Posts tagged Intuitive Eating Beginner
Intuitive Eating Principles: How to Find Satisfaction in Everyday Eating

Satisfaction is considered the hub of the wheel in intuitive eating, but what does that mean? For those of us with a history of disordered eating, the concept of eating what you want, in the amount that you want, when you want (while paying heed to hunger and fullness cues) can feel like a tall order. When your food choices have largely been determined by extrinsic values, like a points system, carb counts, or weight goals rather than intrinsic ones, ordering a burger and fries (with a Coke, #pleaseandthanks) can feel equal parts daunting and ridiculous. 


Let’s break it down. 

intuitiveeatingprinciplessatisfaction.jpg


Satisfaction isn’t (only) about eating “forbidden” foods.


In my dieting days, I thought the only foods that were truly delicious were “forbidden” foods like salt and vinegar chips, pizza, and sour gummy candy. While I enjoyed salads, I never thought of them as crave-worthy. Perhaps you feel similarly? 


While pleasure is central to the intuitive eating process, safety is an important consideration. It’s tough to derive pleasure from foods we don’t feel safe around. You can work toward a more relaxed relationship with food while working through your restrictions in the present moment. It takes time to neutralize the morality our culture attaches to food (see “sinful” or “guilt-inducing”), shelve the weight loss goals, and to integrate true unconditional permission. 


Satisfaction can mean eating cheeseburgers and fries, if you like, but you may prefer or need to start with more manageable steps, like eating safe foods to satisfying amounts (rather than measuring), playing with condiments (like rooted garlic mayonnaise and cheesy dips), and broadening the variety you currently consume before moving on to more challenging meals. 


Satisfaction is fluid. 


“Nothing’s certain in life but death and taxes.” Surely you’ve heard that old adage, too? Satisfaction follows suit. The foods you found satisfying in childhood (like Mom’s tuna casserole) may no longer appeal to your adult self, in the same way that what you enjoy now may not be as enjoyable even ten months from now. 

Intuitive eating has truly taught me that our desires are flexible; in the winter I may crave heartier meals and more complex flavour profiles, while I may be perfectly content with a simple egg sandwich come mid-July. My palette is constantly widening in response to new recipe attempts, travels, restaurant meals, and interactions with people whose food interests may vary from my own. 


The foods you find satisfying at the beginning of your intuitive eating journey may not be the same foods you derive satisfaction from several months in. 

Satisfaction is context-dependent.

What passes for a satisfying breakfast on a weekday morning may look vastly different from the satisfying 3-course meal you enjoy on a European vacation. Not every meal is going to be gourmet. There’s nothing wrong with starting your day with a simple bowl of oatmeal, or ending it with some scrambled eggs and toast. The most important thing, always, is adequate, regular, and consistent intake, and it’s okay if that happens to also mean boring, economical, or quick. 

At the same time, you’re welcome to cook a more elaborate meal if you enjoy it, or if you have some extra time and want to cook up something special. 


And while we’re on it, satisfaction isn’t limited to pizza and pasta, either. Many outsiders commonly (and falsely) believe intuitive eating is anti-health. While you may crave more fun foods at the beginning of the work and eat disproportionally more cookies than celery, a salad with chicken or a vegan burrito bowl loaded with vegetables may also be satisfying. Intuitive eating, after all, isn’t about the food, but about the mindset you carry about nutrition. 


Satisfaction is a sign of privilege. 

Even though satisfaction may be an intuitive eating principle held near and dear to many folks, what it means to you depends largely on your privilege. Some of us can afford to eat the take-out we like, eat at nice restaurants, and make balanced meals on the regular. For many others, satisfying may mean sating our hunger at the very basic level. 


You may not always have access to the foods you prefer, particularly if you are traveling to different countries, experiencing changes to your income, or, hey, in the midsts of a natural disaster. Years ago, when I lived in Tallahassee with my then-partner, we lived on corn tortillas, ham, grits, cheese, pasta, yogurt, cereal, strawberries, big bags of grapefruit, and vegetables we stocked up on for cheap at a produce stand on the outskirts of Plant City. 


