The Beginner’s Guide To Recovery: Becoming an Intuitive Eater

Have you ever wondered how certain people can seemingly eat anything they want and never gain weight?  Sure, there are some people with gifted genetics and a super-fast metabolism, but for others, there’s a secret.  Some people are naturally intuitive eaters, meaning they consciously or unconsciously are super tuned into their bodies.  Unfortunately, the constant bombardment of dieting programs, stick-thin models, and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods has distanced us so far from our intuition that we can barely hear it.

I’m not a naturally intuitive eater.  Without keeping the intuitive eating ‘guidelines’ (read: NOT rules!) in the front of my mind, I will tend to overeat, reward myself with food, and hop on some diet bandwagon.  I know i’m not alone in this.  When this mentality regarding food, weight, and exercise gets too strict and obsessive, it can easily spiral out of control.  Here’s some shocking facts:

  • Up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the US
  • 91% of women in college have admitted to controlling their weight with a diet
  • 25% of college-aged women have reported using bingeing and purging as a weight-management strategy
  • In a study, 58% of college-aged women felt pressure to be a certain weight.
  • Over 50% of college students report using laxatives, vomitting, smoking cigarettes, skipping meals, and fasting to lose weight

[Information from ANAD]

SHOCKING.  One of my goals in life is to bring awareness to how prevalent, almost expected, eating disorders are in women today.  Luckily, with support and guidance, disordered eating patterns – no matter how severe or miniscule – can be reversed into intuitive, compassionate eating habits.

Diets DO NOT work.

95% – yes NINETY FIVE PERCENT! – of people will regain the weight they lost while dieting within three years.  How is this beneficial?  How is this good for our mindset?  It’s not.  All it does is cause stress (ahem – weight gain) and obsession (bingeing, restricting, purging).  It’s not pretty to think about, but that’s why it’s important.  For a lot of people, dieting is their reality. It’s their world.

With that information in mind, let’s lighten it up a bit.  I want you now to imagine yourself being able to eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast (guilt-free!) and then willingly and happily choosing a big, healthy salad for lunch and a green juice for a snack.  I want you to imagine never feeling deprived, never obsessed with food, never consumed by guilt and depression over food and exercise.  It’s entirely possible and I know this from experience.  It’s taken me 3 years on this intuitive eating journey and i’m still learning and playing, but my life has done a complete 180.  I have faith in you and believe it’s possible for anyone.

Of course, if you are going from  calorie-counting and exercise-obsessed, you can’t just flip the switch overnight and become an intuitive eater.  It takes tons of patience, trial and error, and some most likely some tears (gotta keep it real with you.)  The benefit is a new, MUCH happier, totally-free life.. and that’s so worth it.

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The Intuitive Eating Guidelines

1. Stop Measuring

This is the first – and one of the scariest – things you can do to start eating more intuitively.  I remember the first time I didn’t measure peanut butter (GASP) and it was crazy but freeing.  Now? I never measure things unless it’s for a recipe.  Learn to eyeball portions.  You know what is ‘too much,’ ‘too little,’ and ‘just right.’  You’re intuitive.

Measuring also means no weighing yourself (super hard, I know) and no calorie counting.  These two things alone can take months to taper off and deal with, but looking at food as nourishment instead of a number is freaking awesome.  If you really need to “measure” something, measure nutrition content.  By that I don’t mean calories – I mean learn about the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in the foods you’re supplying your bod-pod with.

Something else not to measure?  Yourself against others.  Like it or not, your genes account for a large percentage of your body type.  Learn to love it now and be realistic when making weight loss/gain goals ❤

2. Reevaluate Your Workouts

Okay, so this one has seemingly nothing to do with food, but for me it was a game changer.  Come to find out, work outs actually have a huge impact on how we eat.  When I was doing aggressive HIIT workouts non-stop despite being exhausted, I also took that warrior mentality out onto my plate: eating fast, not thinking about it, and a crazy stressball.  I actually completely stopped running for awhile because I was only focused on the calories.  I didn’t feel any benefits from it.  I started yoga and strength training instead and felt so happy and connected to my intuition while doing these things.  Find something you enjoy and that you ACTUALLY like. Experiment – have fun!  Today, I run 3 miles a few times a week because it feels amazing, NOT because it burns calories.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Dancing, jumping rope, jumping on trampolines, walking your dog .. it all counts.  Just make sure you like it – if it feels like a chore, move on to something else 🙂 Exercise is there to make you feel ENDORPHIN-IZED!

3. Honor Your Feelings

This is one of the principles of the ‘official’ Intuitive Eating guidelines (there are 10 – check them out here).  In my opinion, this is the biggest step to tackle.  To be honest, i’m not completely there yet with this one, and i’m sure it will always be a work in progress.

The reason why people restrict, binge, overeat, or obsess about food is because they are using food (or lack of) to numb out emotional feelings.  Intuitive eating means eating when you are biologically hungry, not when you’re sad, lonely, guilty, anxious or stressed.  There is nothing wrong with feeling.  It’s beautiful to feel your emotions, not squash them.  If you squash them, you not only never truly feel and heal the bad, but you also miss out on all the good emotions, too.  Since learning to actually feel, i’ve been able to experience moments of pure bliss – and that’s the coolest, most rewarding gift ever.

4. Quit Labeling and CHILL

No more labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Think of food as nourishment: spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally nourishing.  What is it you’re going for?  Check in with your body; How do you want to feel?  Eat accordingly. If it’s a cookie, you go girl.  If it’s salad, you da bomb.  Intuitive eating is about making these choices equal… neither is better than the other.

What you eat over the span of a few days, or a week even, is what matters in the long-run.  Eating perfectly clean one day and then having tons of sugar the next two days doesn’t do you and your health any good.  If you need a treat a day to keep away a binge, that’s what you do.  Honor your body and your individual needs. 🙂  This is what I call the CHILL factor.  You don’t need to be perfect. Chill it.  Deep breath.  You’ve got it all taken care of.

5. Respect Your Fullness

This is all about stopping half-way through your meal and asking yourself, “How does my food taste? Am I full? Am I satisfied?”  You don’t have to stop eating when you check in, but simply taking this step of awareness is crucial to not stuffing yourself like a turkey.

I really dislike being too full because of how uncomfortable it is, so no matter what situation i’m in, I almost never get to that point of being “too full.”  I know that food is always available to me because nothing is off limits, so I never feel the need to go “hog wild.”  If I do, it’s almost always because i’ve been restricting something lately.

If this sounds like something you would enjoy – a life full of freedom and guiltless eating – then I highly recommend you read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  This book is eye-opening and dives super in-depth into how we’ve gotten ourselves into this chronic dieting cycle and how we can free ourselves.  Christmas gift, anyone? 😛

Note: If you are suffering from an eating disorder, please consult a professional or therapist who can guide you.  I am not a doctor, I am just a holistic health coach sharing my experience with Intuitive Eating. 

If you have any intuitive eating questions, contact me at katieghealthcoach@gmail.com!  I would love to talk and discuss with you!

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