How I Started the Process of Intuitive Eating and the Challenges I Faced

My IE Journey and the Challenges I've faced

Today, I’m going to talk about when I first began eating intuitively. If you want some back story and have extra time today, you can read “My Story” too. If you don’t have extra time, I’ll write a bit about it here, too!

My intuitive eating journey has been a long one. First things first, intuitive eating, especially when you first get going, takes a while. You start somewhere and then you let it roll. It’s not an overnight process. It takes support, internal work and time.

Let’s back up a moment for those who are thinking “what is this whole intuitive eating thing?” 

I love this definition from the intuitive eating website:

Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts.  It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as “bad” or “fattening”.

So, where did I start?

From 2005-2010 I struggled heavily with obsessions around food and my body. Calories in, calories out (exercise), my weight, numbers, etc… these were all things that were constantly weighing on my mind. They took up almost 100% of my brain space.

One Sunday in 2010 I found myself in church after a really hard week. I hadn’t made the best life choices and I “just wanted something good” in my life, as I described it to my cousin. I called her that Wednesday and asked if I could join her at church the following Sunday.

That Sunday the church I attended talked about not judging others.

I was shocked. I always thought the church did judge others. Hearing that sermon was eye opening to me. What was even more eye opening was how happy people seemed… even the ones who were having a hard time (like I was)… they still had joy that I’d never seen before.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The church is full of HUMAN people. So just like anywhere, you will run into people who judge others. But I’m not for it and when I find myself judging, I work diligently to change my frame of mind and be loving instead. It’s an inside job.

For the first time in a LONG time I found myself feeling at home. For that first year, I became so attached to my church that there were times that I thought “I wish they’d have a church gathering every day.” I felt so good and full being there.

Throughout that year dieting became less and less important to me and I didn’t think much about what I was putting into my body.

I found this to be a relief, until late in the year when I started to notice my body again and realized I was uncomfortable. I started to worry that I was gaining weight and more than not wanting to gain I just didn’t want to fall back into dieting. I wanted to find a grey zone. Calm.

So, here’s where my accidental intuitive eating story takes a different route than what you’re used to seeing (adding in all of your forbidden foods at once).

I did two things: 1) met with a free women’s counselor through my church and 2) started seeing a Naturopath.

In January of 2011 my Naturopath put me on a cleanse to reset my tastebuds, heal my gut, and to help me fall in love with healthy, whole foods again. He let me start after the holiday’s thankfully.

I say “accidental” intuitive eating journey because I didn’t start my journey with the IE book. I didn’t start it with the 10 principles. I started with a cleanse which LEAD ME TO understanding that we can trust our bodies. That there’s no purpose in counting calories.

That God gave us incredible foods to love, be creative with, and to enjoy. To nourish our bodies with. I began to pay attention to the foods that left me feeling good and the ones that didn’t. I learned how to develop a loving relationship with them all.

I learned to love whole foods and for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, I was enjoying food, feeling healthy, getting to my bodies most natural weight and NOT counting the calories of the food I was eating.

For me… this was heaven, and I felt truly happy.

It wasn’t just the cleanse though. I was also developing a close relationship with God. I journaled daily, had down time, and treated myself well. I was gentle, kind, and loving toward myself, talked nicely to myself, and did the things that made me feel good and pampered (hair, nails, getting ready, etc.).

In February, I wanted to share this story with the world. I wanted other women to know that healthy eating FELT GOOD, was DELICIOUS and that there was a way to do it without focusing on NUMBERS!

So, I started “Healthy Hits the Spot” and today nearly 10 years later, you’re still reading. I’ve since evolved into Paige Schmidt LLC, a coaching business, blog, and membership site… and I enjoy it just as much as I did on day one!

After 7 weeks of doing the cleanse I was ready to add other foods back in. I was excited and nervous at the same time.

how i started the process of intuitive eating

The first food I wanted was a burrito. I can still remember that first bite! It was heaven. This is the exact burrito :).

This was also the first time that I had eaten half of a burrito and been okay with it! I didn’t find myself needing to binge on it because it was “bad” and I was “bad” for eating it (burrito’s used to be a guilty food for me that I’d always binge on). 

I enjoyed every bite. I cut it in half, put it on a plate, and fully savored, tasted, and enjoyed each bite with a huge smile on my face.

From that day forward, I began to realize just how important it was for me to be careful with my body, to be gentle with her and to honor her.

I had fallen so in love with the way I felt, I KNEW I needed to be intentional and listen to those little whispers that my body would send me (you know, the ones that say “you’re full, you know you’re full, it’d be okay if you stopped here” OR, “Paige, you’re really not hungry right now – there is probably another area of your life that needs your attention.”)

I began to see how much restricting & bingeing had taken away from me being able to love myself. 

I also saw how GOOD it felt to be loving myself so much.

I continued to fill my body with vibrant, fun foods and started to modify the more “indulgent” ones (things I used to restrict like: bread, cheese, sandwiches, sugar, chips, etc…). I wanted to allow myself to honor ANY craving that came my way while still eating in a way that left my body feeling good.

Let me share some examples of photos from this EXACT time – things that I did that made my body and life feel full and good!

