Once I learned about the concept of intuitive eating, especially in the thick of disordered eating, I was simply appalled. In pure disbelief that there are people who are so in-tuned with themselves, they don’t overthink the food they eat. That sounds like a fantasy world where we all frolic through fields of wildflowers and chase rainbows.
Admittedly, intuitive eating is recent phenomenon that, on the surface, looks like a passing trend. But I could also say that about the rise of veganism, as many people see it, but I would beg to differ.
In a world obsessed with new diets popping up every day, intuitive eating could almost be described as an “anti-diet.” Essentially, those who follow the lifestyle listen to their natural hunger cues. They don’t count as calories or macro-nutrients. They don’t consider foods good or bad. They don’t stick to a strict time schedule of eating at the exact same time every day. They don’t obsess over the size of their plate or going in for seconds.
Maybe it’s just me, but living this lifestyle sounds like being some sort of zen master. The fact people can feel zero guilt for listening to their cravings and knowing when they’re hungry and satiated is mind-boggling to me. And yes, I do see that as blowing every other diet out of the water.
Although the terminology is recent, intuitive eating is really a basic concept. It’s not like other species are thinking about the amount they’re eating or what energy they’re burning. They innately know what they need to survive, and they don’t hold themselves back from that. Humans started out like that, too, contrary to the weird Paleo trends of “eating like a caveman.” Food is a source of energy and shouldn’t have a strict hold over your life.
In an ideal world, we would all be intuitive eating. We’d naturally be at our optimal sizes and shapes, we’d accept each other and ourselves as is, and we’d just strive to be our healthiest selves. But that would be way too easy on us. We’re already so ingrained with counting and measuring, it’s not easy to let that go and just be.
Ask anybody, and you’re going to struggle to find someone who hasn’t at one point gone on a diet or struggled with a form of disordered eating. Especially if you’re in the thick of recovery, don’t try to convince yourself that you can successfully eat intuitively. Trust me, I’ve tried. It didn’t work.
When we binge or restrict, we completely throw off our natural hunger cues. Even if you’re simply trying to follow some fad diet with a specific meal plan, we teach ourselves how to ignore the signals. We distract and discipline ourselves with controlling rules. Your mind and body become out of sync. Worst case scenario, you lose any sense of hunger or satiation all together as your body loses trust in your actions. Again, trust me, I’ve been there. In the disorder you seek control, and yet that’s the complete opposite of reality.
When I say I see intuitive eating as a monk-like practice, I mean that it indeed takes trust and patience because it’s very against the grain of modern diet culture. For so many, saying that food is truly just food, a part of being a living organism, it’s not easy to let that reality sink in. You must gauge your emotions and how your body feels before and after eating. You must avoid distractions to actually notice the signs of hunger or fullness. You actually slow down and become mindful of the activity that is eating and nourishing your body.
Obviously this isn’t an overnight change, and you cannot truly eat intuitively until you have some sense of normalcy if you come from a disordered background. But I think that once you can develop that natural, healthy relationship with food, you don’t overeat or restrict. Your weight doesn’t yo-yo regularly. Your mind isn’t chained to the empirical data or potential effects of every bite you eat.
I’m saying all of this out of admiration for those who successfully let themselves live and eat. Intuitive eating has definitely become an ultimate goal when it comes to my relationship with food. Since going vegan, it’s definitely gotten better, but I accept that it may never be perfect. The principles of the lifestyle, however, are very encouraging for anybody struggling: food is nourishment, and constantly monitoring your intake is not sustainable in the long-term.
I wish dieting didn’t exist. I wish so many people didn’t look in the mirror with disgust at their bodies. I wish we didn’t lust after certain “goals” based on how others live. I wish we didn’t stick on a label on every single food and attach “goodness” to them. I’d certain frolic if that were the world we live in.
Now more than ever, we need to relearn the habits we’ve picked up from magazines and click bait articles and commercials promoting the newest weight loss system. We’ve learned that the way we may naturally want to eat is wrong and must be regimented to fit specific standards. Instead, let’s learn that there is nothing wrong with our body’s cravings. There’s nothing wrong with how we look or the place our unique bodies individually thrive. If there’s anything wrong, it’s the belief that we aren’t good enough and need to change how we look and eat.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie