Understanding Intuitive Eating – Part I (May 2021)
Many people ask me “what is intuitive eating”? As the popularity of this term has increased in helping clients break away from diet culture, the curiosity of the topic has increased. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I like to help people find pleasure in eating, get rid of their fear of food, and learn how to allow their body to be their barometer.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is opinionated about what a person eats, constantly focusing on how much, how it was made, what the content of it was, etc. These problematic views can create disordered eating and lead to full-blown eating disorders as people develop shame around having cravings, food preferences and experiencing hunger.
One of the functions of Intuitive Eating is to help individuals develop the trust and confidence within themselves that any food choice they make is the correct choice for them instead of doubting themselves due to societal rules related to food. Intuitive Eating teaches a person that they are able to eat whatever they want and that choosing and consuming food does not need to come with guilt, shame, or rules.
When a person focuses on changing their body, it often leads to completely ignoring the aspects of the body and daily life that are truly important. Food becomes a tool to achieve impossible beauty standards as opposed to an incredible machine. Individuals stop asking themselves what helps their individual and unique machines energized, happy, content, etc.
Intuitive eating helps a person begin focusing on the internal cues that they were born and blessed with (which is also known as interoceptive awareness) instead of being externally-based. When people ask me “will I lose weight?” I always respond with “we never know what a person’s weight will do when learning how to become an intuitive eater.” A person’s body weight might increase, decrease, or remain the same. Each person’s body is different regarding how it will respond. What it will give you is permission, freedom, and flexibility to become the expert of you, which is much more important than a number on a scale!
When a person becomes an intuitive eater, they can recognize the role that their emotions play in the food choices that are selected as well as the amounts without judgment. Also, when a person becomes an intuitive eater, they can recognize that what works for them may not work for someone else and vice-versa.
It is common for people to tell me that, if they gave themselves permission to eat what they want any time, that they would only be eating cupcakes. This is rarely the case. When a person puts food on a pedestal, they will think about that food more often, eat it, possibly binge or eat until they are at a fullness level that is uncomfortable. When all foods are seen as equal and serving different purposes emotionally and physically, this changes. Over time, as they are “legalizing” that food, attunement kicks in. The person begins to recognize what they are craving more specifically, and the choices can expand beyond cupcakes. A person becomes more relaxed with food, exploring how their energy will be, their mood and, overall, how they will feel when eating it. No one can tell you the answers to these questions except you, as you are the only one who lives in your body.
When a person begins making peace with food, they provide themselves with unconditional permission to eat when, what, and where they want. There are not any rules or consequences by eating any specific food. There is not a right or wrong way of doing this. It is allowing a person to leave the prison that they have been living in and establish freedom and peace within themselves.
I look forward to sharing more about intuitive eating in future insights.