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What is intuitive eating?
According to foodinsight.org…
“Intuitive eating helps us to balance honoring our health with our food choices with being kind to ourselves if we overeat or eat indulgent foods. Intuitive eating operates on the idea that we, as individuals, know what foods will make us feel best — typically those are the same nutritious foods the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to eat. The difference is that intuitive eaters use their instincts to decide when and how much food to eat. The more we get “in tune” with our hunger cues, the better we become at choosing foods that are both nourishing and satisfying.”
I like to think of intuitive eating as simply eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full, and not having any set rules around food. I choose foods that will make my body feel GOOD 80-90% of the time, while not feeling GUILT around food when I do have something that’s not so nutrient dense (what many people would refer to as “bad” foods).
But did I get there overnight? HELL NO! It took me awhile to get here and experience what I like to refer to as “food freedom.” I’ll share some specific tips on how to get started with intuitive eating a little later on 🙂 First, let’s talk about my favorite thing..intermittent fasting for women!
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is simply, a method of eating in which you eat within a condensed time period and fast the rest of the time. Example: Eat from 12-8 (8 hour eating window) and fast from 8-12 the next day (16 hour fasting window)
I go in depth into intermittent fasting in a ton of my past blog posts, but the most helpful ones are here:
Some intermittent fasting benefits that my clients and I have experienced include:
*Weight loss and/or fat loss
*More mental clarity/focus
*Adherence to diet
*Gut health benefits
The main reason I love intermittent fasting is because there are no rules on what to eat or how much to eat. That’s why it pairs so well with intuitive eating, which I’ll go into in more detail later on in this post!
Intermittent fasting is a dieting tool, not a diet, and it’s been one of the main ways I’ve been able to really improve my relationship with food. When I gave my body a break from the “6 small meals a day” rule, I found I wasn’t so obsessed with food. I stopped thinking about it all the time, and revolving my day around it, which let me revolve my day around my work, family, friends, and LIVING! I found it really let me enjoy my meals more, be more mindful while I was eating, and my quality of life has truly improved since utilizing it, which is why I’m so passionate about teaching it to others.
Click here to join my next live how to do intermittent fasting workshop…it’s free! =)
Intuitive Eating Tips
When I first heard about intuitive eating, I was like wait…no rules? I’ll go CRAZY. I MUST have structure or I’ll go nuts!! And then I realized…wait…in the past, when I had crazy strict structure telling me what I could and couldn’t eat…it NEVER WORKED long-term. I’d be perfect for about 3 weeks and then BOOM–back to my old ways, drinkin wine and eating pizza every other day.
So how do you get started with intuitive eating?
This might be something other health coaches disagree with, but I’m gonna share what’s worked and been true for me. Flexible dieting, or tracking macros was hands down the reason I was able to get out of the yo-yo dieting cycle and the conduit, or middle man if you will, to me transitioning to intuitive eating. I don’t think I personally could’ve gotten to this point with my relationship with food without flexible dieting.
What is flexible dieting?
The basic premise of it is that if you can fit a food into your daily macronutrient goals for the day, you can eat it, whether it’s spinach or a donut. My mind was BLOWN.
Wait…I could eat a DONUT and still lose weight? WTF. You’re shitting me.
The main difference between this way of eating and what I did back in college is that instead of JUST counting calories, you’re counting macronutrients: carbs, fat, and proteins.
When you get more detailed and specific with your macros, you can reach your body goals faster and more effectively, because you find the right combination that works for you!
I have a free find your macros guide here to get you started.
This blog post goes in depth about what macros are and how to track them.
Next Step To Getting Started with Intuitive Eating
Once I realized what my body needed to lose weight and then maintain my weight, I didn’t really need to meticulously track anymore. After awhile (for me about a few months), I could eyeball portions and know how many grams were in specific foods without weighing everything. After about a year and a half of doing this consistently, I realized I didn’t even need to plan my days anymore. Tracking had allowed me to repair my relationship with food, and not think of any foods as “bad” or “good” which then helped me learn how to prioritize nutrient dense foods, because they TRULY made m FEEL better.
To transition from macro tracking meticulously to intuitive eating was honestly easier than I thought it would be. I recommend first, taking 2 days a week off of tracking, and eyeballing your food. Once this becomes comfortable, I recommend adding a 3rd day to your week that you’re not tracking, and doing this slowly as you gain more freedom. This process can be fast or slow, it totally depends on the person.
