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Riots Not Diets

What is intuitive eating?

Updated April 23, 2022

I created a post on TikTok this week about the ways in which people who are new to intuitive eating can sometimes misunderstand what it’s about. If you’re coming from a world of dieting or restricting your food, intuitive eating may, at first blush, sound or feel like another eating plan. But there’s actually nothing especially methodical or pre-planned about intuitive eating. Rather, it’s just a way of being in relation to yourself and your food.

Sounds pretty lofty, but when you’re standing in the kitchen trying to figure out lunch, that doesn’t really help you much.

So here’s what intuitive eating looks like in that moment:

You’re at work or school, doing whatever. Then you notice something in your body. A rumble in your belly, perhaps, or a feeling of lightheadedness, or maybe even an irrational sense of irritation. No matter what the signal is, it’s there: hunger. Your body has sent a cascade of hormones through you to let you know that it needs fuel.

So instead of telling yourself “but I just had breakfast!” or “I’ll just have another coffee,” or “I’ll just do some jumping jacks,” you go, “oh, shit, right. Time to eat.”

In other words, you honour that hunger signal without judgement.

So you make your way to the kitchen. (Yes, if you’re at a job where you can’t respond to hunger signals right away, there are a handful of ways to deal with this—I’ll write more about this later.)

And you tune in. What is your body calling for right now?

Is it something very, very specific, like “I really want a Niçoise salad, heavy on the green beans but light on the carrots”? Or are you craving more of a macronutrient, like when your body goes, “GIVE ME PROTEIN” or fat or carbs. Sometimes the feeling is “I need fibre” or “I want something fresh,” or “I want something hearty.”

Regardless of what it is your body is telling you, you respond to it—again, without judgement.

You prepare the food. And then you eat it. And then you move on. No guilt, no shame, no beating yourself up. Just ease, relaxation and satisfaction.

It really is that easy—and that hard.

And then, some indeterminate period of time later, your body calls to you again. It’s used up the fuel. And now it wants more. And you believe it and you trust it.

That’s why, in the TikTok I posted yesterday, I talked about the fact that, once you master intuitive eating, the philosophy of it tends to bleed out into the rest of your life.

Once you know you can trust your body’s signals around food, you know you can trust its signals around everything else, like:

  • that gut feeling that tells you not to trust a particular person
  • the intuition that tells you to turn left, not right, which ultimately saves you from a negative situation
  • the deep knowing that you have that your boundaries are the right ones
  • the signs from your nervous system that something is working for you or not

So intuitive eating is about a way of being relaxed and at east in relation to yourself and your food. It’s a way to self-trust, and a way that flows from self-trust. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s about how you see your place in the world: as a person who is trustworthy, and who is entitled to exist.

Intuitive eating is nothing short of amazing, but if you’ve been dieting or restricting your food for a while, it can be tough to make this paradigm shift. Go forward with lots of self-compassion and an attitude of curiosity. Remember, this isn’t diet-world where there are promises of quick fixes. This is about patience, experimentation and tapping in to your deep knowing that you can heal from food obsession.

If you feel drawn to intuitive eating but need help to understand what it could mean for you, let’s talk. Book a call with me and let’s discuss the life beyond the diet-binge cycle that is calling to you.