Eating Intuitively: My Journey
You may remember when I wrote about diets in June (Should We Stop ‘Dieting’?).
Reading it back, I can see the frustration I must have been feeling at the time to have wrote such a post. If you didn’t read it, in a nutshell it’s a rant about why I couldn’t seem to lose some weight I gained in 2016. At the time of writing the post (and for most of my teenage and adult life) I had a toxic relationship with weight and food. The worst part? I’ve never been overweight.
For most of my life the scales have had a hold on me that, until recently, I’ve been unable to shake. My relationship with food was extremely unhealthy and when I wrote the post about diets in June, I was toying with the idea of stopping dieting all together. I wanted to change my mind-set for good. I was fed up of feeling miserable about something so unimportant.
I’d read numerous success stories written by women who had stopped dieting. They explained how free they felt now that food no longer controlled them. I decided to try it for myself.
The first couple of months were really difficult. Subconsciously I started looking for other ways to eat less calories that didn’t mean going on a diet, such as becoming a vegetarian or cutting out alcohol. I thought that if I didn’t have to look at calories or macronutrients then I wasn’t dieting. I was fooling myself.
Having said that however, it did ease me into eating more intuitively. I made a conscious effort to stop weighing myself and to stop analysing what I was eating. I was desperate to get out of the deeply ingrained habit of counting calories and labelling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but it was a struggle to lose that diet mentality. Whenever I ate something high in calorie I couldn’t help but think ‘I need to be good next week’ or ‘I’m going on a diet on Monday’. It was a constant, stressful battle in my head.
During those first couple of months there were days I weighed myself, and there were days I totalled up calories in my head. It was hard to give up control overnight after so many years. But over time it got less and less frequent and things got easier.
Eventually something clicked. I realised cutting out meat and alcohol was not letting go of control. Deep down I knew that if I really wanted to be free then I’d have to stop restricting food altogether. At the 2 month mark, things suddenly got easier. Until today I hadn’t weighed myself for 2 whole months (and I only weighed myself today because I knew I was writing this post).
So how did I get where I am today?
I read up on intuitive eating
To get an understanding of what eating intuitively really meant I did a bit of research. I googled ‘intuitive eating’ and stumbled across a website that explained everything perfectly. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch – who wrote a successful book about intuitive eating – explain on their website the 10 key principles to mastering it, and it’s one of the most useful things I’ve read. Take a look here.
I listened to my body
I ate when I was hungry. I tried to stop thinking about traditional meal times or eating when I thought I should. These days, if I’m not hungry before I leave for work then I don’t eat breakfast but I’ll grab a banana or a pastry to take with me. I’ll eat when I feel those hunger pangs a bit later in the morning. Likewise, if I wake up starving then I’ll eat right away.
Listening to your body is not just about when you eat either, it’s about what you eat. I try to eat what I want, regardless of the nutritional value. Healthy or unhealthy. Then I make sure I don’t feel guilty about it afterwards (the hardest part), I carry on with my day as normal in terms of eating. In other words, if I eat a big lunch and I’m still hungry at dinner time then I’ll still eat what I was going to have for dinner. I don’t try to compensate. If I’m still hungry then I’m still hungry.
I practiced positive affirmations
This played a bigger part in getting freedom from food than I ever thought it would. I said out loud ‘I don’t need to diet’ and ‘food is just food, I can eat what I like’. I told other people too. It was like announcing to the world that hey, I trust my body. I don’t need diets anymore.
I stopped being horrible to myself
I made the decision to accept myself as I am and to stop analysing my body in the mirror. After all, what does it really matter if I’m happy? I started following women that promoted body positivity on Instagram and YouTube which really helped me stay in a positive frame of mind. Those ladies are so inspiring.
I didn’t weigh myself or use any food tracking apps
I removed the scales from my bathroom and deleted MyFitnessPal. I didn’t want to be tempted to track food, workouts or my weight anymore. Out of sight, out of mind.
I honoured my cravings
When I first started listening to my body I knew I had to give in to myself completely else it would never work. This meant giving in to all cravings I had. Whatever my body wanted I gave it, no matter how healthy or unhealthy it was. I stopped feeling guilty by reminding myself why I’m doing this in the first place. It took time for those thoughts to disappear but eventually they did and when they did my initial cravings reduced because I no longer associated certain foods with being ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’. It’s fascinating. The moment you realise you can eat whatever you want, you suddenly don’t want it as much – food just becomes food. I find I crave different kinds of foods now, it’s no longer always something greasy or fatty. But if do crave something fatty then I have it! That’s what intuitive eating is all about.
I got cold feet after the first few weeks
I felt my jeans get a little tighter after the first couple of weeks. I don’t know if I actually gained weight because I wasn’t weighing myself, but I felt bloated and was convinced I’d gained fat. My natural reaction was to revert back to my old mind-set and to go a diet or eat a salad because I felt like I had to. Somehow though, I managed to overcome the negative thoughts. I stayed true to my body and continued. After a couple more weeks had passed and things stabilised, I felt my jeans loosen again on their own. I couldn’t quite believe it, but it happened.
Then something amazing happened
Only a few weeks ago, I finally felt as though food no longer had a hold on me. I felt free from my food obsession for the first time since being a child. I still can’t quite believe it. I can now leave food when I’m full instead of eating it because I feel like I have to (or need to). I’m no longer as hungry in the evenings after having dinner and for the first time ever, I forgot to eat lunch at work one day last week. I didn’t realise until later in the day when I started to feel hungry. I was gobsmacked. Food had always been on my mind every moment of every day, thinking about when I could eat next and what it would be. Don’t get me wrong, eating intuitively is not about missing meals and that’s not why I’m sharing this. It’s that finally food doesn’t control me anymore.
As you can imagine, before I weighed myself today for the purpose of writing this post I was extremely nervous. I couldn’t help but think: Would my obsession with the number on the scales come back? What if I weigh more? Would that be a bad thing? Would it make me diet?
Now for the bit we’ve all been waiting for…
My weight is pretty much exactly the same as it was 2 months ago. In fact if we’re going to be specific, I’m actually half a pound lighter. Half a pound is nothing but the key thing here is: I have finally come to realisation that I don’t need to diet or eat ‘good’ foods to maintain my weight. I’ve been eating whatever I want (good and bad) and my weight has actually dropped a little. I am almost certain that my weight will probably drop a little more too, now that my body and cravings have stabilised. But I won’t be weighing myself to find out because I don’t need to see that number on the scales any more.
Would you ever try intuitive eating?