It’s been a while since I’ve written about intuitive eating, but I wanted to check in here with a disclaimer and an update. Though I’ve been working with the principles for a year and a half, I still don’t have this figured out. I certainly don’t eat intuitively 100% of the time, and I struggle to decipher what the heck my body needs. I do, however continue to come back to intuitive eating, which has made all the difference.
This year, I definitely had a stronger base when it came to resisting diet culture than before. I was able to distance myself from conversations about weight loss and food restriction most of the time. Still, a couple such ideas pulled me in and threw me off for a while. I was also still struggling with a lot of stomach pain after eating, and found that restricting some foods mitigated this. I enjoyed that benefit for a while, but eventually came to terms with the fact that I hadn’t addressed the physical root issue of the pain, just masked it by restricting.
I’m continuing to work on this, but once again within the framework of intuitive eating. I find time and time again that I am able to reassure myself with the undeniable evidence that diets have an ultimately negative impact on the vast majority of people. The fact that I’ve seen this in my own experience and that of people close to me makes the statistics a lot more meaningful.
Recently, intuitive eating for me has meant picking at a lot of different foods. For a long time my meals would consist of a big serving of one type of food. Oatmeal, or salad or yogurt, which I would try to pair with a fat or protein or carb because I knew that’s what I was supposed to do. Lately, I’ve been able to follow my hunger signals into what ends up being a pretty balanced meal. I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where my job provides a variety of foods at meals as part of my payment, which is really helping this process. I’ll have a bit of a few different things, which used to scare me for a few reasons: 1) I was afraid I would have to eat a lot of each in order to feel full, so I was better off sticking to eating a full serving of one thing and 2) It’s difficult to count calories when you pick at a bunch of food. How do you quantify a scoop of yogurt, a few bites of a bagel with a smear of cream cheese, and a bit of scrambled eggs? It’s not measured or exact or any of the things my eating disorder brain wants it to be. It is, however, a lot more satisfying. I can finish a meal without feeling that I’ve overeaten or restricted myself from anything I wanted, and I’m not hungry an hour later because I’ve had enough carbs, fat, and protein.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t still scare me. Eating in this way, though backed up by the intuitive eating principles laid out in the book, goes against everything diet culture tells people to do. It necessitates giving yourself access to a variety of foods, while diet culture says to never keep “junk food” in the house and to put less food on your plate to avoid “overeating.” When I’m feeling anxious I crave the security of exact calorie counts, to remind me that I’ve not “gone over.” But I’m trying to be at peace with my rough estimates, and hoping to move towards trusting my body to tell me if I’ve eaten too much, as one that is well cared-for should.
I’ve been seeing the results, too. I am finding more and more clearly the signs that tell me when to stop eating or when to continue. Just the other night I was hungry and in the mood for some vanilla ice cream. I got some (lucky, again, to have access to a variety of foods), and enjoyed about half of the bowl before getting the distinct feeling that I’d had enough. I’m not lactose intolerant, but dairy products often leave me feeling gross, and I could tell that eating any more would put me in that state. I could have kept eating, but I didn’t even want to. I didn’t feel compelled to. This was a whole new ballgame for me. Stopping in the middle of a bowl of ice cream is not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, let alone want to do.
Little victories, right?
I’ve been noticing similar factors in my exercise. Living in a state park gives me access to tons of running trails and hiking trails, and I have plenty of resources to do my own strength workouts as well. Lately I’ve been drawn more towards running than hiking. Even when it means changing my workout plans for the day, I’ve been adjusting according to what my body feels at a given time. I still try to push myself out of my comfort zone and complete strength and stretching even when it doesn’t sound like the most fun, but I’m seeing the benefits within my workouts of intuitive movement.
So all of this is to reinforce for you the fact that intuitive eating is evolving. It manifests differently as your life changes, and it may be easy sometimes and difficult at others. Listening and hearing what your body tells you is a skill cultivated slowly and developed constantly. Don’t get discouraged.