When I moved to Toronto, my grocery staples included cartons of eggs bought for two dollars at my local drugstore, discounted produce at the grocer, rice, and many, many legumes. I simply couldn’t afford meat, cheeses, and more expensive ingredients that I now gratefully enjoy. 


Satisfaction may become more nuanced in time.


Intuitive eating is a practice, not a one hit wonder of a diet. It takes time to incorporate the principles and to unlearn all of the lessons of diet culture. As you move through the process, you may find within you a growing curiosity regarding about different ingredients, recipes, and cooking styles. I’m always excited to see how my interest in food changes from week to week: sometimes I’m all about chicken fajitas and burrito bowls, while the next I may crave steak and mashed potatoes or a Greek salad with shrimp skewers and lemon potatoes. Sometimes I only want to snack on chips, while other times I enjoy charcuterie plates or crackers and hummus. Give yourself space and permission to discover, learn, and grow. 


That’s always been the most satisfying part of the process for me. 



How to Move Away From Wanting Weight Loss in Intuitive Eating

Okay, I want to become an intuitive eater, but how do I shelve the weight loss goals? And why should I?

I’ve given a lot of thought about this both personally and professionally. On one hand, moving away from weight loss goals, the oh-so-degrading “body goals”, and so on can feel impossibly hard. 

I want you to take a moment to acknowledge that, and to know that I acknowledge it, too. It is tough, especially when it seems like everybody and your neighbour is on a diet, a new eating plan, trying to “eat clean”, or some variant of the above. 

Just because you’ve committed to intuitive eating doesn’t mean you automatically stop wanting the things you’ve always wanted. It doesn’t mean you will automatically love your body. It doesn’t equate to an automatic, amazing relationship with food. 

These things take time to build, to curate, to refine. 

Intuitive eating, Health at Every Size, body positivity. How to move away from wanting weight loss in intuitive eating.

 

But how do you move away from the weight loss goals and toward intuitive eating when you still want to lose weight? 

I always ask my new clients to shelve their weight loss goals and give themselves permission to show up fully in the intuitive eating process. But there’s a few things I’ve done myself to move away from weight loss and to silence my inner body bashing critic. 

  1. Acknowledge that you are split. Part of you wants to look a certain way and part of you wants to feel a certain way. These desires are incongruent. If you focus on how you look, you may compromise how you feel; if you focus on how you feel, the way you look may not please you.

  2. Work on strengthening the healthy self. Therapist and eating disorder specialist Carolyn Costin talks about how we must strengthen the healthy self to heal the eating disorder self. That’s how I feel about healing the relationship with food and body. Ditching the weight loss goal is preferable, but isn't easy. To get there, you need to place it on the back burner so you can focus on repairing your healthy self.

  3. Develop hobbies and interests outside of weight loss. When people stop dieting, there can be a loss of identity. Also: suddenly there’s so much time. What I recommend is brainstorming. Make a list of things you love to do as well as things you’re interested in trying out. For example, I knew I loved cooking, watching movies, pilates, yoga, reading in the park, walking, listening to podcasts, and spending time with friends. I thought it might be cool to take tarot classes, art classes, learn how to make delicious cocktails, travel, and try acroyoga. Suddenly you have a list of things to do when you feel stressed out.

  4. Consider what your experience with weight loss and dieting has taught you. Has it made you happy? Has it improved your life? I think getting real about how miserable it has made you (or is currently making you) may be really helpful.

  5. Consider what intuitive eating might look like in your life. Are you eating ice cream at the beach with your kids? Are you going for bike rides with your partner? Are you enjoying pizza and wine with friends? How will not dieting improve your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Intuitive Eating "Scale"

When my clients move from the diet paradigm to the non-diet approach, there’s understandably a lot of apprehension. Even if we understand that diets fundamentally don’t work, we almost can’t bear the thought of outright “giving up.” I mean, even if the latest fad doesn’t amount to anything, at least we can say we tried. 

