Are you ready to stop dieting, struggling with your weight and obsessing over everything you eat? I’m excited for you, because I remember exactly where I was when I first learned about intuitive eating: the concept immediately made sense to me. Why had I never heard about this before? As soon as I understood the principles of intuitive eating, I knew it would change my life. This is what I learned.
From the moment you were born, you intuitively knew how much food your body needed to get enough energy. You cried when you were hungry and stopped eating when you were satisfied. You did not need a meal plan to tell you the best way to eat for your blood type or a diet book to guide your eating. You were born understanding how to best fuel your body so that you thrived, grew strong and healthy; however, as you grew older, all of this changed.
As a toddler, your eating schedule was carved out based on meal times, your sleep patterns and your parents’ needs. As a child, well-intentioned advice—for example, ‘finish everything on your plate’—dulled your intuitive eating skills further, so you learned to eat even when you weren’t hungry. When you were well behaved you were rewarded with treats and you were denied dessert if you misbehaved.
As you grew into a teenager, diet rules—for example, ‘eat six small meals a day to keep your metabolism going’ and ‘avoid carbohydrates and fat to lose weight’—made intuitive eating near impossible. And it’s around that time that you probably began to eat when you were bored, tired or stressed out.
Soon, everyone was giving you nutrition advice on the best way to eat: the latest celebrity, your mum, your best friend, the personal trainer at the gym, your neighbour and the hairdresser. Instead of listening to your own body and eating when you were hungry, you turned to others to guide you. Unfortunately, no-one other than you can truly know the best way to fuel your body. You are so unique and you are the expert on your body.
Intuitive eating is about turning away from the confusing (and often contradictory) diet rules, the noise and nonsense and getting back that very deeply intelligent part of you that knows exactly how best to feed yourself. When you eat intuitively, your body will help you naturally regulate your weight and help you choose the right amount of food you need to thrive and feel amazing. You don’t need a meal plan or a diet guru to tell you how or what to eat, all you have to do is check in with your hunger and how your food makes you feel.
- Intuitive eating
The best indicator of how much energy your body needs is your appetite. If you ‘eat by the clock’ (that is, you eat breakfast because it’s breakfast time) or follow a meal plan, you tend to ignore your appetite and eat because you think you should. But are you even hungry most of the time when you eat?
Your appetite is a primal system that is designed to ensure you get enough energy to fuel your body and to regulate your weight, preventing you from losing or gaining too much. That’s right! You were born with your own built-in weight-management system.
- Tuning into your appetite
On days when your body needs more energy, you will feel more hungry. When you don’t need as much energy, your appetite will be smaller. When you listen and respond to your appetite, you are able to fuel your body with the ideal amount of energy it needs. No calorie counter needed, just your own innate intelligence.
Your body will also help you work out which foods are better for you by providing valuable feedback. Chances are you feel energetic, healthy and amazing when you eat foods such as a home-cooked meal or salad, but feel bloated, tired and heavy after eating processed fast-food meals. When you listen and respond to your body, you end up naturally craving more nutritious options because it makes you feel good, not because you think you should.
There is no meal plan that can meet your body’s constantly changing needs throughout the day, week, month or year. Intuitive eating simplifies eating so you no longer have to ask: ‘Should I eat this? Am I allowed to eat this?’ (Very confusing questions!)
Instead, you can simply ask: ‘Am I hungry? Will this food make me feel good?’ To answer, you only need to consult yourself, the expert on your body.
You’ll be surprised how simply becoming aware of your hunger and appetite in the first instance can help change your thinking and relationship with food.