Intuitive Eating – is it really achievable?

So I bought the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and am trying to read through it as fast as I can. Apparently, my last 2 days of “intuitive eating” have not been so intuitive. I basically stopped calorie counting but proceeded with the same old “rules.” I allowed myself a certain number of snacks, stuck to healthy eats and called it a day. I was happy… I was “good.” Apparently calling a day “good” or “bad” is falling into the diet trap we’re all so used to. How can we help ourselves when our whole lives we’ve been told that a dinner of pizza and ice cream was not healthy or “good” by any means? Delicious maybe, but that’s another story… or is that it? Is that how I’m supposed to define whether a day was good or bad? Where does healthy fit into all of this? Ugh, I still have so much to learn!

So the book has been very interesting so far, but the whole time I’m reading it I have a knot in my stomach. I want to be this Intuitive Eater so bad! Is it really possible to get there? Can I really get to a place where I truly eat what I want, am at my “normal weight” (I hope that’s not fat!) and am at peace with food? I’m jealous of their success stories. I’m also skeptical. But I’m not through with the book yet, so we’ll see if I’m a convert by the end. I really really want to be one! 😀

So today I started just like any other regular day, with a breakfast involving my love – Barney Butter.

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Mmm

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The second part of breakfast involved a smaller green monster: 1/2 banana, 0.5 c skim milk, 0.2 c white grape juice, fresh strawberries, 1/2 scoop whey protein, handful of baby spinach + a few ice cubes. I actually was weirdly satisfied by my first half of the breakfast but drank the green monster anyway because I knew calorically the 1/2 english muffin wouldn’t last me long. I can’t be eating all day long at work. Eating a few bites here and there, stopping, then eating again. I actually have real work to do! How does that work with intuitive eating? I hope they address this in the book!

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Lunch – leftover mac & cheese with cauliflower:

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Snack: oikos with fresh strawberries, raspberries + gooseberries (all from a local farmers market) + 1 medjool date and a drizzle of agave nectar. Yum!

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Look at all that fruit (and “hairy” gooseberries. haha)!

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+ 2″ sq of the blueberry coffee cake (computer mouse included to show size) – it made me super happy and satisfied for hours! :mrgreen:

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I went to the gym after work (my new routine for Mondays) and was absolutely starving mid-class. I was perfectly happy before the class (didn’t even think about food) but food was all I could think of during class and I could not wait to get home (no emergency snacks were found in my purse… I looked!). By the time I got home, the idea of cooking my perfectly healthy bok choy dinner (which would probably take at least 40 minutes) just seemed completely unappealing. I wanted food. I wanted food now, and actually if I’m being honest with myself I wanted pizza!

So yes, I had pizza! Intuitive Eating says that in order to truly become an Intuitive Eater you have to stop with the concept of forbidden foods that inevitably cause guilt once consumed, and them lead to bingeing. This happens because the idea of something forbidden makes you crave it more so when you eventually break down, you not only eat that forbidden food, but eat it in really large quantities because you think you won’t have it ever again… or at least not any time soon. I’ve been pretty much thinking about Upper Crust since last Thursday (i.e. last binge night) and I wanted to have it but this time not overdo it, and not hate myself for eating it. I kept the toppings healthy (mushroom + artichoke hearts) and this was amazing! So incredibly satisfying. I stopped after every slice, evaluating whether I truly wanted another one, and I did (I clearly didn’t eat enough before dinner). I wanted all 4 (1/2 of the small pizza).  This is a small plate, btw.

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Pizza was followed by dessert. In retrospect I think I didn’t really need it. I’m still testing my limits, and what “eating what I want” really means. This is a 100 calorie coconut So Delicious ice “cream” mini sandwich. It was really creamy and very decadent and was the perfect ending to the meal, but again, I don’t think I ate it because I was hungry or even truly craved dessert. I think I ate it because it sounded like fun. Pushed me slightly over the edge fullness-wise. I’m still learning… 😕

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So there you have it. You may see extra junk food in the near future, but it’s all in the name of fixing my relationship with food. Noble goal, don’t you think? 😉 If you think you are truly an Intuitive Eater, how did you become one? Or was did this always come naturally to you?

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31 comments to Intuitive Eating – is it really achievable?

  • I find this so hard! I always find myself mentally counting calories- so basically all I do is go from calorie counting to calorie “guessing”!

  • Intuitive eating sounds so hard, but I think you with a lot of practice and tries, you’ll get there. I’m not truly an intuitive eater, but I do try to practice some of the points. It definitely didn’t come natural to me! Your eats look delicious, though :)

  • I just posted about this other day!!! I’m not not one… wish I was… but I track calories every day or I just eat and eat and eat like a bottomless little pit. :( haha I’m with you – hope my “normal weight” isn’t fat and I still classify days as good or bad. Eek!!

