“I can’t practice intuitive eating because I need more structure than that.”
How many times have I heard that? Heck, how many times have I said that?
For those of us who have spent years following some sort of diet plan – counting calories or points or macronutrients or whatever – the idea of letting go of all the rules and just listening to our bodies sounds a little loosey-goosey, no? We’re the type of people who make lists and plans and outlines; we abide by schedules and time-tables and deadlines. We feel most comfortable when things are predictable and routine.
Or is that just me?
So I understand firsthand the “structure argument” against intuitive eating. I have heard that voice in my head shout, “You can’t do this! You can’t be trusted!”
I have heard that voice in my head coax, “It’s ok. That whole trusting-your-body thing might work for other people, but you thrive on structure. You need structure. That’s just how you are.”
I have heard that voice threaten, “Fine, go ahead and listen to your body. But when all you eat is chocolate chip cookies and rocky road ice cream, don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
But here’s the thing: as I look back on my experiences with intuitive eating, I have to say, it doesn’t really seem like it is the complete antithesis of structure. It doesn’t seem like because I listen to my body, my eating habits are completely and totally erratic.
I think that intuitive eating and structure can co-exist…it’s just a different kind of structure.
You see, when I would actively try to lose weight by planning out my food intake and strictly adhering to the “rules,” I was following a structure created externally. I was listening to diet magazines, weight loss forums, and even my own head, which was filled with the messages of society.
The structure of intuitive eating is different in a very important way: it’s internal. It comes from my body instead of a book. As Evelyn Tribole said when I heard her speak, intuitive eating is about being your own expert.
So yes, I think my body has a natural structure. I generally get hungry at the same times every day, and usually crave the same kinds of foods that make my body feel its best. But the difference is that that groove is my groove, nobody else’s. It’s like when you stop using an alarm clock, and eventually your body adjusts to your lifestyle and you start waking up at the same time every day. Your body has found its natural rhythm.
And the best part of this intuitive eating “structure” is that it’s incredibly flexible. I honestly used to freak out on holidays or other occasions where following a meal plan was virtually impossible. But my body’s “meal plan,” if you will, can deal with any curve ball I throw at it. I don’t have to waste my time figuring out how to “make up for” a little holiday indulgence, because my body’s natural structure already has that covered for me.
It can be scary as heck to let go of external eating structures – believe me, I know. But I have found that when you really stick with it – when you really honor your body throughout this process – the result is not a totally arbitrary, completely unpredictable appetite. There’s still a certain degree of structure, it just has a very different nature. It’s a structure that comes from within.
What do you think? Can intuitive eating and structure co-exist in this way? Do you think your body has a natural structure that you can tap into?