(If you haven’t yet read my introductory post about beginning intuitive eating, start there! Today I will address my experiences with the first few chapters of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole.)
The first section of the book is all about letting go of the idea that dieting will ever work long term so that you can embrace intuitive eating. I like facts, and so I liked this chapter. It armed me with the facts and explanations I needed to understand the futility of dieting, as well as its damaging effects. It gave me evidence that I can remind myself of in times of doubt, even if they aren’t based in self-compassion, as they ideally would be. I had to tell myself often that I might as well do this intuitive eating thing, because dieting will just cause more weight gain in the long run. Even if I don’t like my body now, the idea of endlessly gaining more weight was worse, so intuitive eating seemed like the best option.
The book addresses the most common fears most people have with rejecting dieting, like being out of control, or eating endlessly. It explains that such feelings are caused by dieting, and that intuitive eating heals them.
After reading this section, I felt more assured in my decision to pursue intuitive eating, and far more prepared to reassure myself when I need it.
The second principle of intuitive eating is “Honor Your Hunger.” While following my meal plan, I had acknowledged the physiological effects of the body fearing famine. I knew that if it seemed that food would not be available later, I would eat as much as possible now. Until I read this chapter, however, I didn’t realize that these effects were happening even with my consistent meal plan. The plan allowed for several servings of vegetables, one of protein, and one of carbohydrate for lunch and dinner. Often, I would go to lunch or dinner and eat a meal with lots of protein and vegetables, but no carbs. I always then ate some, whether I was still hungry or not, because I feared being hungry later. Variations of this happened at almost every meal. I stuffed myself to discomfort with fruits and vegetables because the period between meals and snacks scared me. I ate foods that weren’t actually all that appealing to me just because I didn’t want to feel hungry. When it happened at lunch, the salads I ate often left me reluctantly hungry again in only an hour or so. I would eat my afternoon snack too early, and then be hungry by the time my 5:00 dance class began. My performance was sluggish and I was distracted.
Honoring your hunger means providing food to your hungry body even when those hunger signals do not line up with traditional meal times. I slowly began to find that as I did this, I ate less at my meals. I usually ate everything on my plate, but less often felt the need for seconds. My body was beginning to understand that food would always be available, so there was no need to make myself uncomfortably full now. Each time I listened to this hunger, I imagine that trust grew stronger.
One thing I wish I had taken more time on in this section is working with the hunger scale. Tribole provides the disclaimer that there is no right or wrong way to use the scale, but provides guidelines. Ideally, one waits for a hunger level of three before beginning to eat. Five is a neutral state, four is hunger pangs, and three is set hunger. Obviously, following this guideline isn’t always practical, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. I am finding, though, that usually, by the time I feel hunger pangs, I feel psychologically like I need to eat. The idea of waiting makes me nervous. Because of this, I tend to begin eating around the 4 stage when I am able to. I am not sure if this is part of the process, just as overeating is, but I am not worried about it. I think the best way to handle it is to be more observant of how hunger develops and establish my own version of the scale.
I hope this is helping someone out there! Stay tuned for updates as I navigate this thing!