This week I received a message on Instagram that said:
“I just read your blog post on the exclusivity that the intuitive eating community seems to have garnered lately and it hit home so much. I sometimes feel like I have to or should get the ‘unhealthier’ option because that is what I’m ‘supposed to’ do. Or I should eat dessert because I’m allowed to, even if I don’t want it.
Sometimes I want to weigh myself purely out of curiosity, but what would [name of a well known intuitive eating Podcaster here] think of that?
I like working out…but the intuitive eating folks think intentional exercise that isn’t ‘joyful movement’ in the form of dancing or yoga or walking is still wrapped in diet culture.
It’s hard to trust my intuition sometimes and know the difference between me still clinging to old thoughts and behaviors and me embracing this new phase without worrying about what others may think. It makes me feel like there’s no room for women like me.”– from a woman just like you and I
I then shared this with a TGV student and she suggested that I answer the question “is it anti-intuitive to pursue a goal?”
Today, there is so much room for intuitive eating online when you’re talking about “ditching diets” or “joyful movement.”
But if you say anything like… “gluten doesn’t make me feel good” or “I follow an exercise routine” it can feel like you’ve just told someone you kicked a puppy. You instantly feel questioned/doubted.
Let me just say… you should never have to feel that way. You are welcome here. This space, right here, is not one where you will feel judged for having any goal.
What I don’t advocate for is restriction that is punishment wrapped up in a bow. Self-talk that is damaging to your mental and emotional health. Pursuing a way of eating out of guilt or feeling “not good enough.”
Here’s a quote I do believe in: “How you get there is where you end up.” So if you want to end with a peaceful, full of grace relationship with food you have to practice grace on your way to creating that relationship with food.
I understand that this post is a “slippery slope.” This post is NOT sharing that you should restrict foods or that by doing so you will be healthier. This post is in fact, not recommending you to make any changes unless you feel that by doing so, you would be honoring your body more.
This post is for inclusivity. This post is here to make room for you. For every woman to give herself permission to do what-the-heck-ever works for her WITHOUT shame. YOU are the adult in your own life.
Is Intuitive Eating Saying Yes to Whatever You Want?
Short answer: yes and no.
Many women come to intuitive eating because of the appeal to throw out the rules. To let go of the “shoulds.” To stop feeling guilty when they eat pizza. To clear space in their minds to focus on other things.
Yes and amen! This is why I showed up here. I was so sick of counting every calorie I ate. So sick of not having freedom to find JOY and pleasure in food.
When you have permission, when you let go of restriction, and when you are tuned into your bodies signals, you feel free. You ARE free. You are free to make whatever choices you want to make.
“Whatever choice you want to make” includes both “Yes, I will have a cookie” and “No, I will not have a cookie.” Don’t forget, that the second answer is just as acceptable and okay as the first.
And it’s all up to you. It’s not up to anyone else to make that choice for you and you don’t have to share any “reasons” for why you’re making that choice, unless you want to.
What I notice happening is that most of what is shared about intuitive eating online and on Instagram suggests that intuitive eating is about eating the less nutritious options just to show diets who’s boss.
What isn’t as popular is to talk about how intuitive eating also includes:
- respecting your body
- honoring what feels good for you (physically and mentally)
- saying yes to the cookie when you want it
- saying “no” to the cookie when you don’t want it
- learning to eat ice cream in amounts that leave you feeling good
Intuitive eating is NOT an obligation to eat cookies, pizza, burgers and ice cream “because you can.” It’s about learning to tune in to your bodies needs and wants so that YOU can be in charge or creating how you want to feel.
This is where I hear women (my clients included) getting confused. They say things like “well I’m not dieting so I should eat that cookie.”
Is intuitive eating just saying yes to what you “want?“
Intuitive eating is about having permission to say yes to what you want. Yes.
But might there be a difference between what your brain wants and what your intuition wants?
If you were answering this question outside of food, you’d see that. Sometimes the best thing to do or the right thing for you to do is the hardest thing.
Should you feel guilty for listening to your brain and not your intuition? NO.
Guilt around food won’t help, ever. Learning from your choices and having a neutral, observant and curious attitude toward your food choices, will.
The definition of “intuition” is: a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
So yes… intuition is that natural “hit” when you ask yourself “what do I want?” But what I’m suggesting is that we ask our bodies what they want, not our brains.
Your BRAIN wants to keep you safe. To not put you at risk by trying something new. Your brain wants what it has already experienced. Your brain is not interested in “living your BEST life.”
You intuition, the way that I define it, is that deeper soul part of you. That part of you that knows what is possible. That part of you that has dreams and desires.
Maybe we should just start calling “intuitive eating” “soul eating” since we’re honoring that deeper part of ourselves.
Here are some of my food desires, to give you an example:
- I have permission to eat WONDERFUL food — high quality, rich, tasty, incredible food (like authentic Italian cuisine)
- I don’t think about the calories or macros in my food (personal preference) but I do think about how they will make me feel
- If I have a craving for “too much” food, this signals me to check in with how I’m feeling and/or to make sure I’ve eaten enough that day
- I make choices based on how my body feels, not on how much room I have left for the day, according to an app
- I ENJOY food and find PLEASURE in what I eat, but food is not my ONLY pleasure
- I don’t judge others (or myself) for food choices, ever
- If I eat in a way that leaves me not feeling good, I recognize that and move on
So let’s ask the question: are the following goals “anti-intuitive”?
- going gluten free because an ND told you she’s had experience in curing Hashimoto’s disease – which you have – by doing so.
- choosing not to eat dairy because every time you do, you get a bloated stomach, break out, and feel grumpy.
- deciding that you’d like to drink less alcohol to experience a more “sober” lifestyle and improve the way you connect with other people.
