What Does Healthy Eating Mean to You?
Intuitive eating as a path to healthy eating may sound new, but it's not. Freedom from a chaotic relationship with food is something you were born to have. After years of feeling confused and out of control, your search has ended. This change in eating will release you from the choke hold of restriction and binging.
Intuitive eating is an important part of recovering from any eating disorder, including binge eating disorder. Binge eating can feel so frustrating because of the feeling of lack of control. The amazing thing about intuitive eating is you no longer need "control".
Principle 1: Use Hunger and Fullness Cues for "Portion Control". Say goodbye to willpower for "portion control". You will no longer use some external measure for how much you "should" eat. You have all of the tools to guide you towards healthy eating right inside of you.
Many people are completely out of touch with their hunger cues. This is caused by grazing or overeating or under-eating frequently, which can often play a role in weight changes.
Initially you may use a clock to determine when to eat--aiming to eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day. After a few days or a week of this, you should be starting to feel hunger between meals. Use the hunger-fullness scale to help you fine tune your use of these cues. It will take focus and practice at first, but soon you will find it second nature (since it is).
Fullness cues require you to eat slow enough for them to register. This is typically 15-20 minutes for a meal. No need to chew your food a million times. Simply put your fork down between bites. Do not stab your next bite as you are chewing your current one. Take a drink between bites. Pay attention to your surroundings and engage in conversation (ie. enjoy and savor your meal).
As much as possible, try to use your senses while eating. Try to smell the food before you start eating. Notice the presentation. Really focus on the taste and texture of each bite. This type of mindful eating will enhance your experience and will leave you feeling more satisfied. You cannot binge and eat mindfully at the same time--so if you want to prevent a binge, be very conscious in your eating. It is not possible to eat mindfully at every meal and snack, but aim to do this when eating your most favorite foods--it really enhances enjoyment and satisfaction.
Principle 2: Legalizing all foods to prevent binges. People are very resistant to this concept. They think if they allow themselves to eat whatever they want, they will start eating out of control. I argue that this is how they feel now--not allowing (or feeling guilt about) foods makes you more likely to binge on them. Or you will binge on foods you think are more healthy. A binge is a binge, and it doesn't matter what food is involved.
Think of your favorite food. I want you to make yourself have it every day for at least the next week (hopefully the rest of your life). Even if you don't want it one day, you need to have it for at least this week.
You should also go out and buy mass quantities of your favorite food. This is called stocking, and it takes away that feeling of wanting to finish off the box to get it out of the house. This is such a crazy rationalization, but people do it all the time. What does it matter if you eat it all now or over the next few days--you still eat it all. Stocking means there is no way you could eat all the food at once, so it can decrease the urge eat more since you cannot finish it.
Principle 3: Identify non-hunger urges to eat. Many people believe they do not emotionally eat. If you are eating for reasons other than physical hunger, this is emotional eating . The reason this is confusing is because there is usually no identified emotion. There is typically just a sudden impulse to eat something. It is absolutely okay to emotionally eat, and it can be helpful to recognize you are doing this, in the event the precipitating cause needs further processing. Eating will soothe, but not fix, whatever is bothering you. Sometimes soothing is what you need, and sometimes addressing and processing the issue is what you need.
If you pay attention, there is a feeling underneath the impulse. It can be initially described as uncomfortable. You may find that words like anxiety or frustration better describe what you are feeling. You have to be a bit of a detective to figure out what is going on for you. We are very bad at identifying our emotions in this culture. It takes practice, but soon it will get easier.
Also note that you may have been using food to cover your emotions for a long time. When you initially stop using food, you may feel overwhelmed by emotion. As you process through some of the issues that come up, you will find it easier after a while when you are just handling day to day stressors. You may need a therapist to help you handle any suppressed baggage you discover.
The path to healthy eating can be a long and difficult process. If you don't hang in there, though, you will never cure your issues with food. I would recommend you use additional resources to further guide you towards a healthy relationship with food.
The good news is you cannot be fooled anymore. Now you understand what is going on with you and food. You won't fall for traditional weight loss programs or a friend's great new diet.
If you really work at these techniques, you will find yourself finally free.
Quick Tips for Intuitive Eating:
* Eat when you are hungry
* Stop eating when you are full (intuitive "portion control")
* Eat slowly
* Eat mindfully
* Eat what you really want to eat
* Process any urges to eat when not hungry
It can be really difficult to do master intuitive eating alone. A Registered Dietitian with experience in Intuitive Eating can help guide you on this journey to food freedom. Our dietitians are all weight inclusive and fat-positive. We promote a safe and inclusive space for our clients to heal.