Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach, established by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, to make peace with your body and food and ditch dieting. It is NOT a diet or tool for weight management. In fact, it advocates just the opposite. It’s a perspective that has helped many (myself included!) in their journey to recovery from disordered eating or an eating disorder by offering an alternative to diet culture and how we’ve been conditioned to view our bodies and food.
If you want to learn more about intuitive eating, I recommend checking out our previous blog post where we go into detail on the 10 core principles: So You’re Thinking of Trying Intuitive Eating? Here’s Three Steps to Start.
If you’re familiar with intuitive eating, currently applying the principles or trying for the first time then I want to offer you some encouragement with these words: just because it’s hard, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. Learning to trust our inner body wisdom, without judgment or influence from diet culture is TOUGH WORK and takes time to “unlearn” that societal conditioning that taught us to not trust our bodies and hunger. As such, it can be really helpful to work with a therapist or dietitian certified in Intuitive Eating so you can have that support along the journey and remind yourself you don’t have to go at it alone!
We live in an age of social media, so of course when Intuitive Eating is discussed via glossy photos and short, catchy captions it doesn’t always paint the full picture. So, I’d like to highlight three things you may not know about Intuitive Eating just from an Instagram photo:
1. It doesn’t always look pretty
Intuitive eating on social media often includes beautiful pictures of donuts, ice cream, cake, cheeseburgers, etc. – all the foods diet culture “demonizes” with an invitation to ditch the diet rules and eat what you want – Eat the donut! Have a pancake! But sometimes what I want is a peanut butter sandwich. Or actually a salad (I know, it sounds crazy but when you allow all foods, all foods fit).
Or, I’ve been traveling and come home to an empty kitchen so breakfast is ramen noodles. Or sometimes financial constraints, limited access and budgeting mean you can’t have whatever you want, when you want it. Intuitive eating is not all cupcakes and croissants. It doesn’t have to be “pretty” to count as intuitive eating – sometimes it’s just practical and nourishing your body the best you can with the resources you have available.
2. It doesn’t always feel perfect
By tuning into your hunger and fullness, and allowing yourself to be full, many expect and advertise that with intuitive eating you leave every meal feeling perfectly satisfied and ready to get on with your day! In reality, this isn’t always the case.
Let’s say you’re really craving a turkey sandwich, but you don’t have the supplies on hand to make or buy one. You might settle for an alternative – like a grilled cheese – which will still be feeding yourself but may not satisfy that initial craving. Or you may be uncomfortable with your level of fullness after a meal, feeling that you “overate.” In essence, you’re not going to leave every meal feeling perfectly satiated and content! We’re human beings, not robots, so some eating experiences may feel better than others and we learn from them over time.
3. It’s better than you can imagine
The feeling of freedom – from food rules and the pressure put on us by society and ourselves when it comes to eating – is not something that is easily captured or conveyed over social media. It’s something that you come to know deeply once you try (and stumble, and keep trying) intuitive eating and slowly realize the ways in which you can trust and come home to yourself.
When it works, it really works. So I hope these points paint a more realistic picture of what Intuitive Eating can sometimes look and feel like. And remind you that you’re not alone in doing hard things, and I’m so very proud of you.