One thing that really helped me when I was switching from tracking to intuitive eating was writing down everything I was eating and how it made me feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. I didn’t log it in My Fitness Pal, but simply wrote it down in a journal as my day went on. I’d then evaluate how I felt at the end of the night and the next day. This let me take an objective view to food–not labeling anything as bad, but seeing if certain foods affect my digestion, my stomach, my mood, etc.
When doing this, it’s imperative to not equate certain foods with being good or bad. I’ll go over this in more depth in my how to do intermittent fasting live workshop, but I’d love you right here, right now, to promise to never again call a certain food “bad.” Instead, you can say “nutrient dense.” So no longer will you say “I was so bad yesterday, I ate a ton of crap.” You’ll now say, “I ate a ton of nutrient dense food yesterday and I’m not feeling so good today.” That way you’re objective–you’re stating what’s really going on for you, without making YOU the bad person, but just describing how the food physically and emotionally made you feel.
According to foodinsight.org…
“Intuitive eating also encourages us to focus on our hunger cues. One way to tune in to our hunger cues is to use a hunger scale. Before eating, rate your hunger on a scale of one (extremely hungry) to ten (overfull). Check in with yourself mid-meal and rate it again. If you are around a 6 (satisfied), consider saving the rest for later.”
Reject the Diet Mentality
This blog post goes in depth about the 10 principles of intuitive eating and is a MUST READ if you truly want to start implementing this into your life. The first principle they list is to reject the diet mentality…
”Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.”
Intuitive Eating and Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
But Meg…isn’t intermittent fasting a “rule” you set for yourself? How can I be both intuitively eating AND intermittent fasting?! Actually–the two can go hand in hand beautifully 🙂 The biggest thing I stress when in my live intermittent fasting workshops, is to make it fit YOUR lifestyle. If you can’t do a 16 hour fast, DON’T. YOU set the “rules” which are really just ways of life. If I wake up and am starving at 9AM, I won’t wait until 12 noon because “that’s the magic time to eat.” I’ll just EAT! But usually I know I’m just dehydrated, drink a bunch of water, and find that I easily and happily wait until noon for my first meal. I get to truly enjoy that first meal, because it’s bigger, and I make more time to really enjoy it and practice mindful eating.
So in order to truly be intuitively eating AND intermittent fasting–listen to your body. Are you ACTUALLY hungry in the morning or are you just conditioned to eating at that time? Are you eating breakfast at 7AM because you’ve been told “you have to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up or your metabolism won’t get started” or because you are truly hungry and love eating early? As long as you’re doing it because you truly want to and your body is truly hungry (which will take time to learn and feel, trust me!), than that’s okay! The whole point is to really connect with your hunger cues, and intermittent fasting can help you do just that.
When I started intermittent fasting, I actually learned what real hunger meant. I actually realized the difference between being thirsty or bored and actually being hungry. Intermittent fasting truly helped me in so many ways, but it hands down helped me learn how to eat intuitively, and now I do both.
So Can You Lose Weight While Intuitively Eating?
Sure. But you can also lose weight on a super strict diet, on a keto diet, on a paleo diet, on a vegan diet, on a high carb diet…you name it, there are plenty of ways to “lose weight.”
But that’s not the point of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating should not be used as a tool to lose weight, but truly a way to repair and improve your relationship with food.
According to this article on generousplan.com
“It’s true, some people do lose weight when they start an intuitive eating practice. It’s easy to want to generalize this to everyone. But the truth is that other people gain weight, and still others stay roughly the same weight as when they started.
What’s the reason for this? It’s because eating based on intuition does one key thing: return you to your “set point weight”.
Intuitive eating returns us to somewhere within our set point weight range. If you are above your set point when you start eating intuitively (say, because you’ve been stressed lately), you may lose weight. If you’ve been below your set point because you’ve been restricting food or over-exercising, you may gain weight when you start feeding or resting your body appropriately. Or, you may already be in your natural weight range and roughly stay put when you start practicing intuitive eating.”
Intuitive Eating Book + Resources?
- The Intuitive Eating Book: the best-seller that made intuitive eating mainstream. It was originally published in 1995 but remains popular to this day.
- The Intuitive Eating Website
- Ellyn Satter promotes an idea called “eating competence,” which has many principles that overlap with intuitive eating.
All in all, intuitive eating is for you if you’re ready to let go of the food rules, the diets, and learn how to be in control of your food choices, and not let your emotions dictate what you eat and how you feel about what you eat. Not everyone is ready for this, but if you start to follow some of the tips in this blog post as well as the different websites I referenced, you’ll get there eventually. Just remember…anything worthwhile takes time and consistency <3 And I know you can do it.
Megan Yelaney | Life + Business Coach
PS. Be sure to join my next how to do intermittent fasting workshop! Join here.
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