  • Hey there! I think I’m partially intuitive when it comes to eating… Whenever I get depressed is when it all goes downhill.. but from day to day I think just eating whatever you’re craving at the time definitely saves you a lot of calories in the long run. It seems if I don’t eat what my gut (lol) is telling me.. then I’ll just end up eating it later after I have my “healthy” meal. Hope this helps!! <3

  • I think it’s definitely achievable but its something you have to work at. I was definitely at my healthiest and happiest when eating intuitively but I kind of went in the other direction from being super obsessive to eating everything without taking the time to really think about whether I wanted it. Now I’m trying to get back to that intuitive place because it was the only time when I was able to maintain a happy weight while still feeling sane, satisfied and healthy. Starting to get back there though. Getting active again is definitely a start.

  • I am definitely not there yet. Don’t they make it sound so simple in the book!? Honestly, still I feel like I am balancing between bingeing and counting calories. It is so hard for me to find a middle ground.
    If you unearth the secret, please let me know!!

  • Becky

    I think that by thinking about it so much, it defeats the purpose of being intuitive. I know you’ve jsut started on this journey of “intuitive eating” but when you really think about what intuitive means-natural, with out thinking,-by analyzing you hunger levels, and trying to figure out what you want to eat, you really are defeating the purpose.

    If you’re hungry eat, and eat what you want. If you’re not, don’t. That is intuitive eating. Not analyzing every second of the day to determine if you really are hungry.

    • Deb

      I disagree. When your brain has learned (been wired by doing the same thing over and over) one way of being, it takes effort to undo that and learn new habits. So at first you may feel like you’re overanalyzing but grandually (at least for me) I find myself wanting to eat when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m satisfied… and satisfied is the real deal. It takes great effort for any new task to feel effortless. Remember learning to type? :)

  • I wish I had some words of wisdom for you but I’m new to this journey myself. I’ve started craving raw fruits and vegetables which is wonderful. I am enjoying the newness of it all. That first rush of excitement is exhilarating (sp). I look forward to following you on your journey. Best Wishes and Happy Bastille Day.

  • I’ve heard so many bloggers talk about that book and have been considering reading it but like you I feel like I would get knots in my stomach too! Intuitive Eating def does not come naturally for me. My mom on the other hand somehow has always done it and has always maintained the same exact weight, why didn’t get that gene? haha

  • It is really hard to find that balance & while I dont binge anymore (that took MANY years), I still follow diet rules. After living in the bodybuilding world for several years, it’s hard to break free of that. But mostly, I eat what I want & really try hard to not keep anything out of the house. That includes foods that might be “dangerous” for me. Say, like chocolate PB or nutella!!!

    It does get easier though! Just keep at it & know that each day you get through is a step in the right direction. :)

  • Elina

    Kate, that’s exactly what I realized I was doing. I think it just takes time to break the habit after calorie counting for years!

    Fittingbackin – did you read the IE book? They say that calorie counting is what causes the bottomless pit syndrom, because you inevitably deny yourself higher calorie dense foods so when you finally allow yourself to eat them, you eat them in access. Calorie counting is the only thing that’s ever helped me lose weight, but I guess I’m still not happy so maybe that’s a good reason to stop.

    Shannon, that’s great! I think removing the connection between food and emotions (i.e. eating when you’re depressed, not the idea of enjoying food) is really at the heart of it. I am definitely an emotional eater!! I eat when I’m happy (to make myself even happier) and definitely when I’m stressed out. I hope to stop this emotional rollercoaster soon, but I’ll try to be patient with myself. Very important!

    Kelly, isn’t exercise the best?! I feel like it really balances me. I guess I’m an Intuitive Exerciser (it’s part of my life and I don’t even think about whether to do it or not for the most part) … now I just need to become an Intuitive Eater and we’ll be good to go. :) Good luck on your journey! I think it helps that you’ve already been to that magical place of IE 😉

    Lara, yeah – they make it sound so simple… but we all know it’s not. Every commenter here so far has noted that they are not truly intuitive eaters. Interesting, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just the food blog reading demographic… I’ll let you in on the secret as soon as I find out what it is! 😆

    Becky, I really understand your point and it makes total sense, but as you note, I just started this journey. I’ve been dieting (or at least had a diet mentality) for the last 15 years, and calorie counted for the last 3. It’s hard to break the habit, and it’s hard to allow yourself to eat “naturally” as simple as that sounds. The idea of it is very exciting though, so I hope it becomes second nature soon.

    Johanna B, we can do this! 😀

    Lisa, sounds like we can all learn from your mom… and I think hear we all have that gene, we just need to unleash it :)

    Thank you, Heather! 😀

  • I wish I could be an intuitive eater. However, I have questions about whether I can truly do that, because my body seems to want to be at a higher weight, and if I eat intuitively – it drifts upwards. So, I have to monitor what go in.