It’s not all about the food, you’ll see. There were a lot of pleasures going on at this time.

How I started the process of Intuitive Eating

I’d give myself treats each day and call them “petite-treats.” Who remembers? This reminded me that I could have fun with food! That I was allowed to enjoy food just for the sake of enjoying it. This was new to me! Sometimes it’d be a little bowl of ice cream, other times it would be getting more creative with my yogurt. It was WHATEVER I was in the mood for.

I truly ate the exact foods that I craved. 

How I started the process of Intuitive Eating

Potato skins? When I was dieting you would have never seen me eating this unless I was in “binge mode” and had totally given up for the day. I’d be eating about 10x this many.

NOW, with listening to my body, I had permission to eat them. I knew eating about 1-2 would leave me feeling well, so that’s what I did. My dad made these from scratch and I still remember how special it was to be able to eat them and not say ‘NO’ while wanting to say ‘YES.’

There’s something so empowering about being able to say NO or YES and truly mean it. Even today, I ask all of my new clients when starting to coaching to give me an “empowered YES!” or and “empowered NO!” You have have seen me post about this in my highlights.

How I started the process of Intuitive Eating

I ALWAYS kept snacks in my purse so that I would KNOW that I could honor my hunger if it hit while I was out running errands, etc.

How I started the process of Intuitive Eating

I kept my soul fulfilled with quiet times (this is also when I first started journaling) and being involved in things that I cared about. This is me teaching Sunday school with my cousin Holly.

How I started the Process of Intuitive Eating

I made everything I did more special. I used napkins like this that made me happy.

How I started the process of Intuitive Eating

I made everything look pretty and FEEL special. That was the important thing. Everything had to feel special to ME. Not anyone else’s special, I had to get in touch with what was lovely to me :). Which, by the way is so fun to experiment with!

Seem like I’m talking in past tense?

I still do these things – now, they’re a way of life. In the beginning, it was an effort that I put forth. Now, it’s what I do. I buy the notebook that makes me smile. I am regularly involved in things that fulfill me and I spend time with friends who I feel most aligned with. I love what I do each day. I still wake up with my most special cup of coffee, spend time with God, journal, and align myself with how I want to feel and who I want to be.

I practice all that I began with, I just don’t think about it like I did then.

Now, let’s talk about the challenges. Because it wasn’t all easy.

Most things worthwhile take intention and effort. Everything I’ve done to get to where I am has been 100% worth the effort. Every ounce of it.

Challenges I faced were that I had to:

  • get comfortable with being uncomfortable when friends wanted me to diet with them – I had to learn to say NO, which I wasn’t used to (I mean, I used to BE the friend that would start diets with my best girl friends – it was like a hobby!) – note, there were  a couple of times throughout those first few years that I DID diet. If this happens to you, it’s OKAY. Just come right on back.
  • find new groups of friends that supported me, loved me unconditionally, and had the same wants/ideas/hobbies as I wanted to have and now have.
  • be really careful/gentle with myself. I believe this is where I developed a more calm mindset.
  • practice patience and being less impulsive. I had to WAIT to make decisions, commitments, etc… to make sure that I really cared about them. I wanted to take my YES’s seriously and same with my NO’s.
  • go through relationships, break-ups, hard family struggles, etc… without turning to food and dieting as my comforts/controls. I had to actually face life’s BIGGEST problems.
  • not hide from the hard life stuff by dieting, which FELT like something I could control when everything else in life was completely, and I do mean completely, out of control.

I just want to encourage anyone right now who is going through a really, really hard time. Food is not going to be what helps you through it. It might feel like it for a moment or two, but when you’re done eating, the issue will still be there, and it will still be uncomfortable.

Dieting is not the answer. I used to think “no matter how bad things are, no matter what happens, at least I’ll have my diet, and I can control that (and the size of my body) as much as I want to.”

I’m sure there are other women out there who can relate to this. 

If you want support, come see me or find a great counselor. Someone who can really support you and hold your hand through this.

So, ladies… as this post was requested, you may have been thinking it would just be full of tips and to-do’s around food… but gosh, intuitive eating and ending the restricting/bingeing cycle is so much bigger than tips and to-do’s.

Here are the ways I want to support you with intuitive eating:

  • I want you to leave a comment & share with me – did you relate to this post? Do you have questions as you read this? Post them below, or email me at paige@paigeschmidt.com.
  • sign-up for emails from me at the bottom of this post – they will encourage you weekly as you delve out deeper into this journey.
  • sign-up for a free 60-minute Discovery Session by jotting down your name on this page – we will talk through where you are, where you want to be, and I will share if I am the right support system for you.
  • I also would love if you’d share this with a friend who will be able to relate!

Encourage one another. It’s so important. Be the friend who makes the change to loving yourself more. Be the example. Don’t be the friend whose leading your other friends down the path of dieting & deprivation (like I was).

Love, Paige
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Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

I am a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I became certified under the supervision and training of Evelyn Tribole, co-author of the book Intuitive Eating. I believe that everyone deserves to have a peaceful relationship with food. Over the last 8 years, I’ve helped hundreds of women (from all walks of life and every corner of the globe) to change their lives in the...

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