How to Start Intuitive Eating-Part 1
Back in January, I shared a blog post discussing who intuitive eating is meant for. Today I want to expand on that post to provide some streamlined, practical tips that you can use to help you move toward becoming an intuitive eater yourself. Prior to starting my own journey with intuitive eating, I was an aspiring dietitian who was overly focused on eating healthy. I thought food was black and white and there were clear, right and wrong ways to eat. Since then I've come a long way with my relationship to food and how I view its role in my life. I've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again-there is no black and white with intuitive eating. This is not another set of food rules. It's about freedom and flexibility. And that can look different from person to person, even day to day.
Depending on your history and background, you may start in a different place than someone else when learning how to become more attuned in your eating. It's different for each individual. Also, please know that this isn't a structured, step-by-step process. Sometimes we take a few steps back and have to revisit some areas again. That's a completely normal part of the process. It can take a lot of work and time to undo all the messages we've learned about food over the years. Contact me if you'd like individualized support through the process! Through this blog series we'll walk through some of the principles of intuitive eating to help you begin to make peace with food.
Let go of the diet mentality
To begin our journey with intuitive eating, one of the first things we'll need to do is to leave behind the diet mentality. All the cleanses, detoxes and food rules we've learned over the years need to go. This allows us to start seeing food neutrally; neither "good" nor "bad." Diet messages promote the morality of food, and to fully embrace this way of eating we need to start with a clean slate. Most of us receive messages from a young age that tell us we shouldn't trust our own bodies. We are taught to listen to external cues about when, how much and what to eat. Letting go of the diet mentality encourages us to flip that idea it's head and listen to our own bodies for a change.
To decide if you're ready to let go of the diet mentality ask yourself a few questions:
- Have diets truly worked for me in the past?
- Why do I stop dieting or restricting my food?
- How do I feel when I quit my diet or x,y,z food rules?
- How much time do I spend thinking about my food choices?
Think about your answers to these questions. If your responses include anything about guilt, shame or exhaustion that's a good clue that the diet life hasn't worked for you in the past. Understanding this fact can better allow us to let go of our desire for control over food and our bodies. When we take a step back and view that way of eating as harmful, it's easier to walk away. The freedom that comes with walking away from diets is amazing. This is a big, brave step but it's 100% possible and necessary for intuitive eating to work for you.
Give Yourself Unconditional Permission to Eat
After letting go of diets, it's easier to give ourselves unconditional permission to eat. You're taking the power away from those external sources and placing yourself, and your inherent wisdom about your own body, back in the driver's seat. By accepting that there are no good or bad foods, we can give ourselves permission to eat all foods at all times. We get to let go of the rules dictating what and when we eat. When we try to restrict certain foods or food groups it creates feelings of deprivation. Deprivation will lead us to start craving all the "bad" foods that we were trying to restrict. Then, after using up all the willpower we have, we'll end up giving in. When we inevitably "give in" and eat the forbidden foods, feelings of guilt may arise and we'll resolve to do better next time and start restricting again. So you can see a cycle forming..restriction, deprivation, cravings, "giving in," guilt, restriction.. and around it goes.
To break out of this cycle we need to give ourselves unconditional permission to eat. Food loses its power over us when there are no rules. In the beginning this may look like eating a lot of the foods that we've been restricting. This is part of the healing process. Test the boundaries. See how it feels to allow yourself to eat everything and anything. It may also be helpful to keep a journal to explore your feeling throughout the beginning stages of this process.
Part 2 of this series will be coming out soon! Sign up for the newsletter or follow me on social media to know when the next post goes live.
If you're ready to heal your relationship with food and dive into intuitive eating, let's work together! We can address your own individual needs and experiences to make sure you get the most out of the process and your journey!