There’s a lot of confusion out there about what intuitive eating is and isn’t. If you’re in the process (or wanting to start the process) of learning to eat intuitively, there are a few things you neeeeeed to understand about Intuitive Eating as a concept.
I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet throwing around the words “intuitive eating” when in reality it’s just another diet. This is especially common in the If It Fits Your Macros world, or “flexible dieting” (I mean, hello, duh, the word DIETING is in there). Sometimes they call it “intuitive eating” because they are eating whatever they want….within certain limits *cough* dieting *cough*.
So here are 4 myths about intuitive eating that I’m gonna bust for you:
1. It’s a weight loss program. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. It isn’t. This is not a diet. It is not a way to guarantee dropping pounds. Sure, you might lose weight, especially if you’ve been binge eating frequently, but how much you weigh is not a factor when it comes to learning how to eat intuitively. The overall point is that your health will improve along with your relationship to food because you won’t be starving yourself, stuffing yourself, or stressing yourself. Intuitive eating is about learning to trust your body, pay attention to her, honor her hunger and fullness cues, and generally create a loving relationship towards her at all times - which is not necessarily the same as thinking she’s the most beautiful body that ever existed, though that is cool too. Whether or not you lose weight while eating intuitively - which is really just eating - is not dependent on your ability to willpower your way through the process of re-learning how to eat normally. No willpower involved here. You will, however, return (or remain) at your body’s natural, happy weight, whatever that may be.
2. It means eating whatever you want and not caring about your health. NOPE AGAIN! Since learning to eat intuitively, I’ve been more able to focus intently on my health and nutritional factors of my food from a real, unbiased standpoint. Dieting is, in itself, a way to ignore what the body wants and how it reacts to certain foods. Diet plans keep us stuck in rigid mindsets that don’t allow for the wisdom of the body to be heard. We are told to stay on our plans, eat at certain times of the day, in certain amounts, etc. In reality, the body changes every day, and her needs fluctuate based on hormones, weather, seasons, nutritional needs, emotional cravings, etc.
There is a major misconception that people who eat intuitively will eat cheesecake and Lucky Charms every day of their life. And sure, maybe you allow yourself to eat cheesecake now when before it was strictly off-limits and, if eaten, came with a huge serving of guilt and burpees at the gym the next morning. And sure, maybe allowing yourself to eat cheesecake means that you eat it every day for a few weeks or months because your emotional body has been craving it so much, and maybe your physical body has been craving fats and sugars that you haven’t allowed her to have and so you feel intense cravings for it. And sure, maybe the fact that you crave cheesecake (which is delicious, by the way) makes you freak the f&*^ out and makes you want to “quit” this whole “learning how to eat normally” ordeal. A word of advice: DON’T. This is the good part. Once we allow our body to get her fill of what she’s been deprived of, and consistently allow her to have all the foods that she’s craving, she begins to trust you again. She realizes, “Oh, I can eat cheesecake everyday! So I’m not really craving it today. I don’t want any.” This also means no more binges. Binges are a reaction to deprivation - either current or in the future - so when your body knows that you can eat cheesecake whenever, there’s truly no need to “get it all in now”. Okay, anyone else craving cheesecake now?
Moreover, eating intuitively means paying deep attention to your body and honoring her needs. So when she’s craving something light and green, you go for it. Which brings me to my next point…
3. I’ll never crave healthy food again. Okay, seriously, think about this. Do you like any foods that are traditionally defined as healthy? Kale? Tomatoes? Brown rice? Sweet potatoes? Chances are, there’s something (or likely many things) that are healthy that you enjoy eating. So what makes you think that paying attention to your body means never eating foods that you enjoy? It’s that lack of self-trust, that feeling that our body is not to be trusted. Hint: If you’re eating foods that make you feel totally shitty all the time every day, you’re not listening to your body. Sometimes you eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie because it was offered to you by your friend’s grandma, even though it won’t make you feel 100% amazing, AND THAT’S OKAY. Another major piece of eating intuitively is knowing that no human feels totally perfectly amazing all day every day. And sometimes we don’t eat for maximum physical nourishment and aliveness- sometimes we eat because we’re emotional, or because we’re out with our friends, or because chocolate chip cookies.
4. You will gain weight. Can’t say this for sure. Many people lose weight. Many people gain weight. Your weight ain’t the point, though. The point is that your body is going to reach her unique optimal happy weight once she is eating all foods she enjoys and in amounts that make her, uniquely, feel good. There will be less stress in your head around eating. There will be more room for movement and exercise that feels good to your body. All of these things are going to balance your metabolism, hormones, and stress levels.
Learning to eat intuitively will likely take longer than any diet-cultured mind wants it to. That’s cool. Be okay with your impatience- just notice it, and keep it movin’. Remind yourself of your why throughout this whole journey. And speaking of journeys, remember that there’s no final destination to this one. Creating a relationship with your body doesn’t end somewhere- you’re kinda stuck with her for life ;)