Are you thinking about trying Intuitive Eating but aren’t sure what it can do for you? First of all, what is Intuitive Eating? Most simply put, Intuitive Eating is the practice of listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and then honoring them. This practice can also be transferred to other aspects of your life such as listening to and honoring your body’s desire for movement, rest, emotional comfort, and so on.
This post is a compilation of my experiences and some shared by my patients. So without further adieu, let’s get started!
Before Intuitive Eating: I lost so much time
I can’t even begin to quantify how much time I wasted on diet culture. I meal planned and prepped (only to deviate mid-week). I prepared everything from scratch. Researched alternative ingredients to make my food “healthier.” I was in the gym doing exercise I hated. Spent hours on Pinterest looking at exercise routines to tone my abs or make my butt look bigger. Looking back, I missed out spending time with family or doing things I actually liked doing in favor of trying to eat and exercise perfectly (whatever that means).
After Intuitive Eating: I reclaimed my time
I let my cravings and hunger level help me decide what I am hungry for. I don’t obsess over every morsel that is going into my body. I buy freezer meals, bagged salads, and deli sandwiches when I need something convenient. I decide if I want to exercise based on how I am feeling that day. I move my body in ways that feel good and fun versus doing workouts I hate. My time feels like my own again and I spend it doing what I like.
Before Intuitive Eating: I spent so much money…
I spent WAY too much money on diet culture. Supplements. Gym memberships and exercise equipment. Fitbits. Workout clothes. Organic everything. Weight loss books. Conferences. Most of my clients spend money on diet programs that promote dangerous meal plans with very low calorie or carbohydrate intake.
After Intuitive Eating: I stopped wasting my hard earned cash
The diet industry is worth $72 billion US dollars. Intuitive eating taught me that companies are preying off my insecurities and desire to be healthy. I committed to the first principle of Intuitive Eating “reject diet culture” and no longer waste my hard earned cash on scammy diet and exercise plans. Did these things ever work? Short term, probably yes. Long term, absolutely NOT! I never achieved my goal of a smaller body no matter how many products I bought.
Before Intuitive Eating: I ate bland food
I cannot tell you how many tasteless meals I ate. The worst part is I convinced myself I liked them because they were so called healthier. I made black bean brownies, cauliflower rice, zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower crust low-fat pizza, flourless banana muffins (without chocolate chips mind you), lettuce sandwiches and so on. I ate vegetables because I felt like I had to in order to be healthy. I felt self-righteous for cutting down on my carbs or sugar in the moment. What I didn’t count on was how strong my cravings would be later; or that I never really felt satisfied or full after my meal.
After Intuitive Eating: I love food again!
I am no longer listening to diet culture’s advice to make my favorite foods low carb or low calorie. I enjoy all foods. I eat fruits and vegetables because I like the taste, not because Whole30 told me to. I feel satisfied both physically and emotionally after eating. I eat enough food and nutrients to stay healthy and have energy during the day.
Before Intuitive Eating: I berated myself for eating sugar or fast food
Diet culture taught me that foods like chips, hamburgers/fries, and candy was “junk” food and that I couldn’t be healthy if I ate these foods. Every time I did eat them, I felt extremely guilty as my inner food policer shamed me. All the fun and enjoyment of eating these foods quickly faded as I made myself feel bad about eating them.
After Intuitive Eating: I made peace with food
I don’t allow the food police to nag me or make me feel like I am out of control with food. Intuitive eating gives me full permission to eat whatever I feel like eating. I am able to feel calm about food as I no longer swing from the extremes (restriction and bingeing). Food is neutral, neither good or bad. My “all or nothing” mindset was replaced by a permissive one.
Before Intuitive Eating: I had nightly binges
Every day I would do my best to eat “perfectly.” I could push down cravings when I was in front of my classmates or co-workers. I packed only the healthiest lunches and snacks. But…when I was home for the day the kitchen always called my name. When I didn’t have any of the foods I was craving available, I would try to make something that satisfied what I was craving. Or I would send my husband to the store to buy what I wanted and feel guilty about breaking my food rules. Once I had the food I craved, there was no chance I was eating only one “portion.” I ate the entire box(es). I felt addicted to food.
After Intuitive Eating: I experience less frequent binges
My bingeing behavior, for the most part, has stopped. There are still days when I discover a food that I really like and may eat more of this food for a while. For example, I recently discovered boba brown sugar ice cream bars at Costco! But because I let myself eat however much of this food I want, the cravings for it diminish, and I eventually go back to eating what is normal for me.
Before Intuitive Eating: I ate in secret
I was so embarrassed when other people would see me eating “unhealthy” foods. I tried to come off as a “clean” or “perfect” eater and live up to my title as a dietitian or dietetic student. If I was out to eat with friends I chose the healthiest option possible or asked for modifications such as to put the sauce on the side. When I went grocery shopping, I was too embarrassed to purchase “junk” foods (even if I really wanted them) for fear of what the check-out clerk would think. Or worse, I worried about bumping into someone I knew and being judged for what was in my cart. If my husband and I were shopping together, I would make him check out by himself while I waited in the car if we were buying candy, sugary cereal, and so on.
After Intuitive Eating: I eat without fear of judgement
Intuitive Eating helped me care less about what others thought of my food choices (or my body for that matter). I can eat what I want at a restaurant without worrying about what the waiter thinks of me. I can purchase spicy cheetos and oreos at the store by myself. I have developed responses to anyone who dares to make comments about my food or body to me. This has given me so much confidence and food freedom!
Before Intuitive Eating: I hated my body
My body was never good enough. I especially detested my stomach which was never flat enough, never toned. As early as probably nine years old I wanted to have visible abs. I hated that my body didn’t comply with my wishes. No amount of exercise produced my dream body. I wore clothes that hid my body. I talked bad about my body to myself and others.
After Intuitive Eating: I learned body acceptance
I wasn’t born hating my body; I learned this through diet culture. When I changed my focus to be on the things in my life that actually mattered, I started to accept my body. I accepted that my body size is not really in my control. My body is never going to look like the photo-shopped models in magazines. I practice being grateful for my body and all it does for me. I know I can be loved, respected, and cherished no matter what my body looks like. I take care of my body by first meeting her basic needs for food, water, rest, and comfort, then go above and beyond if I can.
Before Intuitive Eating: My mental health suffered
I was obsessed with food and my body. I thought about food constantly. Heck, I even made a career out of prescribing diets! I was anxious, unhappy, mad at myself for not having more “self-control” around food, and I was scared of gaining an ounce of weight! I felt secretive, like I had to hide parts of myself from others. I felt stressed about food. My body image was extremely negative.
After Intuitive Eating: I am much happier
Giving up the idea of weight loss or the “perfect” body left me feeling scared at first, but also free! I had no idea how heavy that burden was. I now have more compassion, patience, and forgiveness towards myself. My relationships with others are better too now that I can live authentically and not feel ashamed of my food choices or my body. I can focus my energy into the deeper and more meaningful parts of my life.
I hope this has given you a glimpse into what life can be like after healing from disordered eating and negative body image. In my opinion, it is 100% worth it!
Read more about intuitive eating in The Anti-Diet Workbook.