A few years back (well, almost 8 years ago actually…) I read the book Intuitive Eating and wrote a post about it. With the biggest meal of the year on the horizon, I thought it might be good timing to revisit the Intuitive Eating concepts and share how my thoughts and actions have or have not changed over time.
In 2009 I summarized the steps to becoming an Intuitive Eater. Here are some of my 2016 thoughts.
- Honor your hunger – eat when you are hungry. Period.
If I am hungry, I eat. But not always immediately, as hunger is the best sauce. I have learned that a little hunger is actually a good thing, and I always enjoy food more if I come to the table with an appetite. I used to write a lot about the battle between having an afternoon snack and spoiling my dinner appetite, and with time I’ve leaned more towards not having a snack and eating a bigger dinner. Or having just a tiny snack to take the edge off, rather than a big snack to avoid all hunger until 7:00 p.m.
- Make peace with food – give yourself permission to eat anything you want.
I absolutely eat whatever I want these days, and because of the reasoning in my recent balance post, my choices are generally still good ones that leave me feeling my best.
- Feel your fullness – stop when you are satisfied. Take a break during a meal to “check in” with your stomach. You can continue eating if you want, but take the moment to pause and listen.
I have definitely become better over the years at not needing to clear my plate. It’s almost as if a dish just stops tasting good when I have had enough. I no longer worry about wasting a little bit of food, or I will put it back in the fridge and sometimes finish it later.
- Challenge the food police – rid yourself of the “you were good” and “you were bad” thoughts.
There is none of this left in my head. Over time I have learned that your body and health are made up of the thousands of choices you make consistently and not one meal or one day. I also can sense and feel when I’ve had a few too many heavier days (or weeks) and naturally cut back a bit moving forward. It feels refreshing, not restrictive.
- Cope with your emotions – learn other ways to deal with emotions besides food.
I think I used to eat out of boredom more often than I do now. Way back I was working in an office and taking classes that I wasn’t 100% excited about, but now I love my job and my day-to-day life doesn’t lend itself to too much daytime boredom. I still do sometimes eat emotionally. On a celebratory day I want to eat more, and when I’m sad I do sometimes crave a treat to make me feel better, so this is still a work in progress.
- Discover the satisfaction factor – make the eating experience pleasant.
I think I have gotten worse on this one! Mealtime used to be so special with placemats and candles and a dish I had taken the time to style, but now I admit sometimes I eat standing up in the kitchen while finishing up Mazen’s lunch, or cleaning up so we can get out the door. But more often than not, I do sit down to enjoy my meal, especially lunch and dinner. And the older Mazen gets, the more we can actually sit down, relax, and eat together.
- Respect your body – and accept your “genetic blueprint”.
YES. When I look at pictures of myself in 2007 when I was at my lowest adult weight, I see a child. My body now is far from “perfect” in that airbrushed, Hollywood way, but I don’t really care because in the context of my Charlottesville, mom, true-adult life, my body feels right at home. I am not willing to put in the time or effort that would be required for me to be chiseled, and I am 100% ok with that decision.
- FEEL the difference – exercise because it makes you feel good.
I wrote my balance post and touched on this long before I refreshed my memory on the Intuitive Eating topic. This is perhaps my biggest change of the years – learning to love exercise for how it makes me feel and not doing it because of guilt or to burn off a big meal.
- Honor your health – choose foods that satisfy both your tastebuds and health.
I love this one, and it again reminds me of the point I made in my balance post. Strive to find the best balance between enjoying what you eat and making your body feel good on the inside. I have definitely embraced this concept to the fullest!
I actually really enjoyed reading my old review. Because I hadn’t read it in so long I felt like someone else was doing the talking! The paragraph I wrote about “good” verses “bad” foods was well stated! I still agree with that one.
I think one of the biggest changes in my relationship with food over the past 8 years has been learning to go with the flow.
In 2009 I wrote:
The authors state that intuitive eaters “go with the flow.” This is something I am working on. I used to bring food with me to events in fear there wouldn’t be anything “healthy” to eat (= total Careful Eater behavior). Recently (even before reading this book) I’ve looked at events where the food is out of my control to be a time to enjoy foods I might not normally eat. It’s been fun! I’m working instead on just enjoying a smaller portion of whatever is served.
It wouldn’t even cross my mind to bring my own stash of food somewhere now! LOL! I think in a lot of different areas of life I have gotten more laid back (my family would agree), and food is one of them. Either I learned to be more flexible when I became a mother or I just got tired of being in charge. I actually prefer to be surprised by the food at events and parties now – it’s more fun that way!
I also wrote:
One last topic I connected with was honoring my hunger. I do think I sometimes fight with my hunger in the afternoons. I try to push back my snack and avoid spoiling my appetite at dinner. But why go through that anguish if you can just have a snack and then eat less at dinner!? I think it’s my practical side that wants to “save” my hunger for the more formal meal, but I am working on eating when my body wants it most because we can always have leftovers.
I solved this problem pretty quickly by having bigger lunches. Afternoon hunger gone! I used to be obsessed with breakfast, and it was my favorite part of the day. Breakfast was a king, lunch was a prince, dinner was a pauper. These days my tier is reversed. I look forward to dinner most of all, and I am eating less for breakfast than I used to. What is really odd about this is I feel that I am less hungry in the afternoons then I used to be. You’d think having smaller breakfasts would make me feel starving in the afternoon. That’s what dietitian me would predict. But my breakfasts are not small – it’s not like I’m eating 5 grapes or skipping breakfast, so perhaps they are just a better combination of energy and glycemic index than they used to be, despite being a bit smaller. Or maybe they aren’t even smaller in calories – they may just be different macros!
The last change I want to mention is that when I wrote the 2009 post, I was out of my house a lot of the time on campus, working towards my degree in nutrition. I packed my lunch and would spend stretches of time in classrooms or commuting, so I wasn’t able to just go to the fridge for a snack. Yet, ironically, I snacked way more then than I do now. I think this might have something to do with the fear of getting hungry when food isn’t around. A big point in Intuitive Eating is to listen to your satiety cues and trust that food will be available if you should get hungry later. Since I work from home now, I am always near my kitchen so any subconscious fear of food not being available melts away.
I loved this book then, and I love it now. It really is the ultimate guide for anyone who has broken the relationship with food that they were born with. When I read it the first time I didn’t trust the information, but I am here today to tell you to trust in this concept. The Intuitive Eating approach works.
My favorite quote from the book is this:
Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds 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 consistency over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts. -Intuitive Eating