- pulling back on sugar because you notice that too much of it keeps you from sleeping soundly.
Many of my clients would worry that all of these things were “breaking the intuitive eating guidelines.” They would struggle with guilt if they were to pursue any of the above paths.
But here’s what I’m here to say, these are all intuitive choices, if they’re the choice that feels right to you.
Let’s return to that definition of “intuitive”: a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
So if you feel that slowing down on sugar would help you to sleep better, then you do not need any conscious reasoning to make the choice to slow down on sugar. You don’t need anyone else’s permission.
You can choose to slow down on sugar, and experiment with “does this help me to sleep better, to have less sugar?” No where in the world are you *required to eat sugar* if it’s not serving you.
The flip side is you share with a friend “I’m not sleeping well” and she/he says “Oh, cut out sugar!” and your gut feeling is “Ugh, really? That’s not what I want at all…” but then you force yourself to do it anyway.
Or, you have friends who are dieting and experiencing weight-loss and you think to yourself “I should do that… they’re doing better than I am.” This is pressure. Intuitive choices do not feel pressured. They feel inspired.
Mindset here is the most important piece. You have to know yourself. If you set a goal to be gluten-free, for example, because you believe it will cure your Hashimoto’s disease (I have a client that this worked for) then set your mindset to be one of choice > restriction.
Create and think thoughts like:
- I CAN have gluten, anytime I want it. For today, I’m choosing not to.
- I CAN have that bagel my friend is eating, but, I’m choosing not to. I’d rather feel well. I’m going to focus on our conversation instead.
- Right now, in this moment, I’m choosing to forgo the slice of bread with my salad. The salad itself looks incredible – the goat cheese, the pears, the avocado, the pecans… yum! This will feel best and allow me to enjoy the rest of today, feeling well.
- Or, I am going to have that bagel even though I know I might not feel well afterward. Right now, it feels important to satisfy this craving and move forward. I don’t feel guilty for this… this is okay too.
Your mentality needs to be calm. In The Growth Vault we talk about how “calm is your superpower” (lesson #5).
We need to practice neutral, calm, middle-ground mindsets. One-day-at-a-time thinking. Loving. Gentle. Non-extreme. Non-restrictive.
Because if your GOAL is to feel more calm around food, you will want to practice neutralizing and calming down about the way you think of food.
You CAN have gluten anytime you want to. But for now, in this moment, you’re fine without it. You’re choosing to feel good and move toward crowding out that Hashimoto’s from your body, instead. This is okay.
This can also be true for non-food goals. Let’s look at the following scenarios and ask ourselves, is this anti-intuitive?
- setting a goal to run three days a week to train for a half-marathon coming up six-months from now. You’ve been wanting to do a half-marathon for years. You feel empowered. It’s exciting and challenging.
- making a goal to sacrifice and save $1,000 per month for the next year, reducing other “wants,” so that you can buy the house you’ve always dreamed of owning. You might not feel like saving each month, but you do it to honor an important goal of yours, anyway.
- pushing yourself to study for that big test in your nursing school program, even though it’s extremely challenging and you feel like throwing in the towel.
- staying in business for yourself because you know it’s what you want, even though it’s taking up a good amount of your mental energy right now. You know it will take time to build.
If these are the desires of your heart, if all of these things are challenging but move you toward a fully-lived life, fully expressing and living into who you were put on this earth to be… then there is nothing “anti-intuitive” about them.
Making intuitive eating / living choices won’t always be “easy.” But it will probably always be “worth it.” It will allow you to live from an empowered place of being in charge of your life in the best possible way.
Art of Being Calm:
Let’s talk more about the art of being calm. Because so much of this comes down to your mentality.
Anytime you’re eating or thinking about food or making a choice around food, I encourage you to practice an “abundance mindset.”
This is where you remind yourself that you CAN have anything you want, anytime you want it. This will lead you to feel more calm and sure. More settled.
“If I can have cookies anytime I want them, then do I want a cookie right now? Or would I like to wait until I’m actually craving it?”
“Looks like my friend is ordering pizza. I was really craving a salad. Oh yeah, I can have pizza anytime I want it. Right now, this salad sounds good.”
“I really want pizza. That’s what would satisfy me. I can have pizza for a meal anytime I’d like. How much would feel good to me right now?”
All of these thoughts bring you to a place of sober-mindedness where you can make a choice that would feel good for you and your body.
When you make choices that feel good, and you do this often, you develop such a high level of trust within yourself that you stop needing so much external validation and approval.
Know Your Goal:
So how do you know if your goal is “intuitive” and why does that even matter?
IF IT’S WORKING FOR YOU – if it’s improving the quality of your life, your mental and emotional health, your relationships, and the way you want to live, then that is your version of intuitive.
And this same reason is “why” it’s important to be intuitive and listen to and honor your own needs. You’ll be creating the best possible life for yourself. So if that’s important to you, then tuning into yourself is important.
What is your goal? Here are the goals of some of my clients:
- “I want to stop thinking about food all of the time so that I can be present with my family.”
- “I want to stop feeling guilty when I am with friends ordering food. I want to stop worrying about what they will think of my order.”
- “I want to stop binge eating because it has resulted in an uncomfortable about of weight-gain and I’d like to be able to chase my kids around the backyard again.”
All of these women have a right to their own desires and goals.
If this is you… if you’re reading this thinking “I want to feel better. I want to learn what works for me. I want to feel free to eat/move/live in the way that works for me” and you’d like help, reach out (there’s a form on this page you can fill out to talk with me).
I hope this post encourages you and reminds you that there’s a place for you here. Take what resonates for you, leave the rest. But don’t be afraid to have an open mind and “try these ideas on” to see what fits / what doesn’t.