Is Intuitive Eating for me?
I found Intuitive Eating kinda organically.
I hadn’t actually heard of "Intuitive Eating" but my amazing Health Coach Anna, introduced me to the concept that dieting was actually really shit.
“oh but I don’t diet, I’m working on a lifestyle change”
“oh yes I know diets don’t work…..maybe I just need a detox”
“oh yes everyone knows diets don’t work, I just want to eat clean and train hard”
My mindset, even though I wasn’t actively at Weight Watchers or 12WBT at the time was so strongly ingrained in diet culture, I had no idea I was still living day to day in the diet world.
Less calories = good, next to no body fat = good, weight determines health, avoid bringing chocolate into the house because I can’t control myself and so on.
You know, the typical Aussie women’s everyday thoughts around food and her body.
One of the reasons I started working with Anna was because I just couldn’t shake the last few kgs after bubba #2, even though my calories consumed continued to go down and my calories burned with exercise increased. I wanted to reduce the processed foods we were eating, and I knew that I had to improve my body image, for me yes, but for my kids, especially my daughter.
Insert Anna who rocked my world so much, I decided I had to do that for other women. I wanted to give others what Anna gave me and so decided to become a Health Coach myself.
What I didn’t know at the time was the incredible path it would lead me on. Once that seed was planted, I was like a dog with a bone. The more I learnt, the more I read and watched and listened to, and then the more I learnt.
I had already started rejecting a huge chunk of diet mentality.
I was no longer restricting my calories and stopped weighing myself. I was exercising in a way that made me feel strong and powerful and happy, rather than focusing on calories burned. I was eating way more food than I ever had, the bulk of my dietary intake was whole unprocessed food which made me feel amazing and I really started tuning into what food felt good inside my body. I ate chocolate and drank wine and shared hot chips when I wanted them but became very aware that my digestion changed, my energy levels and mood changed and that vibrant feeling of ‘health’ changed when I ate the whole block of choccy rather than a few pieces. I had never consciously made that connection before. I ate 'good' food because I supposed to and it was healthy, not because I was in touch with the way it made me feel.
My body had never been in better physical or mental shape and I was continuously perplexed at how I could eat all this food and still not be packing on the weight. I had always fought to keep the weight off, now I wasn’t focusing on it, it just stayed away. I knew I was still in an overweight category per BMI, but my DEXA scan told me my body fat percentage was considered athletic.
Body love was and is a huge part of it. I began looking for the things I loved about my body which was bloody hard at first but got easier the more I practised. I ate to nourish not deprive and very slowly started making self-care a priority. The thoughts went from sadness to pride and eventually full blown love the shit out of myself kinda thoughts.
My sister told me one day she had read a book called Intuitive Eating and explained to me that it was all about tuning into what your body wants and needs to guide you to your own healthy weight. She talked about satiety and food guilt and body image all being factors in the weight battle. I remember feeling excited that this concept existed rather than just all these practices I had whirling around my head. Not long after that conversation I found a podcast called The BodyLove Project hosted by a rock star Dietitian, Jessi Haggerty and episode 1 was an interview with Elyse and Evelyn, the authors of the book Intuitive Eating. Listening to these incredible women talk about their book, it all suddenly made sense to me.
The reason I wasn’t battling the scales anymore and had this new found freedom with food wasn’t something I had orchestrated and found the golden ticket for, I was getting back in touch with my own natural Intuitive Eater.
I wasn’t relying on a list to tell me what I could or couldn’t eat. I wasn’t meticulously counting the calories or points or macros to determine if I could have an ice cream or a glass of wine, regardless of if I actually wanted them or not. I wasn’t harbouring food guilt anymore. I had found ways to deal with boredom, stress, anxiety and joy that didn’t involve food.
Diets take the reigns away from you and dictate what is ok and what is not. When I think about it now, I feel foolish that I thought a mass-produced plan would work for me. For my very unique body, with it’s very unique psychical and psychological needs.
Here are just a few of the things that Intuitive Eating has taught me;
- To see hunger for exactly what it is, your body asking for nourishment, rather than something to fight with willpower.
- That if it’s dinner time and I’m not hungry, I don’t have to eat. The clock doesn’t determine when or how much has to be consumed.
- If I fight the urge to eat the chocolate and drink the wine in an effort to be wholesome, the inner rebel (she's in all of us) will fight back till she gets the whole block or drinks that whole dam bottle. Then proceed to say "see, i told you you didn't have any will power."
- That when you take the rules and obsession away from food, they aren’t nearly as fascinating or enticing anymore. If I want the chocolate, I eat the chocolate. It’s bloody delicious but its just chocolate. I can access it at virtually any time or place anywhere I may be.
- A carrot and a piece of carrot cake are obviously not the same nutritionally, but emotionally they are now the same. Emotional eating anyone?
- Eating is something to take pleasure in. Food is wonderful and delicious, and we have taste buds for a reason. Tracking, counting, weighing measuring and obsessing is just not pleasurable.
- That moving my body in a way that feels good for me is far more beneficial to my health than the calories I have burnt.
- Gluten, dairy, sugar and meat are not evil despite the wellness world telling us they are. The guilt and shame and confusion around eating them are way worse for your health than they could ever be.
- That Diet Culture is sneaky. It’s seductive and promises the world but then almost never delivers those promises long term. It’s in your face whether you like it or not and preys on your insecurities. Now even diets are advertising as Intuitive Eating as more of us reject the diet mentality. You're not fooling me (anymore) diet culture!
- No one knows what my body needs more than my body. When you let that inner wisdom guide you, it will steer you exactly where you need to go. Be it with food choices, movement choices and self care.
I am by far perfect and still on my own Intuitive Eating journey. I have days where I feel like I’ve got this shit sorted and days where I temporarily have a brain lapse and start questioning if my summer body is in fact ready. And then I remind myself that I am a fucking Wonder Woman and my body is perfect exactly how it is. I get though, that that is the pull of diet culture and I need to keep rejecting those old habitual thoughts and the constant diet brick being thrown at my face.
Looking back to the start of this whole journey, I can barely recognise myself or my mindset. I feel free around food and all that energy I put into trying to get ‘healthy’ is now available for things that matter.
It’s not all beer and skittles though, as my Grandma would say (miss you GG xx). Intuitive Eating is messy and there is a lot of grey area along the way. There are guidelines per say, but no hard and fast rules which most of us have grown to love in the diets we have tried and no doubt failed in the past. Digging deep into me has been uncomfortable and scary and uncertain and I have learnt things about myself that have blown my mind.
Even in the often murky water that is Intuitive Eating I get more and more comfortable with it. I keep approaching the bumps in the road with curiosity not guilt and I can happily declare I have gotten over every bump so far.
I became a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor last year to keep sharing this magic with my clients. Teaching people there is a beautiful bridge between dieting and ‘letting yourself go’.
My bet is the people in your life that have not battled with their weight or diets, the 'normal eaters' you know are guided by their own inner Intuitive Eater. We are all born to eat intuitively until Diet Culture strikes, maybe in the form of watching your parents/friends/colleagues diet. Maybe in the form of food rules or policing when you were a kid, no dessert till you have cleaned your plate. Or maybe simply from being bombarded at every turn with the thin ideal, that you should be a size 8-10 and nothing else.
Intuitive Eating is food peace, body peace and diet peace all rolled into amazing, messy, satisfying freedom and I’d love that for you too. Get involved gorgeous, you wont; regret it!
Grab a FREE copy of The Wonder Woman’s Guide to Diet Freedom to help you make peace with food, movement and your body today.