When I first heard about intuitive eating at a dietetic seminar, I was a little scared. Or, rather, I was a lot scared. Scared silly.
At the seminar, I was told to…
Eat whatever I wanted.
Learn to trust my body in order to know when to start eating and when to stop, thereby honoring my hunger and respecting my fullness.
Forget calorie counting, measuring, good foods/bad foods, etc.
Kiss dieting and dieting mindsets goodbye (so long!)
My first thought was: “I could never do that! I ate what I wanted as a kid and that’s how I ended up fat!”
(Which is only semi-true, because I did not know how to respect my fullness as a kid.)
My second thought was: “That defeats the purpose of trying to live a healthy life. If I can eat whatever I want, than what’s the point of eating salads, fruits, nuts, etc when I could eat just eat cake?”
(Yes, I think a lot.)
But let me just jump right to the punch line and spare you the suspense.
I started eating intuitively on that very day, despite my qualms and concerns. Through it all, I’ve learned a lot (mostly through my mistakes!) I’ve maintained my “happy weight.” I never count calories, I never feel deprived and yes, I eat whatever I want.
And no, despite what I half expected, I don’t eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So. What is intuitive eating all about? What have I learned? What am I still learning? That’s what these posts will be about. A series of my own personal experiences of intuitive eating. What worked (and didn’t work) for me. How you can apply the intuitive eating principles to your life. And plenty of room for q’s and a’s as well!
Let’s get started!
Lesson #1: Honor Your Hunger, Respect Your Fullness.
Everything about intuitive eating comes down to this very basic (yet not so simple) principle. I first had to learn what true hunger and fullness felt like, as it can be a little different for everyone. After trial and error, I found that moderate hunger felt like an emptiness in the front of my stomach. Light and airy. Ready for food without feeling ravenous (which is the point you never want your body to reach.)
Fullness, on the other hand, felt like…normal. Not hungry, not stuffed. Just comfortable. Like if I stopped eating, I wouldn’t be hungry again for a few hours. I was amazed at how I had always had these sensations of hunger and fullness but never really considered the possibility of…well..relying on them!
So I practiced this very lesson before ever moving on to the next steps. I practiced for days and weeks. I ate whenever I felt that familiar hunger which I had grown to recognize. I stopped when my body felt comfortably filled. The hardest parts of this entire process for me was learning that (a) it was okay to eat something an hour after a meal if I was truly physically hungry, (b) it was okay to not lick the plate clean when I had had enough and (c) there is no need for calorie counting so long as I stayed in tune with what my body was telling me.
me, my dad and my sister
Tips For Success/How To Get Started:
- Begin to recognize what light hunger and light fullness feels like for you. Document this and see if you tend to eat right away when you feel hunger or if you put it off until you’re ravenous. How about fullness? Do you stop or are you part of the clean plate club? There’s no right or wrong answer, just the opportunity to discover yourself a little bit more.
- Make meal and snack time a pleasant time. Don’t rush it. Use your fancy bowls/plates. Don’t talk politics at the dinner table. Etc, etc, etc.
- Once you recognize fullness/hunger, begin to practice it. Respect your hunger by having a snack or a meal when your body feels moderately hunger. Never deny yourself, no matter what time of the day it is or how long ago you just ate. In the same way, begin to respect your fullness. Put your fork down half way through your meal and check in with yourself. Are you physically still hungry? Could you stop right now and be physically satisfied? What makes you want to keep going? Do you feel bad for wasting food? Pop any leftovers in the fridge and save it for later when you feel hungry again.
- Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites.
- Enjoy your food. Don’t let guilt sweep over you when you decide you need something to eat and don’t let any snark comments from others ever upset you.
- Don’t beat yourself up over “mistakes.” Remember. This is a learning process. You may find yourself eating when you’re not hungry or forgetting to eat when you are. Or you might keep eating beyond fullness. It’s okay!! You’re learning.
- Trust yourself.
QUESTION: How do you feel about intuitive eating? Is this generally how you approach your snacks/meals, or do you find yourself eating on a “schedule” depending on the time of day?