    Truth be told, though – I am a bit of a numbers nerd, so I don’t mind tracking stuff.

  • sister inna

    hey i wonder if i am an intuitive eater… what do you think? ive never actually counted calories, but i definitely pay attention to what goes into my body (calories + ingredients)… like if i’m craving a brownie i won’t just grab the first brownie i come across, there will definitely be some thinking/ comparison “shopping” involved… and a lot of times i do talk myself out of it (is that a sign?).
    i would love to borrow the book once you’re done with it. i’m starting to feel (mainly b/c ppl are saying this to me now) like i’m tracking things too much, so maybe i can catch myself in time, and prevent myself from going the obsessive route?
    hmmm some food for thought here i guess :)

  • I think you can do it! I read that book and I think it makes sense, but if you’ve been on a “diet” for awhile I think it could be really scary.

  • The most work I’ve done with intuitive eating is trying to “eat until satisfied” on the WW CORE plan. This was a very VERY hard concept for me to get. Then I got lazy about listening to my body and ate larger portions and decided I needed my “math” again to get where I wanted to go.

    As it is now I try to eat what I want and try to make it fit into my calorie goals. I usually splurge a bit on the weekend so I never really feel deprived. One of the biggest things is that I let go of the “good/bad” mentality a long time ago though.

  • I think intuitive eating is awesome for those who can do it! I find that I’m too distracted by the size of the plate, people around me, etc. I really like the book Mindless Eating. Maybe it’s similar?

    Either way, best of luck! I think personal diet is all about learning!

  • I try to be an intuitive eater, but it’s very difficult. I think those who really want to be intuitive eaters often struggle with it since they’re focusing on food so much. Others, like my mother, who never think about food are naturally intuitive eaters b/c food’s just for sustinence.

  • wow, very tough indeed. sounds like it makes sense though… maybe i’ll have to check out the book! you CAN do it 😉

  • katie

    Love your blog–a recentish discovery–and apologies for lurking until now. :)

    Hmm, I don’t actually think intuitive eating is all that difficult on the one hand, BUT I think that my natural (intuitive eating) weight is higher than I’d like or is socially desirable. Not overweight, per se, but perhaps a BMI at the high end of normal range? I know I can maintain a weight at the lower end of the normal range, but this does involve quite a lot of exercise, thinking about food, calorie counting, food blog scoping, etc. Which is the better of the two options, do you think? I oscillate between them (my weight does, too), but never seem entirely happy in either state. I’m either podgy and feel badly dressed, or spending too much time and energy thinking about food. Of course, there are many women who are naturally/intuitively at the weight that I have to work at, and they make it look all too easy! On the other hand, I’m pretty confident that if I eat exactly what I like (might be three substantial and plain meals a day, or random snacks for a few weeks at a time when busy at work) I won’t become massive, just… not slim…

  • I am trying hard to do this intuitive eating thing too. Whenever I strictly plan out my meals, I find that if I somehow go ‘off’ the plan, all hell breaks loose (hello cookie jar, hello my mouth).

    What I’ve been trying is plugging in my calories half way through or towards the end of the day. I figure, I have a good idea about what’s healthy food, and what sort of food suits me best at a particular time of day. This way, if I feel like a chocolate bar, checking out my cal stats for that day so far make me realise it’s perfectly okay to have one.

    I know it’s not perfect, and I know it’s not 100% intuitive eating, but I’m finding it’s helping getting started on it.

    P.S. I have just discovered your, and a dozen other, wonderful food/fitness blogs. I’m constantly inspired by your awesome snacks and meals. Please keep it up :)

  • Elina

    Lori, honestly I didn’t mind counting either, but started wondering if that’s something that’s triggering my bingeing (on a subconscious level). That’s great that you found out your what your “normal weight” and now know that you want to be a bit lower with a little work! :)

    Innz, I think you are an intuitive eater a lot of the time, but you definitely restrict yourself in other instances. I still haven’t finished the book but my understanding is that you can still eat healthy (intuitive does not mean unhealthy) and try to make good choices but if you want something, and if you’re hungry, don’t try to convince yourself that that’s not the case. Your body is sending you clear messages that you should listen to. You can borrow the book when I’m done :)

    Melissa, I think getting over the “good and bad” mentality is biggest step! Congrats 😀

    Healthy Ashley, I haven’t heard of Mindless Eating. Sounds like a great read too :)

    Alison, I love food too much to treat it as just fuel. I think there is room to truly enjoy food and the experience of eating, and be intuitive. We’ll see how I do 😉

    Katie, I’m so glad you like the blog. I ramble a lot but hopefully some of you can relate to it 😀 That’s very interesting about your “natural weight.” I wonder if the standards of our society have demanded that we stay under our “natural weight” to be considered slim and beautiful. Hmm.

