Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So you want to become an intuitive eater...

Last year, I wrote an extensive intuitive eating review and why it didn't work for me. Which is odd because I attended a weekly intuitive eating support group for six months.

As I was writing the review, I realized that despite the weekly meetings, I didn't understand the inutitive eating rules. Interestingly, I also realized that cognitive behaviour therapy had unknowingly lead me to become an intuitive eater. I eat when I am hungry, I eat what my body wants (at least I do most of the time) and I've learned that I can lose weight without dieting (albeit slowly).

Given my history with intuitive eating, I take an interest in intuitive eating blog posts. Jen at Perfect in our Imperfections is working towards becoming an intuitive eater. In her latest post Perfect in our Imperfections: Intuitive eating so far Jen noted that it is suprisingly difficult (I agree!) and put a call out for any useful strategies.

So, if you are budding intuitive eater, I have a few ideas to help get you started:

1. Eat what your body wants 
Confused by eat what your body wants? Yes, I was too. I waited for my body to tell me what to eat for lunch, but my body never really told me anything. I didn't understand that 1) my body wants to eat healthy foods and 2) my mind also has a say in the matter.

Want to know if you eat what your body wants or what your mind wants? There is an easy way to find out. What kind of food do you crave? If you crave processed, sugar or fat-filled food such as Oreos and french fries,  you eat what your mind wants you to eat.  If you crave fresh, healthy foods simply prepared such as salad and quinoa, you eat what your body wants.

Instead of eat what your body wants, think of it as learning to crave healthy food.

How does one learn to crave healthy foods? You learn by eating healthy foods most of the time. Yes, you fake it until you make it. Eat healthy, quality whole foods, prepared at home and you will start to crave healthy foods and eat what your body wants.

Personally, I noticed that I started to turn my tastebuds when I switched my lunch from a sandwich to a salad. Now I feel sad if I don't have my salad that I prepare at home and eat at lunch hour. 

2. Eat when you are hungry
A history of dieting will make it difficult to know when you are hungry, especially since anxiety induced from dieting will send out false hunger as a coping mechanism. So a good way to figure out your hunger scale is to eat every three hours. My therapist directed me do this and I noticed (even today), that if I push it past the three hour mark to the four hour mark, this triggers overeating.

Think about hunger in relative terms: if you eat a complete balanced meal and you are hungry again in an hour, chances are you aren't really hungry. That hunger could be triggered by anxiety (or some other reason). Distract yourself and I am confident that you will find that the hunger will disapate.

If you haven't eaten in three hours, and your stomach is rumbling, eat, your body wants you to eat. If you are unsure of when to stop eating, just use your common sense. A balanced, healthy meal should fill you up. If after that meal you don't feel satisfied, eat a piece of fruit for dessert.

So remember to fake it 'til you make it. Eat healthy foods and you will learn to eat what your body wants. Eat every three hours to straighten out your hunger signal. Keep in mind that your thoughts can either help or hinder your effort. In part II, I'll tell you what I mean.


  1. I think the first one is so important because it can be hard to really "listen" to your body when your body has been telling you for years that it "needs" unhealthy foods.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Diane,

      Yes, your mind tells you that you need the unhealthy food and it silences the voice of your body. But that voice flips as you up the healthy foods, and decrease the processed foods.

      If I have a stretch of eating less healtier meals (like a couple of weekend social events) I notice the "mind" voice starts creeping back.

      When it does, I know that all will return to normal when I return to my healthy eating routines!


  2. Your body doesn't tell you that you need unhealthy food, your mind does. You've got to think about your entire body.

    Have you actually read the Intuitive Eating book? The new edition just came out. I highly recommend reading it for yourself, if you haven't.

    This book and work saved my life. I've never felt such freedom before giving up dieting.

    There is also an online Intuitive Eating Community that you can find on the IE website. It's great to get support.

    1. I agree! And it is awesome being free from dieting!

      I still laugh that I discovered this mind/body distinction while researching the inutuitive eating review. How crazy is it to belong to the an ie support group and not know that distinction? (Keeping in mind, this was ten+ years ago...)

  3. This post had some useful ideas for me. I have recently started applying the Intuitive Eating principles, and I'm struggling a little. My biggest struggle so far is recognizing hunger and fullness signals. I'm going to try your idea of eating every three hours to keep my body nourished and see if I notice a difference.

    I also like the concept of teaching my body to crave healthy foods. The ironic part is I genuinely like healthy foods but at some point I got out of the habit of eating them regularly so now when I grab a snack I tend to go for something more processed with less nutritional value. Most times I'm not craving any particular food, so making a deliberate effort to eat more nourishing foods is a logical step that shouldn't result in feelings of self-denial.

    1. Hey Kara!

      I love the name of your blog, I don't freakin' want to diet either.

      Don't overthink the hunger; eat every three hours and eat meals that make sense, balanced and in reasonable amounts. As you let go of the diet mentality, you should find yourself naturally saying, yeah, I've had enough to eat.

      Yes, me too, I ate balanced healthy meals but craved junk foods for snack. Everyday I struggled to not eat chocolate.

      It sounds like we have a lot more in common then our names. Check out my eating triggers tab, I suspect you may relate to a few of them...


  4. Found this post thru Jen. I think you did a most excellent job with it. I added a link to this post on my own blog. To be very honest, over the years, most intuitive eater posts seemed to be followed with a lot if posts on CAKE, so I was very glad to see you address, so well, the junk food issue up front.

    1. Hi Vickie,

      Thanks for the link. Where is your blog??


  5. I started with your first post back after your two year break (link on your sidebar) and read thru to current. I did not read comments, just your posts. You do a most excellent job with your posts/writing/inner work.

    I have worked with an eating disorder therapist and a psychiatrist for much of my process and have written a lot about it too. I applaud your talking about it openly. I think most people who have struggled with their weight need outside help, but rarely get it. I can only think of a couple of us who have. It is heartbreaking to see so many struggle for years/decades. An objective eye and retraining those neuropathways makes a great deal of difference.

    I also now have a much better understanding of the intention of Intuitive eating. I have had a very skeptical eye on that topic in the past and now, from reading your posts, I realize most of the time I was only hearing a fraction of the whole.

    1. Thanks Vickie for your kind words.

      It sounds like we have a lot in common. I'm looking forward to reading your blog!

      I don't know why so many people are resistant to getting help. The struggle is so common, it is perceived as normal. I can only hope that those of us who do seek help and share our experiences, will speak to a reader who then decides to get help; and so on.

      I'm going to write more about intuitive eating. I got here in a different way then someone who follows the books, so my perspective on how one can get here is unique.



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