a theory in nutrition that we all have a “set point”, weight that our body is most comfortable at. Once you have consistently been eating intuitively you will likely land at this set point and stay there, this is a sign your body is starting to trust you and that you will be nourishing it with what it needs.
If you are a chronic dieter it is tough to know where your set point is going to be. You may not have been at that weight in years! Personally, I gained weight to arrive at my set point and have been stable there for about 5 years. The important thing is to not let the fear of weight gain get in the way of this journey. It took me over a year to accept that I was at my set point and that was a year wasted stressing on a number that shows no indication of my value. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Is intuitive eating for me?
Intuitive eating can be helpful for anyone and everyone. Afterall, the concept is about getting in touch with our innate wisdom on how to manage our intake, that means we are all born with all the tools we need to eat intuitively. However, the approach may differ slightly based on your starting point and your current health status. If you suffer from a chronic disease I would recommend working with a dietitian to figure out the best strategy for you! If you are in recovery from an eating disorder you should work with a dietitian specializing in eating disorders before attempting intuitive eating. Intuitive eating depends on being able to recognize hunger and fullness cues, which often get lost in eating disorders. Intuitive eating should come farther down the road of recovery.