Have you tried to eat more intuitively – listening to your body’s natural cues rather than some external structure – only to get frustrated and retreat back into the world of calories and points and fat grams?
That happened to me, more than once actually. I jumped head first onto the intuitive eating band wagon, only to fall right off the minute I got stressed, or gained an ounce of weight, or felt frightened by my own appetite.
Why does that happen? Why is it sometimes so difficult to adhere to such a simple and natural approach to eating?
The reason, I think, is that we need to be ready for intuitive eating, both physically and emotionally.
When I went to hear Evelyn Tribole speak, she gave the example of a broken arm. If you break your arm, she said, you’re probably not going to start physical therapy the next day. Rather, you wait until the bone has healed a bit, and then you begin the process of normalizing your functioning.
The same goes for intuitive eating.
On the physical side, sometimes our bodies just aren’t ready for it. A friend of mine who struggles with extreme food restriction recently came out of residential treatment. While she’s certainly in better shape than she was a few months ago, no one is suggesting she try to eat intuitively right now, as her illness has thrown her hunger and fullness cues totally off course. Instead, she’ll be following a structured meal plan until she’s ready to transition into intuitive eating.
On the emotional side, many people know they’re ready for intuitive eating because they’re just so fed up with every other option. This was certainly the case with me. I could only fully grasp the idea of listening to my body after I’d tried so many plans, counted so many calories, and tallied so many fat grams that I was blue in the face. I got to the point where I just wanted to scream, “No more!” Fighting with my body had become downright exhausting. That’s when I was truly ready.
One of my favorite bloggers, Elina from Healthy and Sane, recently announced that she’s done with dieting. While I can’t know what’s going on in Elina’s heart and mind, I have a feeling that she’s ready for intuitive eating. She is fed up emotionally with everything diet related, she’s tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle over and over again.
It’s important to recognize that just because we’re ready for intuitive eating doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy-breezy. Whether we’re ready or not, there are going to be struggles. Inevitably we go through mountains and valleys, inevitably we feel the urge to diet and the urge to overeat. It’s part of the process.
I also want to say that there’s no shame or embarrassment in not being ready. Maybe you really, really want to drop the calorie calculator and give intuitive eating a go, but deep down you know you’re not quite there yet. That’s perfectly fine, and it’s part of the beauty of this approach: you can go at your own pace, move at your own speed.
You can take the leap whenever you’re ready.
What has your experience been like? Have you tried eating intuitively, only to go back to a more structured plan? If you consider yourself an intuitive eater, how did you know you were ready to begin?