Updated: Aug 15, 2022
I’m going to go ahead and say it. Intuitive eating is a life-changer.
That’s a big statement to make.
The truth is, that once you truly become an intuitive eater, you never have to worry about your diet again. It’s in the name; food will become intuitive. You’ll never consider the need for sticking to strict diet rules or overthinking when meal planning to make sure that you’re being as healthy as you can be. This article gives a snapshot into one of the ten principles of intuitive eating: making peace with food.
Making peace with food:
Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat
One of the scariest hurdles for those considering the intuitive eating process is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. This is because when you’ve always been restrictive with your diet, it’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t just end up bingeing on one type of food. This is such an important step in the process, as without giving yourself this permission, you’ll never truly be free to become an intuitive eater.
So, what is the key to flying over this hurdle? It’s the ability to trust yourself. This is often the hardest stage for a lot of past dieters, taking themselves through this process.
Why is it so hard to trust ourselves when it comes to food?
We automatically trust ourselves in other day-to-day scenarios, for example, we trust in our ability to drive safely when getting behind the wheel of a car, or we trust ourselves to carry out work to a good standard in our jobs; why can’t we do the same when it comes to our food?
Trusting yourself with food:
Trust that by being in tune with your body signals, you will be able to stop eating when full.
Trust that your body will crave a range of different foods, once it is no longer deprived from dieting.
Everybody is born an intuitive eater. Babies don’t care about diet rules or how much they weigh. They cry when they’re hungry and they stop feeding when they’re full. Intuitive eating as an adult follows the same principle: you’ll eat when you’re hungry and you’ll stop when you’re full. This essentially means having to relearn about your body. You can coax your original intuitive eater back out by allowing yourself to get curious; what are your specific body signals for hunger? What does comfortable fullness feel like? Trust in your own signals.
You can allow yourself to trust your body
Our bodies need certain things to thrive. They won’t function very well without getting a good variety of nutrients from a broad range of foods. Therefore, you can be sure that if you are not getting enough of something which is important to the body, you will start craving it. And you will end up eating it. Once the trust in yourself is there, your body will do the work for you. In time, you will end up eating variety.
Transitioning through the process
You’ve reached this point and you’re ready to take on the challenge, great! However, no matter how much you accept the facts that you will end up eating variety, you can’t shake off the fear of a potential binge episode, after giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Let’s break this down:
Why does bingeing happen?
Bingeing comes from restrictions. It’s natural that if you never allow yourself to eat something, one taste of that food can bring on an uncontrollable urge to never stop eating until it's gone. This happens because your body doesn’t know when it will next be able to have this food, therefore it’s going to make the most of it. Call it a survival technique from the olden days. The first time that you give yourself unconditional permission to eat a certain food, it’s vital that you keep reminding yourself that you can come back to that food anytime you want it. It’s likely that you will still overeat at first. This is ok. Your body is learning. It’s important not to beat yourself up for it. The next time you come around to eating that food, you may overeat on a smaller scale, and the next time even less, until you find yourself being satisfied from a smaller amount of that food. Eventually, you’ll reach the point where you’ve truly given yourself unconditional permission to what whatever you want, whenever you want (and your body trusts this). You can enjoy something and stop when you’re comfortably full when you know that you can come back to it, whenever you like.
Talking from experience…
I used to struggle with this myself. Many years ago, before I became a nutritionist, I was an avid dieter. My diet was very restricted. I really enjoy sweet foods, yet I never used to allow myself chocolate - it was strictly forbidden. I never kept it in the house because I thought that if I bought it ‘I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it.’ Many years later, as a proud intuitive eater, I have a designated chocolate drawer. This means that I always have access to chocolate if I fancy it, which means I no longer binge on it and tend to eat a lot less of it than I used to. It’s one small insignificant component of my diet. My point is, that yes, it can be really hard to get over the initial hurdle, but it is possible. It may take a while for your body to understand that these foods are always available and that is ok.
Going through the intuitive eating process is not an easy ride. It’s a learning process with ups and downs. You’re taken on a journey, one that is very worth it, as in the end, it brings peace. Peace in your relationship with food. Peace of mind knowing that you never have to go on another diet again. Peace of mind that you have a healthy diet which includes a large variety of foods. Finally, you have the comforting knowledge that your battle with food has finally come to an end.
This article covers just a snapshot of the intuitive eating process. If you would like to learn more about how to become an intuitive eater, please get in touch to book a consultation with Hattie.
Hattie is an intuitive eating nutritionist who can help you improve your relationship with food and your body image. Book a free 15 min to see how Hattie can help you. Also, remember to get your free nutrition assessment to get the best nutritional advice for you.