When someone asks me how to start Intuitive Eating, one of the first things I tell them is that Intuitive Eating is a methodology, not an all-or-nothing approach. Unlike dieting where you’re either “on” your diet or “off” your diet, it is OK to start working on the Principles of Intuitive Eating slowly. In fact, taking the time to get to know them is often better than rushing.
“You can’t rush something you want to last forever.” ~ Anonymous
What is Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating brings together your instincts, emotions, and rational thoughts to develop new relationships with food and your body. Rather than relying on external things to tell you what and when to eat, you learn to focus on what your body is telling you about when and what it needs.
If you want more about what Intuitive Eating is, check out the first part of this article How to Start Intuitive Eating: Your Expert Guide.
Why become an Intuitive Eater rather than a dieter?
Let’s be honest – Diets don’t work. OK, yes, they may work in the short term. BUT, in the long term people end up regaining the weight they’ve lost, and usually more. I don’t know what your definition of “work” is but that definition doesn’t “work.” for me.
On the other hand, Intuitive Eating helps you develop a powerful relationship with food that eliminates restriction (the primary tool of dieting). You also develop a relationship founded on respect with your body (body-bashing and body shaming are the primary tools to get you to diet). Once you’ve learned body respect, and remove restrictions from foods you lose the need to diet.
Enter: Food Freedom.
Intuitive Eating allows you to get rid of the stress around food, eating, and your body’s shape and size. Intuitive Eating does not make you feel guilty, judged, or shamed. Isn’t that different than dieting? Doesn’t that sound refreshing?
Intuitive Eating is not “all or nothing”
Intuitive Eating isn’t like starting a diet where you clean out your pantry, go to the store, buy all the things they tell you to buy, and get started. In fact, you don’t do any of that. (Here’s a secret – with Intuitive Eating you may be encouraged to go buy and eat (gasp!) those foods you’ve restricted on diets.)
When you’re dieting, you are either on or off your diet. You’re either following the plan or you’ve fallen off the wagon (maybe you think “I’m broken since I broke the diet).
Intuitive Eating, on the other hand, is a process. It takes time to work through. And, although there are 10 Principles, you don’t have to work through them in order or all at once.
You can choose one Principle to work on and start there. When you start working on one, you usually end up working on others because they are all intertwined. (Here are more details on the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.)
You’re never “on” or “off” Intuitive Eating. Like taking a hike, each step moves you closer to your goal. And, sometimes like getting lost on a hike, taking a detour in your Intuitive Eating journey can lead to some of the best discoveries.
Falling off the Intuitive Eating wagon isn’t a guilt trip; it’s an opportunity to learn
With Intuitive Eating, you don’t have to worry about breaking your diet, because you aren’t on a diet. You’re on a journey towards a new way of eating. And many times, things that would be considered “falling off the wagon” on a diet are valuable lessons in Intuitive Eating,.
Let’s explore an example. One of my clients had been working on using ways to cope with stress other than heading for her favorite fudge brownie gelato (you know the one . . .the one in the clear package with the brown lid). She’d removed all restrictions from the fudge brownie gelato (among other chocolatey “indulgences”) meaning she could eat it whenever she wanted. Initially, she did eat what seemed like, to her, a lot of fudge brownie gelato. As the days progressed, she realized she really didn’t want fudge brownie gelato all the time. And, she knew she could have it whenever she wanted since she kept a pint in the freezer.
Then, one week it seemed like everything fell apart. Her mother ended up in the hospital, she had huge deadlines at work, issues came up with her kids, and more. She “binged on” (her words, “ate” my words) fudge brownie gelato.
If she had been dieting, she would have felt all the guilt and shame about “falling off the wagon.” However, since she’d been working on becoming an intuitive eater, we were able to talk it through – without any judgment, shame, or guilt.
She learned that it is OK to choose to eat fudge brownie gelato if she really wanted it. We also worked through other things she could do when she faces another situation like this in the future (because let’s face it, things happen in life).
How to start becoming an intuitive eater
You may be so comfortable dieting that you don’t even know how to eat if you’re not on a diet. The thought of not restricting foods (gelato!) seems crazy! And, you’re not alone in these thoughts. A lot of people I talk with can’t even process the idea of not restricting foods.
Becoming an intuitive eater is a process. I recommend that you start:
- Getting curious with and about yourself
- Get the Intuitive Eating book and/or workbook
- Work with a professional (like me) who can help you go through the process
- Realize that since this is a process it takes time.
If you want more details and places to start, I’ve got a whole blog on how to start Intuitive Eating.