I am by no means a dietician or expert on intuitive eating. My experience working towards food freedom comes from some of my reading on the topic as well as my own journey to becoming an intuitive eater. I have been obsessed with food and weight since high school. Some of those years I just let myself go and ignored it but deep down I was always obsessed. Always thinking about how much I weighed. Comparing my body to others. Hating how clothing fit and basically not truly enjoying my life. Enter food freedom!
As a nutrition coach who prescribes macros and has used macros before to get to my weight goals I have become fascinated with Intuitive Eating. I have become exhausted with tracking and obsessing over everything I put into my mouth and I am, for lack of a better term, fed up! Do I still prescribe macros? Yes. I use them as a teaching tool for those who currently are not eating enough or for those who have a goal to learn how much they should eat. The end goal however is always learning how to listen to your body and becoming an intuitive eater.
What is intuitive eating? In a nutshell it is a process where you move away from the societal strict views of food rules and dieting to a more non-restrictive and balanced approach to food and weight. You learn to listen to your hunger and satiety cues and quit obsessing over food. To give you an idea of what it is here are the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating (https://www.intuitiveeating.org) created by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND.:
- Reject the dieting mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise – feel the difference
- Honor your health
As you can see it is a really long and involved introspective process that can take lots of time and effort. If you want to check out their workbook and work through their steps one by one you can find it here.
I am by no means finished with this process and am in the middle of reading The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner (a really practical and hysterical approach for binge eaters and food obsessors) but the area that I have decided to focus on first is neutralizing food and getting rid of unrealistic food rules. What this means is that any food that you think is not good or you have been scared of for years due to rules you have made or rules some diet book told you is no longer considered taboo. The end goal is that any food you wouldn’t allow before is no longer special or glamorous and bingeing on said food is no longer an issue.
Let’s take potato chips for example. If you have avoided potato chips for years because it did not fit into your rules or diet, the first thing you do is to allow that food into your life. Eat a whole damn bag of said chips. Eat two bags. Whatever it takes! See how it feels. Once you allow that food to be around you will actually find that you no longer have such a strong craving for the food. Now that it is not forbidden you are less likely to binge on it because you are no longer restricting it. Alas, the food is neutralized.
I have done this with sweets. I am and have always been a big sweets person. My mom didn’t allow tons of sweets in our house and I always had a healthy lunch packed for school. I remember having my friend smuggle extra gummy sharks in her lunch for me sometimes. See, it was like a drug. Forbidden. So, when I had access to it at a friend’s house or a party I would go crazy and eat tons of it. As a kid I didn’t realize what was happening but now i know. I was setting myself up for a vicious cycle of deprivation and bingeing and then guilt and shame. Over the years it did not change. I had a job at a candy store in undergrad and ate my weight in gummies all of the time. I couldn’t get enough and thought I deserved it. By the end of my college years I was overweight and miserable with myself.
Several diets and food plans later I am now a happy and successful personal trainer and coach and I think my body is in a healthy place but I got here initially by restricting and being very picky about my food. My food couldn’t have certain ingredients, chemicals, or sugar. If it did I just would not eat it. I was a food snob to say the least. I still try to focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods most of the time but no food is “bad” if it satisfies you and your body is asking for it.
How did I make sweets an ok thing again? I threw my food rules about them out the window! I used to only allow sweets on Friday and Saturday nights. I would go nuts and eat a whole bag of said sweets or cookies on those nights and feel totally guilty. Now, if I want a cookie I eat it and move on without guilt. If it’s a fucking Wednesday I do not give a damn. I still eat the cookie. I did this several weeks in a row and realized I was not bingeing on these foods anymore. The weekend would come around and sometimes I wouldn’t have any sweets. It was so freeing. Now it’s not so exciting and I don’t crave cookies all the time because they are available to me if I want them.
It’s a journey that I know takes a lot of work but I promise taking this first step will work wonders for you. When food is not considered bad or evil it takes the excitement away and you will no longer binge or feel the need to eat it all when given the opportunity.
What foods are forbidden for you? Have you had success in neutralizing any foods? Share your comments and messages with me on my instagram. In the meantime enjoy your potato chips!