    Ally, that’s kind of what I was doing before. I think calorie counting is a wonderful tool for weight loss, and I agree – I always felt empowered when I KNEW that chocolate bar could still be part of my calorie range and I could still lose weight even after eating it. This IE is a new journey for me so we’ll see how it goes, but I still do believe in calorie counting for weight loss. I wonder if the IE book will make me a convert 😕 Thanks for reading the blog! You guys all inspire me too!!! :mrgreen:

  • Alexis

    IE means you eat to the ques of your body. Is your body asking for white flour, probably fake cheese and whatever that other stuff was on that flat slimy looking thing. IE is not about restricting any food but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it. You just have to know you can anytime you want to. That is where the I in intuitive comes in.
    You can’t run through this program or use it as a diet. A diet is exactly what it isn’t!. I suggest you use more resources than the book you have. IE takes about a year to learn and apply. If you don’t want to put in the time and give it the attention don’t do it, you will fail. And yes, more than likely you will gain some pounds. Most ppl do for the first few months. It’s a learning process so expect ups and downs. You are learning not eat when emotionally motivated and to know the difference. Also learn the difference between body needs and mouth wants. It’s a long process that takes 100%awareness.

    • Elina

      Thank you for your comment, Alexis. This post is nearly 2 years old so things have definitely changed to some extent and not to others (I would urge you to check out my more recent posts on diet free living. I don’t know what slimy looking thing you are referring to (pizza?) but I think intuitive eating means honoring your cravings and not labeling foods as good and bad. I actually think I did pretty well that day given that I listened to my body (did it need whole wheat crust vs. white crust? I don’t know). I know that at that moment my intuition (the “I” in intuitive) told me that that’s what I needed. I’m definitely also learning to distinguish between real hunger/needs and emotional hunger. That’s definitely a tough and long process. I’m doing a lot of (mental) work so I hope that I get there one day! :)

  • HH

    I’m going through CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for my ED right now and reading this book at the same time and it has changed my life. My ED?? A constant cycle of guilt/starve/binge. I had been dieting since I was 12 and I’m just about to turn 40 so I have a lot of practice to do.

    I’m finding that simply not eliminating foods or calling them “bad” or “good” is quite liberating!! I’ve been in therapy for a few months now and I can tell you that IE has made me happier, has made me a better Mother and Wife and has actually helped my marriage!

    No longer do I spend 80% of my day thinking about what to eat, how to eat, what not to eat, how much to exercise, etc. All this free time in my mind is filled with so many more important and fun things.

    I’m not black and white, good or bad anymore – I just am. I eat what I want, when I want it. Just taking back the power from food has changed my life.

    I know this was written awhile back but I hope your journey has and will continue to be a good one. :)

    • Elina

      Sounds like you made incredible progress in the past few months. Congrats! This post was written nearly 2 years ago but I’m still not completely “cured” or intutive to-date. With that said, I’ve made a lot of progress as well and took a lot of anxiety in connection with food away. That’s major, as I’m sure you know. Now I’m working on not using food in trigger situations. Just like you, I’ve been dealing with this for so long, it’s going to take time to establish new behavioral changes. Good luck in your recovery!! 😀

  • HH

    I would also like to mention that my therapist (a very well respected doctor in the ED field) HIGHLY recommends this book. It’s been fun reading each chapter and talking about it with her. I feel so lucky to have found my doctor and this book.

  • Holly

    Thanks Elina! Love your blog!

  • Fran

    I had a very difficult past with food. I had an eating disorder when I was young. I had spurts of eating intuitively, but then something would happen that caused me to start the vicious dieting cycle all over again. I read ‘Intuitive Eating’ a few years ago, and it literally changed my life. The exercises are important to make you aware of patterns and to help you break them. The need for them will diminish and disappear as you eat more intuitively. Every once in a while, I still get some of the old ‘I need to diet’ feelings back (especially because I am starting the whole menopause thing), but I just go back and read some particularly inspiring parts of ‘Intuitive Eating’ or something similar. I never weigh myself (except at the doctor’s office…and I have remained the same weight for years). It is so nice not to have my days filled with obsessive thought about food…I never thought it would happen. The interesting thing I noticed is that the times I was heaviest in my life were the times I was caught up in the dieting cycle. My spurts of intuitive eating were the times when I was healthiest. I wish you the best of luck on your intuitive eating journey…it can be a little scary to let go sometimes, but it is well worth it!

  • Elizabeth

    I just read the book too! I bought my “forbidden” sweet foods and feel like I have eaten them non stop for days. Yesterday, I actually threw some cookies in the garbage disposal…because I just wanted to eat them all day!! Its a journey for sure. It takes focus. I feel like I am at peace with all foods, but chocolate and any cookie or granola bar with chocolate!
    Thanks for sharing!

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