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.
Thoughts On Intuitive Eating
In 2009 I summarized the steps to becoming an Intuitive Eater. Here are some of my more recent 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 eating 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. 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 can blame my kids for a distracted mealtime! Meals used to be so special with placemats and candles and a dish I carefully styled. 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.
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!
Reading my old review
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 liked the paragraph I wrote about “good” verses “bad” foods! 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!
It wouldn’t even cross my mind to bring my own stash of food somewhere now! LOL! In a lot of different areas of life I have gotten more laid back (my family would agree), and food is one of them. I learned to be more flexible when I became a mother. It’s more fun to be surprised by the menu at events and parties!
My 2009 post also said:
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.
Changes in Meal Size
I solved this problem pretty quickly by having bigger lunches. Afternoon hunger gone! Breakfast used to be 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 than I used to be. You’d think having smaller breakfasts would make me feel starving in the afternoon. 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!
A change in lifestyle
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