The last fifteen years have become more about cutting out one type of food and increasing another. While this may not be balanced, it certainly is an improvement from the days of yore when people would diet by only eating one or two foods (shakes, cookies, cabbage).
However, most diets have their failings. They refuse to be flexible. They also refuse to account for daily fluctuations in hunger. Do you feel the same on a day when you have conquered a spin class versus a day where your significant movement was using your thumbs to scroll Instagram?
Intuitive eating takes into account that we aren’t robots who can eat avocado toast and smoothies and salads every single day. We need variety! (That exclamation point was crucial.)
Intuitive eating takes the villain and hero out of our diets and lets our hunger lead the way. Like mindfulness, on paper, this seems so simple, but in practice, it can be freaking hard. Fat isn’t bad. Carbs aren’t bad. Protein isn’t bad (although these days, that seems to be the one most of us can agree on).
If you’re craving a more balanced approach to your body and desire to learn to eat mindfully (and guilt-free), consider this your intuitive eating cheat sheet.
Let yourself feel.
One of the tricky things of intuitive eating is that it is less formulaic. Some days you may need to eat a giant sandwich for lunch with a side while others a lighter lunch may sit better in your stomach. What you ate before, what your activity level was that day and even your hormonal levels will affect how much and what you put into your mouth. It takes courage to step back from habit to create space to listen to your body.
There is no enemy.
We have been taught for so long that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. There are certain foods you should eat more of, but you know that (more plants, less fried food). When it comes to foods that have been labelled with words like “cheat,” intuitive eating asks you to drop the labels. Some days you need a cupcake for dessert in the middle of the day. Your soul may crave it, and as long as it is not your way of filling an emotional hole, go for it.
Permission to delight more? Granted.
Food can’t fix.
Intuitive eating is a way of recognizing that food has its place. We will eat every single day. With influences boasting through food photography and articles finger-wagging at the shoulds and shouldn’ts of a healthy diet, it can be easy to let food consume all our thoughts all the time. When you listen to what you need, food can be a beautiful addition to life rather than life itself. It can’t cure your heartbreak, fix your boredom or transform your relationships. It’s just food. You can eat it until you are full and let it be because it will be available for you tomorrow.
Don’t be scared of hunger.
Many people have had periods of their lives where they have ignored their bodies’ request for food. Even if you have moved closer to being in line with your hunger, intuitive eating teaches you that you don’t have to be scared of hunger. It is telling you something. You don’t have to ignore it, nor do you have to fill your face immediately. It is a cue that will lead you to your next meal, which may be when your hunger is at a 6/10 rather than a 10/10. Let yourself be guided by moderate hunger rather than driven by excessive hunger.
Intuitive eating is about making peace with your food while seeking satisfaction and self-awareness. It is a practice, but it means there will be no guru or book that is more knowledgeable than you are. New waters – maybe scary waters — but for some, they are the only waters to swim in.