Posts tagged Intuitive Eating Tips
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. 

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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. 



Three Questions to Ask to Stop Feeling Guilt and Shame Over “Bad” Foods

Whether you’re new to intuitive eating, deeper into learning about the non-diet approach, or at a different stage of your eating disorder recovery, it’s very possible you still feel guilt or shame about — or judge — the foods you’re eating. This can feel especially irritating if you’ve embraced body positivity and intellectually know restriction — or holding on to the diet mentality — isn’t serving you. 

Guilt and shame around “forbidden” foods is one of the most common conflicts I address in my nutrition practice. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the food. 

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An apple and potato chips would be morally neutral if it weren’t for diet culture’s interventions. Moving away from restrictive tendencies and toward a more liberated approach to food requires vigilant questioning and criticism of the diet industry and its trappings. Who decides what’s “healthy”? How have I come to my beliefs about food? Why do I feel like eating multiple servings of a “forbidden” food is too much? What’s wrong with enjoying a chocolate bar? 

Dissolving judgment, guilt, and shame around food takes ample time, and isn’t easy or straightforward, here’s 3 questions to start asking yourself to make peace with food. 

1. How do I believe my feelings are benefitting me? 

When we speak about judgment, guilt, and shame about food, chances are good we’re talking about judgment, guilt, and shame about body. If you’re unsure if this is true, ask yourself this: If I totally loved my body and how it gets received in the world, would I care about the double cheese pizza I’m eating right now

I want you to get really curious: are you holding on to your thoughts and beliefs about food because you feel they’re benefitting you in some way? Maybe you feel a distinct charge around “carbs” because you believe they will lead to weight gain (false), or around sugar because you’re inherently “addicted” (no such thing.) 

If you are still trying to manipulate your body size or shape in some form or another — even in subtle ways — they can lead to feelings of guilt and shame around food. While food exposure therapy can be helpful at normalizing “forbidden” foods, deeper body image work and fat acceptance are necessary for completely neutralizing the charge. Fully recovering from diet culture and disordered eating requires complete acceptance of your natural body. 


2. What’s consistent about the foods I carry negative feelings for? 

We can get so caught up in the diet mentality bubble that we often miss its trappings. It’s important to question — and keep questioning — your beliefs and reactions about food. What’s similar about the foods you’re reacting to? Are you always eating these “forbidden foods” at the same time? In the same way?

It’s helpful to look at your food and eating patterns. Are there certain food groups that provoke a deeper reaction from you than others? Do you feel safe around fat, but not around sugar? What sorts of messages are you exposed to on a regular basis? Which foods are demonized at your office? In the room? Within your friend groups? 

Food exposure therapy doesn’t just happen at the table. It happens out in the world.

3. What do I think about when I’m eating these foods?

Do donuts remind you of anyone or anything? What about French fries? In the same way that certain foods carry positive connotations — enjoying fresh-picked raspberries with your grandmother, for example, or savouring an ice cream cone with your best friend on a hot summer’s day — we also carry more negative food experiences with us (I’m looking at you, negativity bias). Are those negative moments making it tough to neutralize certain foods? 

It’s important to look at the framework around the foods you feel guilt or shame toward. In my professional experience, the medium can be as important as the message. 

Now, I want to know: which of the three questions above do you find the most helpful? Does one resonate more than the others?

I’m Doing This Intuitive Eating Thing — So Why Do I Keep Overeating?

“I’ve been doing this intuitive eating thing, but…I keep overeating. You said I would feel sane around food if I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, so what gives?”

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As an intuitive eating counsellor and nutritionist — someone who helps women all over the world to stop bingeing, make peace with food, and feel at ease in whatever body they happen to find themselves in — one of the chief concerns I encounter involves “overeating.”

Because “overeating” isn’t as clear a term as you’d think, let’s start there.

Eating more than you did when you were dieting is not “overeating.”

Eating more than what your fitness tracker recommends is not “overeating.”

Eating what you feel is a large volume of food is not “overeating.”

Eating beyond the “portion” on the label is not “overeating.”

Eating more than what’s on your meal plan is not necessarily “overeating.”


Quite “simply” (ha — is anything ever simple when it comes to food and body?!) — “overeating” means eating beyond fullness. It can occur at any time (during a scheduled meal, over the holidays, or while snacking), and for any reason (by accident, because you’re recovering from an eating disorder and you need to overeat, because you’re trying to mitigate anxiety or uncomfortable feelings, and so on.)


Intuitive eaters seldom overeat. Not because we’re a superior brand of species, but because we know we can eat what we want, when we want, and in the amount that we want. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

But if you’re perpetually overeating, does it mean you’re “failing” at intuitive eating?

It’s one thing to logically give yourself unconditional permission to eat.

It’s another to live it

Here’s a few reasons why you’re still overeating:

  1. You’re judging what you eat, the amount you eat, or when you eat.

Darling, judging is another word for restriction — and is the furthest thing from unconditional permission. In my experience, this judgment usually stems from a fear of what your “intuitive eating experiments” will do to your body. When you’re panicked about how much weight you’ll gain or how your shape will change from not dieting, you’ll resort to your primary and most comforting coping mechanism: food.

This is why I feel intuitive eating (or recovery from diet culture or an eating disorder) works most effectively when combined with body image work, self-compassion, self-care, and psychotherapy. 

I’m blue in the face from saying it, but truly: restriction always leads to “eating issues.”

I cover this extensively in my coaching practice, but this gives you a head start.


2. You’re worried about your weight. 

This concern feels very real and I have a ton of empathy for it. But honestly? This worry is never about the weight exclusively. Thinness doesn’t live in a vacuum. 

Why do you care about becoming or staying thin?

…Maybe you believe it will help your chances of meeting the love of your life.

…Or help you to feel more confident sporting that string bikini on the beach.

…Help you to make friends and feel a sense of belonging.

…Allow you to finally accept your body so you stop killing yourself at the gym. 

…Get your [parental figure] off your back and finally experience their acceptance. 

Yes, being thin comes with specific privileges (“thin privilege” is real), but we also carry a number of convictions about thinness (and fatness) and its symbolism that inform our eating choices and how we view our relationship with food.

3. It’s your only coping mechanism.

“Emotional eating” isn’t pathological; I’m a big believer in legalizing emotional eating. 
But as you dive deeper into intuitive eating, you’ll find 1) food no longer offers the comfort it once did 2) you may wish to process your feelings a little differently.


Some things I recommend implementing that were personally helpful: 

  1. Being extremely diligent about your self-care. This may mean having standard sleep and wake times, taking an evening bath, trying a skincare routine, participating in joyful movement (if this is available to you at this time), spending time with friends or family, taking regular breaks, eating regularly and adequately, keeping hydrated, diffusing essential oils, limiting caffeine and/or alcohol, and so on. It needs to be personally meaningful and something you can do without much effort. Also: it doesn’t have to cost anything.

  2. Finding a therapist — ideally a weight-neutral, eating disorder-informed one.

  3. Actively try other coping mechanisms, like journalling, calling a friend, going for a walk, meditating, listening to music, etc. It takes time to foster new habits, so be patient with this.

  4. Meet yourself with self-compassion. I highly recommend Dr. Kirstin Neff’s Self-Compassion.


Is this something you struggle (or struggled) with while starting intuitive eating? Let me know in the comments!