There’s a new way of eating in town and it’s rooted in self-compassion, not self-control. Intuitive eating is a new approach that seeks to maintain a healthy and happy weight by honoring your body’s hunger signals rather than relying on restriction.
The easiest way to imagine what this feels like is to think back to how you ate when you were very young. You had a few different foods on your plate, and you simply ate what sounded tasty. If you weren’t hungry, you’d probably have no interest in eating. If you weren’t in the mood for bread or broccoli or kale or eggs or cookies, you’d push them aside. If you were hungry, you would eat. You didn’t over- or under-nourish yourself. All you knew was how to listen to your inner hunger and fullness cues.
What eating this way doesn’t mean is eating whatever you want whenever you want. Well, sort of. One of the pillars of intuitive eating is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods in order to break free from the restriction and subsequent overeating cycle. This means making peace with the foods you banished for years. When you fully allow yourself to experience these foods, you learn to enjoy them in sensible amounts because the sex appeal of “forbidden food” has faded. It means enjoying a cookie after dinner without feeling the need to run it off tomorrow. It means not ordering the kale salad with dressing on the side when you really want the chicken sandwich.
FEELING FULL VERSUS FEELING SATISFIED
There’s a big difference between feeling full and feeling satisfied. Ever leave a restaurant after a full meal only to go home and slam leftover pizza? Your diet mentality told you to make a very unsatisfying dinner decision and now you’re left eating even more than you would have if you ordered what your body wanted it in the first place.
You may think that if you ate intuitively, you’d eat brownies with ice cream and pepperoni pizza on the side every day. Will you eat more of those foods in the initial phase? Yes. You’ll consume those foods until they feel less illegal and scary. Until they feel safe. But rest assured that your body truly will not want cookies, cake, pizza and fried food all the time. It’s the complete absence of these foods (or whatever foods you happen to crave) that leads to the inevitable seesaw of binging and restricting.
READ MORE > 5 STEPS TO BREAK FREE FROM BINGE EATING
View hunger like you’d view any other bodily function and you honor it. Treat being hungry like having to sneeze, urinate, breathe or sleep. You need to consume food for energy to sustain life just like you need to breathe air. Would you get mad at yourself for needing to use the restroom? It’s as basic a need as eating is.
You also honor your health. Just like you care about satisfying your taste buds, you care about nourishing your body. You honor your health not so you can fit into a jean size you haven’t worn since high school, but rather to live a long and happy life, to ward off disease and to simply feel good each day. It won’t happen overnight, but we all know nothing good comes easy. If you’ve been dieting your whole life without success, remember that it’s not you that doesn’t work. It’s dieting. Imagine the things you could do with your time if your brain isn’t so busy with micromanaging your weight and self-worth. Challenge the status quo and embrace progress, not perfection.