If you’re at a point in your journey with intuitive eating where you’re wondering how focusing on your health fits in, this post is for you.
Just like stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), there are stages of intuitive eating.
If you’re just coming out of dieting (loads of restriction) and into learning to listen to your body, then the first stage for you is unconditional permission to eat.
The last stage of intuitive eating is honoring your health (with gentle nutrition). What I see happen a lot, is that many people associate 100% of intuitive eating with the first stage: unconditional permission to eat.
This is why you hear women say things on podcasts like “She doesn’t really eat intuitively. I see her drink green juice.”
Personally, this is upsetting to me. First of all, it’s totally exclusive and judgmental. You’re not WRONG for drinking green juice. Don’t let anyone tell you that. You can 100% be “intuitive” and eat healthy foods at the same time. You simply have to check your motive.
- Do you actually want green juice? If so, cool! Or…
- Do you drink it because you think you “should” and you’re “bad” if you don’t?
What does it do when we associate 100% of intuitive eating with the unconditional permission to eat phase? We make people feel guilty when they focus on their health or they want to eat a salad for dinner (“Well, this salad is ‘diety’ so I shouldn’t eat it. I should get the burger instead.”
Now… don’t get me wrong… the first stage can last a LONG time. If you’ve been dieting for six years (or 40) then it can take a while to TRULY believe that you have unconditional permission to eat…
But if you’ve been eating intuitively for years and you feel like intuitive eating is now just “normal eating” and you’re beginning to crave a gentle exploration of how to honor your body with gentle nutrition, there is no shame there.
Don’t let ANYONE shame you for this.
Let me share a little bit of my story with you…
When I first began eating intuitively back in 2010, I was coming from years of deep, deep deprivation. It took me a while to believe that I could truly have any food I wanted, anytime I wanted it.
I went through a period of starting and stopping multiple diets. I’d get nervous that intuitive eating was the wrong decision, I’d download a calorie counting app, and then delete it a couple days later.
All of this was and is okay. I needed to go through those moments to decide what I didn’t want to do anymore: diet.
I fully let go of dieting right before Simi and I started planning Finally Free Program back in 2014. From that point on, I was entirely immersed in “intuitive eating.” Teaching it, reading about it, sharing it. It was everything. (I still teach about intuitive eating.)
Until I recognized a couple of years ago that my own eating had turned from “intuitive eating” to “normal eating.” Which I now refer to as Authentic Eating™ (listening to what authentically works for YOU).
This week, I got a question from a reader via email and I want to share that with you so we can talk about how health ties into intuitive eating for those who are curious…
I have a bit of a nutrition/intuitive-eating question. 🙂
I’m feeling confused and frustrated. I’m not concerned about my weight or what my body looks like, but I am concerned about what I feed it as I want to keep as healthy as possible. I drink alcohol, eat sugar and fried food, but I’m also interested in longevity (my best friend passed away from cancer).
So my question is… how does intuitive eating fit in with health and longevity? My mind is full of information and is so conflicted… For me, intuitive eating is something that feels best, as there is no guilt with being intuitive, but how does it fit in with all of the other information out there about health?”
How does healthy food (and eating for health and longevity) fit in with intuitive eating?
This is the “honoring your body” with gentle nutrition part of intuitive eating. The final stage.
Before we get into this, take a look at the following statements…
- Are you able to eat without feeling guilty?
- Are you able to identify your key vulnerability points? (Such as being too hungry, too stressed out, too tired, and so forth)
- I am able to clearly identify my biological cues of hunger, ranging from ravenously empty to gentle hunger.
- I can clearly identify my biological cues of fullness, ranging from gentle fullness to painfully stuffed.
- I can distinguish between the uncomfortable sensations of guilt versus the uncomfortable sensations of feeling too full.
- I am able to cope with my feelings without turning to food.
- I can distinguish between “meal hungry” and “snack hungry”.
- I am able to experience pleasurable satisfaction from eating a meal.
- I am able to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling of “too full” from eating, without compensating by skipping a meal or exercising to make up for it.
- I have an environment in which I am able to eat un-rushed and without distraction.
If you’re able to answer YES to all of these statements, then you are ready to focus on honoring your health with gentle nutrition. If you answer NO to any of them, no worries/shame. Spend more time with that specific step before thinking about “health.”
I like to refer to this, as one of my clients once described it, “health without obsession”.
It’s where you’re able to focus on health, safely, without feeling triggered to dive back into the world of dieting. Where you’re able to make food choices based on what you feel will honor your body.
Through eating intuitively, I have come to love and appreciate foods that love me back (aka, leave me feeling good). Foods like a gentle amount of veggies (too many doesn’t feel good), whole cream, butter, eggs, rice, etc…
I have learned that too much coffee makes me tired (reverse of what I want it to do). I have learned that too much sugar makes me feel sick. So when I have coffee or sugar, I am conscious to slowly enjoy smaller amounts (I still drink a hefty amount of coffee, my friends).
Health is not black and white. And hopefully through intuitively eating that’s the number one thing that you’ve learned. When you’re incorporating gentle nutrition back into your diet, remember that. You can have green smoothies without needing one everyday.
You can cut back on dairy if it doesn’t make you feel good without excluding it and forbidding it all together. Check-in with your body and how things make you feel. Be gentle about this. You don’t have to create new rules.
Even if you have celiac for example, you can still know that you have the option to eat it, even if you never do because you know that if you do eat it, you’ll be on the toilet for a week. It’s so much about your mindset.
This will look different for anyone reading…
Let’s say you decide you want to add collagen to your diet (example). You can feel safe to experiment with that in this phase because you’re not doing it for diet reasons. You’re way past dieting. You’re doing it because you believe it might feel good for you and you want to find out for yourself. That’s okay!
Really, it’s quite simple… It’s hard to even go into too much detail about it here because just like with everything else in intuitive eating, anything is allowed. If you want to drink wheat grass because of it’s health benefits, go for it. If you want to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your daily routine, go for it.
There are no rules, and whatever YOU feel could benefit you health-wise, feel free to experiment with. You are still an “intuitive eater.” Or if you prefer as I do, an Authentic Eater™.
I won’t point fingers, but I have found as intuitive eating has gotten more popular some people have taken it and, as I believe, twisted it to only include people who eat pizza and donuts 24/7. That is not what intuitive eating is about.
I believe what it was originally intended for was to help women move away from the restrictive diet mentality and into a safer way of eating that allows us to feel calm and safe around food again. If that’s a burger, great. It’s that’s a salad, great. You’re welcome here, all of you. Do YOU.
Share your thoughts with me on this post. I would truly love to hear them, and any other questions you may have.