How to Practice Eating Intuitively
I drop the term “Intuitive Eating” a ton on my platform, and so do countless other bloggers. I first came across Intuitive Eating when I began meeting with my nutritionist, as I began to take steps to recover from my eating disorder. She suggested I read the book with the same title, and through this reading and our weekly sessions, I slowly began to understand what exactly it meant.
When we are children, we eat intuitively. We stop when we are full, we ask for food when we are hungry, and more often than not we know exactly what we are in the mood for. And while we may need direction every now and then, like the instruction to eat our veggies, we pretty much know what we are doing.
But when we restrict ourselves of food, whether how much we can eat or what we can and can’t eat, we lose that intuition. We ignore our hunger signals and cravings. We forget how to eat, to put it simply.
Ever since I began meeting with my nutritionist, I have been working to recover this intuition. A part of me thinks it has been lost forever- my mind lingers way too much on food and I don’t obey my hunger cues all the time- but there are methods I practice which do take me closer to that childhood skill.
Before I get into what these methods are, I want to acknowledge that intuitive eating my not appear right away accessible to everyone. A lot of it pertains to honoring your hunger and cravings, which for a lot of people, may not be in the cards financially. But there are elements of IE that are definitely accessible to everyone, and these are also some of the most important ones.
Monitor your hunger: When I first started practicing IE, I kept a food journal. Not to track calories or anything like that, but to track my cravings and satiety level. I would mark on a scale of 1-10 how hungry I felt before every meal I ate. Was I honoring my hunger? I would try and not let my hunger get above an 8, rather aiming to eat at a 6 or 7. This was to not only teach myself that eating was okay, but to control my eating and prevent myself from binging.
Ask yourself what you are craving: Try and allow yourself to eat to your cravings. Before eating, take a moment and analyze what you are in the mood for. Salty? Sweet? Crunchy? Savory? Creamy? It sounds silly, I know. But honestly, this has been one of the most important aspects of IE for me. Before, I would force myself to eat something because I considered it “healthy.” Even if I was craving a cookie, I would never let myself eat one. And when I did, I wouldn’t be able to stop at just one. Now, I listen when I am craving a cookie, and rarely have the urge to eat more than 1 (and if I do, I also acknowledge that this is okay!).
Eat slowly: Put down your fork between bites, sip some water, chew your food completely before taking another mouthful. Take this time to think about what you are eating. Do you like the taste? The texture? If you don’t, don’t feel like you have to finish your plate.
Reflect on your satisfaction when done: Are you satisfied? Both in hunger and taste? If not, take another few bites and wait. If you feel your taste buds craving something else, consider ending on a different note. Something sweet, or savory- the opposite of what you just ate, perhaps? Take a small bite of chocolate or a nibble of some bread.
As time goes on, track your preferences: Are there foods you like more than others? Recipes? Honor these! Don’t force yourself to eat things you don’t like. Take into account what is in your budget and taste buds and craft your weekly menus around this!
I hope these tips help you get started, and if you are interested in learning more, I really recommend doing some research! The book Intuitive Eating has some great exercises, as simple as they may seem- they really do help.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge a few other concerns that may come up: meal prep or eating with other people.
That list of your favorite foods? It especially helps when you begin meal prepping- it gets tiring eating the same food over and over again. But if you like what you are eating? Then it is much more enjoyable. Organize your favorite foods in three groups: proteins, veggies, and carbs. Create meals this way instead of forcing yourself to meal prep something because you think it is healthy. If you have any inclination of doubt, you won’t like it, don’t make it! Don’t waste your time, money, or taste buds.
As for eating with others… this is something that can be extremely difficult for me. I get conflicted between honoring my own hunger and being a good friend. What do I do? It isn’t always perfect, but first, I give my two cents when people debate about what we should eat. If I don’t win, I try my best to not get in my head. Then, I revert back to asking myself what I am in the mood for. I consider the menu and I see where this craving fits in the best.
Intuitive eating takes time, as silly as that sounds considering we are born with it! But I really think this practice has benefited me almost more than any other wellness practice. Just like everything else, IE is not a one size fits all practice. It can be personalized and customized to your tastes, interests, everything!
Do you practice Intuitive Eating? What tips do you have for those who are just reclaiming their intuition?