Intuitive Eating – The Ins And Outs

Intuitive Eating seems to have become a new buzz phrase on the Internet with people using it alongside tags such as “Flexible Dieting” or “If it fits my macros”, or my personal favourite “I eat intuitively while doing intermittent fasting”.  It seems that most people don’t know what intuitive eating really is. I’ve decided to write a little series outlining what it is, how you can do it and the benefits/draw backs of it. I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist. I embarked on my own intuitive eating journey a few years ago and have been aided along the way by the Intuitive Eating Handbook.

We are all (bar people with certain illnesses) naturally born intuitive eaters. If you think about it logically animals in the wild are intuitive eaters and humans are animals. When we are babies we ask for food when we are hungry and also sometimes for comfort, that’s a natural thing to do. As we start to grow up and learn about food and meal times etc that intuitive part of us is often forgotten about and the intuition is dulled/unlearned. We learn instead that we should eat x amount at set times and that certain foods are bad and others are good. This is when our relationship with food can become problematic. Ignoring, or not being allowed to address, our hunger cues when they arise can lead to bingeing which can then lead to restricting to “make up for it” because we’re taught to limit what we eat and it breeds a viscous cycle of weight gain and loss and our bodies don’t know if they are coming or going.

The premise of adopting an intuitive eating approach again as an adult is NOT for weight loss, although that may occur as a result, rather it’s to heal that relationship with your body and lead a healthier life as a result. We all have a set-point weight. That is the weight that we are genetically programmed to be and the weight that our bodies will fight to keep us at. If we are chronic dieters swinging from our lowest weights to our highest weights, naturally this will impact on our relationship with food, our body and our self image. Equally if we are a chronic overeaters, ignoring our fullness signals and gorging on foods we deem to be “bad”, our bodies will be uncomfortable physically and our mental health will be negatively impacted. Through intuitive eating, registering our hunger and fullness cues and honoring them, over time our bodies will return to and maintain our set-point weight. The bit some people still struggle to get their heads around is that their body settles at a weight, they are eating well, taking part in exercise they love but are still “overweight” or bigger than they think they should be. Unfortunately our genes and biology didn’t factor in that they would be forced to adhere to an arbitrary formula. They also don’t factor in “body trends”. We’re not designed to change shape every time the fashion changes.

Some critics of intuitive eating are skeptical of the fact that theoretically you can eat as much as you want of whatever you want, however if you are truly listening to what your body needs you are not going to want to eat junk food continually. Not because junk food impacts upon the way you look but because it impacts on the way you feel. Our bodies want fruits and vegetables, starchy foods, proteins, fats and water. They want food that energises and fuels them. Over time, when you allow yourself to eat whatever you want, you will learn what food makes you FEEL good.

Once you get your head around the fact that you’re eating well to feel good on the inside, which leads to feeling good on the outside, your attitude towards food and your body really shifts. A mantra that’s been swimming around in my head a little bit lately and I want to share with you is “eat to exercise, don’t exercise to eat.” This really struck a chord with me as I used to exercise to burn off x number of calories whereas now I’m thinking to myself, I’m hungry so I need to eat before my workout so I’ll feel strong and enjoy myself. The change is incredible and that transfers across to your mood as well.

In the next part I will outline the key principles to implementing intuitive eating and the effect each one has on your journey. Leave me a comment and let me know if you knew about intuitive eating, would you try it? And if you’re on the journey, how are you finding it?

V ❤

 

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16 thoughts on “Intuitive Eating – The Ins And Outs

  1. ladieslattesandlifting says:

    I love this: “eat to exercise, don’t exercise to eat.” ! That’s so beautiful and inspiring and Im proud to say, I have shifted that way some, but Im still working on it. I eat when I am hungry and I eat to get through my day and workouts. Food is fuel, it’s energy and the higher quality food you take in, the better you will perform!

    Like

  2. Hannah Gets Hench says:

    This is such an informative post!! You have definitely helped me along my journey into intuitive eating. I have started thinking of my body as a little plant that I need to nurture with nutritious food, water, physical activity, self care and kindness and its working very well 🙂

    Like

  3. annalisanuttall says:

    I should show this to my husband, he would find this really interesting. I think he into intuitive eating while I’m into eating cause I’m a greedy pig. Thank you for this. xx

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  4. Isabel says:

    I would like to be able to just listen to my body when it’s time to eat rather than agonise over what I’m eating when, I think it would be so much less exhausting.

    Like

  5. Olivia says:

    I am struggling to have a healthier relationship with food, forever trying to figure out a good balance. I am trying slimming world so I can learn to love the right foods.

    Like

  6. glowsteady says:

    I fully believe that intuitive eating is the best way for your body but I’ve tried so many times and sadly it just does’t work for me. I don’t experience hunger so whenever I try to eat intuitively I end up gong all day without eating then realising at 7/8 that I haven’t eaten yet which obviously isn’t the best long term x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

    Like

    • sirvikalot says:

      That is definitely not ideal. Perhaps mindful eating could be the way to go for you? So regular meal times but being mindful of the food you enjoy/don’t enjoy/makes your body feel good?
      V ❤

      Like

  7. Mel Burt (@raisethewaves) says:

    This is such a great post. Up until this year, I was pretty much eating anything I wanted because I was living by the “exercise to eat” mantra and I’m built fairly small anyway. I always felt so sluggish even after a good workout so switched over to eating fresh fruit and vegetables, cut down significantly on fizzy juice and chocolate and stopped my constant sharing size bag of crisps consumption. I feel so much better and actually have the energy to exercise without feeling lightheaded and tired. I can’t allow myself to eat when I’m hungry though as I rarely get hungry; I have to have set meal times but I’m more aware of what I’m putting in my body.

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