I'm sure we can all relate: being on a fad diet feels like an uphill battle. Restrictive eating rules, cravings, and constantly feeling guilty about what you're eating. It's no wonder many of us give up after trying to diet for just a week or two.
The good news is that there is another way to approach food that doesn't require counting calories or depriving yourself of the foods you love. This way of thinking about food is called Intuitive Eating (IE), and it can be a total game-changer in your relationship with food.
However, IE can feel so hard to master at first. It seems like it should be simple – after all, we're just supposed to eat when we're hungry and stop when we're full, right? But somehow, that's not always as easy as it sounds. So if you've been struggling with IE, don't worry – you're not alone. In this article, I'm sharing some of the most common challenges people face and what you can do to overcome those challenges to make IE a whole lot easier.
Intuitive Eating Goes Against Everything We're Taught About Health
First, we must recognize that IE is complicated because it goes against everything we're taught about health. And that's a good thing. Because a lot of what we hear about health is deeply rooted in anti-fat bias, here's why.
Anti-fat bias is so ingrained in our society that it's not uncommon to automatically associate negative attributes and beliefs with people with fat bodies.  From assumptions that they are lazy to views their less compliant than skinny people, anti-fat bias can impact the treatment of fat people in society.
That has a lot to do with our society's obsession with dieting and weight loss. Every day, we're bombarded with messages telling us that we must lose weight to be healthy. But what if that's been a lie? What if the real key to health isn't about being thin? What if the answer wasn't about eating less to lose weight but about eating more intuitively to gain well-being? What if the answer lay in eating more intuitively?
IE is all about listening to your body and giving it what it needs. It's about honoring your hunger cues and respecting your fullness signals. It's about choosing foods that make you feel good, both physically and emotionally. And it's about listening to your body when it comes to exercise, rather than following some arbitrary "workout plan."
If this sounds radical, that's because it is. Unfortunately, our society is so deeply entrenched in the diet mentality that the idea of IE seems downright revolutionary. But if we want to be truly healthy, both physically and mentally, it's time to try IE.
Becoming an Intuitive Eater Starts With Trusting Your Intuition
Even though IE is often presented as a "quick fix" solution, there is no such thing as a quick fix. IE requires time and patience to learn how to listen to your body. The good news is that once you know how to do it, IE can be a sustainable way to maintain a healthy relationship with food. So if you're looking for a quick fix, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you're willing to do the work, IE can be a valuable tool for achieving your goals.
However, I'm not going to lie and tell you that this journey will be easy. It is not. IE can be complicated for many of us because it's hard to trust ourselves with food. After counting calories and measuring our food, giving that up can feel like a huge challenge.
I know it certainly did for me when I first shifted from dieting to IE. Because I was so dependent on my diet to tell me what to eat, it took a complete mindset shift to trust that I didn't need to depend on something external to make healthy food choices. If you're in that same boat, you will also require that mindset shift.
That shift starts with remembering that our bodies are designed to know what they need, telling us when we're hungry and full. Learning to listen to those cues can take time and practice, but developing a healthy relationship with food is worth it. Although trusting your intuition can be challenging, it is ultimately rewarding.
Three Tips to Start Trusting Your Intuition with Food
By this point, I'm sure you recognize that listening to your body is about giving it what it wants. After all, your body knows what it needs better than anyone else. But how do you learn to trust your intuition to make healthy food choices? Here are three tips to help you get started.
#1 Pay Attention to Hunger Cues
Start by paying attention to your hunger cues. When you're starting to feel hungry, that's a signal from your body that it needs nourishment. So instead of waiting until you're starving, make a point to eat something healthy and satisfying.
#2 Listen to Your Cravings
Another way to develop trust is to listen to your cravings. If you're craving a specific food, there's a good chance your body is trying to tell you something. On the other hand, maybe you lack certain nutrients or need some comfort food. Either way, honor your cravings and permit yourself to enjoy the foods you love.
#3 Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way you'll get better when it comes to IE is by making time to practice those skills. Is summertime coming up, and you know your inbox will be full of summer fitness challenges? Now is a great time to practice ditching the diet mentality. Are you trying to decide if you should have dessert? Using this opportunity to honor your hunger and make peace with food would be beneficial. Whatever the case, with a bit of practice, you'll be surprised at how Intuitive Eating can become second nature.
Intuitive Eating Resources to Help You Get Started
There's no shortage of resources available online and in print if you're looking to start IE. So whether you prefer to learn about IE from a book, podcast, or good old-fashioned trial and error, you can find a helpful resource below.
- A Fitness Mindset by Tomesha Campbell
- Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition by Evelyn Tribole, RDN, and Elyse Resch, RDN
- Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole, RDN, and Elyse Resch, RDN
- Food Psych Podcast by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CEDS
- The Lunar Body Podcast by Kristen Ciccolini
- Fuel Your Strength by Steph Gaudreau
So, What's Next?
Even though IE may be challenging because it goes against everything we've been taught about health, it's worth it. Becoming an intuitive eater starts with trusting your intuition, which can be difficult when you have so much conflicting information coming at you from all angles.
I hope that the three tips I shared will help get you started on the path to trusting yourself regarding food. If you want more support in transitioning to IE, check out some of the resources I've listed above. I can tell you from personal experience that they help!
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