Whenever someone sends me a message sharing that they’re tired of living consumed by thoughts of food and weight, I always tell them to read Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. This book changed my life. There are ten principles of intuitive eating; these three are the biggest takeaways (in my opinion):
Eat Whatever you Have a Taste for
So, maybe the book doesn’t list the principle in this exact wording, but this is how I view it :)
Basically, whatever your body wants, whatever food you’re craving, eat it. If it's 9 am, and you can’t stop thinking about cake, eat a slice of cake. There are zero rules in terms of when and what you can and cannot eat when it comes to intuitive eating; truly, the only rule is that you listen to yourself and give yourself what you're craving. While knowing exactly what you want after years of following a diet can be challenging, stick with the process. When you first start to eat intuitively, you may end up binging on all the foods that you weren’t allowed to eat when you were following XYZ diet. This is normal. Stick with it. Even though it might initially feel like you’ll ever stop eating the cake or donuts that you’re suddenly allowed to eat, there will come a time—usually far sooner than you expect—when your body will get tired of sugar and you'll crave more healthy foods.
Giving yourself permission to eat whatever you have a taste for is how you gain trust back with yourself. Gaining that trust back requires you to look out for your best interest. This means you must—
As a general guideline, if you’re not physically hungry, it’s probably best not to eat—except for a few situations. Say you’re heading some place where you know you won’t be able to eat anything for the next four hours. In this situation, I’ve found it’s helpful to make yourself eat a little snack beforehand even if you’re not physically hungry.
With this, make sure to always have a snack or two on hand, so when hunger does strike, you're ready to take care of yourself. This means having an extra stash of energy bars, almonds, anything easy that won’t perish in your car, office, purse, wherever you spend your time. By planning ahead, you're showing yourself that you're never going to be without food. Psychologically, it rids you of the food scarcity mentality, which leads to binging. Having food on hand, whenever you may need it, enables you to relax and realize that food isn't a sparse commodity. Food will always be there.
Honoring your hunger
When hunger strikes, let yourself eat! It sounds so basic—and it is—but this is probably the hardest principle at first to adopt. When you’ve restricted what you’ve allowed yourself to eat in the past, there’s this little voice in your head that may want you to push hunger aside. Acknowledge it, and eat anyway.
If you’ve been emotionally eating or overeating for years, you may have lost sight of what true hunger feels like. Maybe you’ve learned to confuse hunger with sadness, anger or happiness. Honoring your hunger means getting in touch with what experiencing hunger is like for you. You might feel a hollowness in your stomach; your stomach might start making noises; you might feel lightheaded. For each person, hunger feels a little bit different. A good rule to follow when you first embark on intuitive eating is to eat every 2.5-4 hours. Checking in with myself every 2.5 hours to see if I was experiencing hunger helped me immensely after years of erratic eating.
Whenever you’re following a diet, you're following someone else's rules. With intuitive eating, you get to make the rules. Once you start eating intuitively, you begin to listen to and trust your own voice. Only you know what your body truly needs. Only you know what’s truly best for you. And if that’s a donut and a salad for dinner, or chicken noodle soup in July, eat it! Without apologizing. Without judgment. Eat it, and enjoy it. Your body will return to its natural shape, and there will be no more fluctuation in your weight due to food. Your intuition is guiding you in all aspects of your life. And when you give yourself permission to follow it, you will always be lead in the right direction. I promise.