Thursday, December 19, 2013

Intuitive Eating... Have we lost sight of listening to our bodies?

Today I wanted to share my thoughts on something I have seen floating around the blogging community: Intuitive Eating. Becky at Olives n' Wine wrote a thought provoking post on it this morning, and I think her and I share some of the same views. Please read all the way to the end, and then share your thoughts!
It seems this way of eating has taken hold in healthy living blogs, and I continually see posts and instagram photos marked "listening to my body" and "intuitive eating".  
According to 
"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. ”.
I love all the thoughts shared there. Create a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body. Get rid of food worry thoughts. These seem like the right mindsets.
But why do I see photos of massive burgers and fries, served with a milkshake, but labeled "intuitive eating"? Do our bodies really crave massive amounts of processed carbs and sugar?
Don't get me wrong, I love a treat as much as the next person, but I wouldn't say that is what my body craves all day, every day. I think there are a couple things surrounding the whole Intuitive Eating issue that  should be discussed.
1. Listening to our bodies may take longer than we thought.
We've been conditioned to think we want a lot of really crappy food. We mark holidays and activities by the foods and beverages associated with them. Girls Night? Cocktail. Christmas Shopping? Peppermint Mocha. Friday night? Pizza. Sunday morning? Pancake Brunch. You get the picture.
As a result, our first response to listening to our bodies may be far from healthy. We need to acknowledge that, rather than give our selves a right of passage to eat whatever pops in our head.
2. A cycle of restriction may be to blame.
Perhaps we've denied ourselves too long with our gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diets. A person shifting from a restrictive diet pattern to an "intuitive eating" pattern may feel the need to eat lots and lots of junk for a while.
Perhaps the daily ice cream isn't really "listening to your body", but mentally responding to a period of restriction. Our mind may just crave saying "yes" to ourselves more than the ice cream.
3. Maybe the listening should happen after we eat.
Have you ever wanted a greasy meal, ordered it, and regretted it an hour later? I think most of us can raise our hand. For me, listening to my body means thinking about how foods make me feel long after I eat them.
I don't crave pancakes for breakfast because I know they won't leave me feeling good. Sometimes, I want a taste of one, so I order one, along with a more satisfying breakfast. After a couple bites, I'm done because I know I won't feel good after eating a whole stack of them.
Balance looks different for everyone, but I don't want my balance to be "run 20 miles, eat 3 cupcakes". Sure, I'd have burned them off, but that doesn't seem very healthy.
As we listen to our bodies, let's think about our food as fuel. Let's think about our bodies as responding to food, rather than craving food. Perhaps we will find a better balance that way.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about or practice intuitive eating?


  1. I think #2 makes a lot of sense, especially across the blog world, where people might have "built their brand" (or their blog theme) around a certain way of eating. I think it probably takes a long time to get comfortable with these foods again. But I agree that I think we just assume that since we haven't had something often, we want it. That might not be the case, but I think it's definitely a very long journey!

  2. I've been working on IE for just about a year and I agree with your points 100%. It takes a LONG time to get back to actually listening to your body. Yes, in the beginning I did eat all the things, but now I am starting to have a feeling for what I ACTUALLY want. And, now I can actually tell when I'm full. It'll take more time- but I know I'm going to get there.

    1. Katie, thanks for sharing your experience! I am inspired by your progress - def something we all need to work on :)


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