(ok, I really liked this chocolate mousse cake)
I have a confession to make.
I’ve been seeing a rising trend on social media of people moving away from the diet culture (praise hands!) and towards food freedom or intuitive eating. At first, I was so happy. We need more people to talk about why the diet culture needs to go away and how we can find healthy relationships with our food and our bodies.
But the more people I saw openly preaching intuitive eating, the more I started to get frustrated. The people on my feed were skinny and beautiful, wearing bikinis while eating cake and giving no F’s. Meanwhile, I’m over here doing my best to eat healthy while still allowing myself the foods I want, like beer and pizza and the chips that are constantly on the table in my office and I’m pissed off because I’m gaining weight and have no desire to put on a bikini let alone share a photo of me in one.
In my mind, I was seeing intuitive eating as eating whatever you want, which doesn’t work for everyone because eating too much of the wrong food is what leads to weight gain and health problems in the first place.
But I was wrong.
For weeks I vented with friends who shared similar feelings of resentment towards the people preaching intuitive eating while we struggled to figure out how to eat to lose weight. Because yes, we should love and accept our bodies at all stages but that doesn’t mean we can’t also want better for ourselves too.
It wasn’t until I was at a get together talking about how frustrating this new trend has been when someone said, “the key is to ask yourself whether you really want the thing, or if you’re just eating the thing because you’re bored or sad or whatever”. It was further solidified at a lunch and learn at my office where a registered dietician presented to us. She too said that we have to think about why we’re reaching for the foods we’re reaching for. Are we bored? Are we sad? Are we satisfying a craving?
Which brings us to my ‘a-ha’ moment.
Intuitive eating does not mean eating whatever you want. It means listening to your body and asking yourself questions about why you’re making the choices you are. Your body is a smart thing that knows what it wants when you take the time to listen. This is the hard part and the part that I need to work on.
My take on intuitive eating is to make healthy, balanced food choices for all of your meals, paying attention to portion sizes, ensuring that you’re getting protein, carbs, and fats in all your meals, and choosing whole foods. I already know that the more healthy choices I make, the better my body feels and the more I want to make those healthy choices. But what about the extras? With intuitive eating, there is no such thing as good or bad food, cheat days or food rewards. All food fits, but how?
Stop and think about why you’re eating the thing, before eating it.
Do I actually want this piece of cake or am I eating it because it’s someone’s birthday? I always take a piece of cake when we celebrate birthdays in the office but you guys, I don’t even like cake so why the fuck am I eating it!? You know what I like? Beer. Beer makes me happy and when I have a beer, I fucking enjoy that beer. And if I say no to cake (because fuck cake*) and drink the beer, I’m not going to feel guilty like I would if I ate the cake and then drank the beer and wonder why the fuck my pants don’t fit anymore.
Take the time to truly enjoy your food. Take small bites, let it linger in your mouth, recognize how it makes you feel. Are you happy? Heck yeah, you are because that thing you want (cake, beer, ice cream, chocolate, whatever) is GOOD! Then you can move on and continue your day with no guilt and no regrets. If you have an intense craving for cake that just won’t go away, eat the cake (because we all know I’m not going to anymore). Even if it means eating cake (and loving it) for four days, that’s ok because chances are, you probably won’t eat another piece of cake for a few more months until another birthday celebration takes place in your house.
If you just pop that chocolate in your mouth and swallow it before you’ve even had a taste, you’re more likely to reach for another piece, and another piece, and another piece and before long you’ve binged that entire bag of Lindor truffles. You’re probably not going to feel as happy and satisfied after that and you’ll probably be pissed because now you’re out of Lindor truffles and that shit ain’t cheap. Same with those goodies that seem to constantly be in the lunch room at the office. They call to you every time you walk in so you grab a handful, and then another, and then another and at the end of the day, you’re probably like, why the fuck did I eat all of those chips. I wasn’t hungry, they didn’t make me feel satisfied and I don’t even like chips!
Intuitive eating doesn’t just happen overnight. We need to tap into our brain a little more and listen to our bodies instead of just eating mindlessly and calling it intuitive eating. I realized I had it wrong, and that maybe intuitive eating can be for anyone, regardless of your genetic makeup, your metabolism, how fast or slow you lose or gain weight. I’m sorry for being pissed off at the skinny girls promoting intuitive eating and wondering why I can’t eat whatever I want without my pants getting tight.
This road isn’t an easy one to follow, and I might still take a wrong turn now and then, but it’s a helluva lot better than falling into bullshit diet traps.
*No hard feelings, cake.