Intuitive eating can feel scary, alien and confusing. You may have tried to eat intuitively in the past but for some reason keep defaulting back to your old thoughts, feelings and behaviours around food.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong! I’m trying to eat Intuitively, but I just keep slipping up!”
The way you eat, whether it’s restricting, binging, emotional or intuitive eating, they are all the behaviours you have. This means they are the last step in the process when we make choices. What comes first are the thoughts and feelings that arise from your beliefs about you and your body. These thoughts and beliefs are what impact your actions. If your core belief is "I am a failure" or “I suck” then no amount of changing your diet or exercise or intuitive eating is going to change that. And if your core belief is “I am not ok and I need to change”, then doing something you have been taught to fear (eating what you want) can be scary.
Ironically, Intuitive Eating is supposed to be about connecting with your thoughts and feelings and exploring acceptance and self-compassion. But if you don’t know how to do those things at the beginning, then Intuitive Eating can also trap you.
What is Intuitive Eating?
It is the process of making decisions around food based on your bodies internal hunger cues and other physical sensations—rather than handing over your power, choices and decision-making abilities to external solutions such as diet plans, food rules and restrictions. Eating Intuitively teaches you how to eat in a way which makes you feel good, rather than setting yourself rules which you ‘should’ be following.
Until you change your beliefs, thoughts and feeling around food, you will likely continue to struggle around food and find intuitive eating very difficult or scary!
There are three common mistakes that people make when they first begin Intuitive Eating:
1. Hunger and fullness turn into rules to follow
2. Underestimating hunger
3. Trying to control weight through “eating intuitively”
Hunger and fullness turn into rules to follow
This is the single most common pitfall I see clients fall into when they beginning Intuitive Eating.
People will turn listening to their hunger and fullness signals as RULES they have to follow. For example, people turn the following into things they should or should not do:
· Only eat when physically hungry
· Do not eat when feeling emotion
· Do not eat anymore when you are getting too full
This brings more problems in your life. Firstly, this can set up more boundaries which you have to stay within- hunger and fullness. So, the times where you find yourself eating when bored, stressed or getting slightly too full you feel like you have ‘stuffed up’ or ‘failed. This can easily trigger binges or going into restrict mode to ‘make up for what you have done’.
When I first started tuning into my hunger, I would feel so guilty and ashamed when I would eat outside of my 4/10 point on the hunger scale, or would feel like a complete failure if I got to the point of being more than a 7/10 fullness. This would trigger me into punishment mode, skipping the next meal I had or going to the gym for 3 hours. I was trapped between the numbers of 4 and 7 with no wiggle room!
After years of dieting and restricting I had lost the ability to know what ‘normal eating’ looked like! I seriously underestimated the amount of food I really needed. I had zero trust in my decision making around food. If I was starving I blamed myself for letting myself go too long, or if I felt a little peckish it wasn’t enough to start eating. This would cause me to hold back, question myself and try to follow my intuitive eating rules, rather than actually listening to what was going on inside.
The first sign of physical hunger is often thinking about food. This is why when you are on a diet or restricting you feel like you are FOOD OBSESSED. Thinking about food is a symptom of hunger. When recovering from restriction or weight suppression your body may legitimately need more food than what you think is acceptable. Despite your fears this does not last long and is a completely normal reaction!
Trying to control weight through “eating intuitively”
Trying to control your weight through intuitive eating, rather than a method of weight-neutral self-care also fails. This is down to being stuck in diet mentality. When you pursue any particular “way of eating” for the purpose of weight control, it’s almost inevitable that you will judge your “performance” every step of the way, probably try to undercut your needs, and as a result you may find yourself ‘slipping up’, over-eating, or binge eating. You must shift your focus from thinking that your purpose in this world is to live as your thinnest self (at all costs) to living your life as your mentally and physically healthiest self (you can actually enjoy life!).
Diet culture is stressful because it is motivated by fear and it will feel hard and may require force but caring for your body from a space of acceptance feels easy and peaceful.
Healing your food issues is a multi-layered process which ultimately involves changing your beliefs, values and thoughts which may have been part of your life for as long as you can remember. For intuitive eating to truly work, this is just one part of the puzzle. You must explore what got you to where you are in the first place! There are many factors impacting your relationship with food, so do not assume that how you eat is the issue. This is just the symptom of something going on behind the scenes.
Honour yourself in this process, wherever you are, even if it's not where you want to be.
If you would like to finally unleash yourself from your struggles with food, weight and your emotions once and for all, then book in for a private 1:1 chat with me HERE.
Come join my amazing FB community of ladies, Women Living Unleashed, where we talk all things food, feelings, fears and the future! Weekly live coaching sessions & Q&As with unlimited support.