I get it. I really, truly, deeply get it.

Especially as women where our bodies are currency and our hotness level a type of status, I can understand the attachment to diet culture and the resistance to embrace anything else. 

Diets help us to feel productive and useful, especially at liminal (transitional) points in our lives when things feel irreparably messy. Puberty, pregnancy, menopause - these are all points in time when we don’t have a whole lot of control over our lives, so we take the reigns by focusing on the concrete (you know, like on our bodies.) We feel out of control, so we react by making changes to the one thing the body myth tells us we can shape: our size. 

Intuitive eating, health at every size, body positivity, anti-diet, non-diet approach, flexible eating.

 

Intuitive eating usually feels uncomfortable because it’s without boundaries. There are guidelines, but no rules; I “teach” intuitive eating, but mostly this involves a lot of questions and contemplation, since everyone comes to it in a slightly different way. Experiences it in a slightly different way. 

There aren’t any tools to measure our progress by, like meal plans or scales or lists of “yes” and “no” foods. 

There aren’t any distractions. While diet culture promotes hyper-fixation with the external, intuitive eating asks that you go deeper. That you dive into the waves head-first and see what comes of it. Where diet culture says be cautious, intuitive eating asks for your wildness. 

Where diets crave your smallness, intuitive eating asks you to play big. 

Where quiet once sufficed, your desires show up loudly on your doorstep, commanding attention and expression. 

Where once you could put off your bucket list — “one day,” “when I’m…” — intuitive eating asks you to be here, now. Intuitive eating asks you to show up, now. 

All of this is terrifying. Maybe it brings up anger for all of the time you lost to dieting. Maybe it feels like being uprooted. Maybe you feel alone on an island. 

So how do we live in a world without rituals and rules, without grades to monitor our progress?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned about navigating a post-diet world:

  1. Energy is everything.

Food is fuel. It’s something we always go back to in intuitive eating. It doesn't mean food is only fuel; that’s a misconception. Food is joy and storytelling and comfort. I can’t think of anything that brings two people closer than sharing a meal or a glass of wine. But part of becoming an intuitive eater means asking: which foods give me energy? Which deplete me? Which do I feel my best on? You can start by rating your energy after a meal from a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most energized you can imagine. 

2. Satisfaction is the spoke of the wheel. 

Satisfaction. Pleasure. When was the last time you thought about these things? Yet deriving joy from life is so crucial to this process of making peace with food, body, and exercise. We’re naturally happier when we’re satisfied. This may mean experimenting with foods until you find something you enjoy, trying different forms of exercise/movement, and learning who you are and what you like. 

3. Sleep is fundamental to all things.

Lack of sleep can flip our worlds upside down. It can lead us to crave foods we don’t normally eat or actually want to eat, make us irritable, affect our mental health and wellbeing, and encourage stimulant abuse to compensate. So, sleep is pretty damn important. 

Part of how I know I’m killin’ this intuitive eating thing is by my sleep. If it’s restful and I’m getting a solid 8, I’m feeling pretty good.

4. Seldom overeating and few binge episodes. 

If you’re constantly eating in a distracted way, overeating, eating too quickly, or bingeing, these are signs something is up. When I’m eating slowly, mindfully, consistently, regularly, and adequately, then I find I’m fully satisfied (see #2) and less likely to engage in any of these behaviours. It’s not to say I never overeat or fail to chew my food. It happens. It probably happens to most of us. But overall, I look to these markers to know whether my body is well fed. 

So, overall, you're looking to the following to know whether or not you're "doing it right":

1. Your energy is good (you're eating enough and sufficient variety.)

2. You're satisfied with your food and exercise choices.

3. Your sleep is good.

4. You're eating "normally" or "competently."