Intuitive Eating - is it intuitive?

Welcome to my site, and my very first blog post!

When I was working on setting up this site, I tried to be conscious of not making it sound too gimmicky.  "Want to lose weight, love your body, eat whatever you want, enjoy food and live a happier life?  Intuitive eating is the answer!"

There are so many messages like this floating around out there.  They bombard us on a daily basis, seeping into our subconscious, shaping and forming our thoughts, feelings, beliefs about food and weight.

I want to be clear: intuitive eating is not a gimmick, and I never intend to promote it as such.  It's not a quick fix, it doesn't produce instant happiness, and contrary to it's name, it can actually be a lot harder than you think.  It doesn't always come intuitively to us.

Worthwhile though?  Absolutely.  Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put in.  The things that produce lasting positive changes are those to which we devote our time, energy, patience, dedication and committment.

A personal example - those who know me well might consider me to be a bit of an anxious person.  This anxiety is always worse at night and when I'm tired.  Last night I was tolerating this low grade anxiety that tends to be present more often than not in the late evening, and searching for a distraction or method of self soothing.  I found myself in the pantry staring at the snacks - cookies, granola bars, tortilla chips.  

I did a quick check in: physically hungry?  Not at all.  Had just eaten dinner a couple hours earlier.  I wasn't full, but definitely wasn't hungry.  I was in the goldilocks zone.

I knew from experience that eating some cookies would take the edge off my anxiety very quickly.  I also knew from experience that as I am getting older, my body seems to be less forgiving in terms of overeating, and I suffer the consequences with uncomfortable GI side effects.  There was a time when eating cookies before bed would have been a no brainer.  Nowadays it usually means feeling uncomfortably full, heartburn and a poor, restless sleep.

While eating may have relieved the anxiety, it would have also disturbed the "feeling good" zone my body was resting in, which may have created more anxiety or at the very least some physical discomfort.  A good night's sleep is important to me as well, and so the push-pull between my tastebuds and my stomach came to an end and I opted to honour my body's comfort and search for another self-soothing method that didn't involve eating.

This small action is a example of two of the principles of IE : honouring your fullness, and honouring your feelings without using food.  There was a time in my life when, without a shadow of a doubt, I would have raided the pantry and eaten cookies by the handful.  Maybe not even tasting them.  Waking up the next morning feeling guilty, full, tired and foggy, and worrying about what would happen with my weight.

There was another time in my life when I would have walked away from the cookies because I "shouldn't" be eating so late at night because let's face it, this is how we put on weight, and how stupid of me to not know this by now and to keep buying them.  I would have grabbed an apple instead because this was better for me.  The next time I got groceries I would have avoided the cookie aisle.

These two actions, while seemingly very different, are one and the same.  Two extreme sides of the same coin.

Thankfully nowadays, I'm much more concerned with how my body feels rather than looks, and I try to take a less extreme, more balanced approach.  Last night this meant choosing to tolerate the anxiety knowing that it would pass with a good sleep, and today it means munching on cookies as part of my lunch to satisfy my craving for something sweet.  Best of both worlds.

So eating intuitively isn't radical, it isn't extreme, and it can even seem a little bit boring.  It isn't always clear to know what to do.  There aren't black and white, right or wrong answers.  It is based on trial and error and learning to listen to your body. On a night when I decided to eat a few cookies, I enjoyed them, and I also felt too full afterwards.  I didn't make the wrong choice, I didn't screw up.  I just gained some information that was valuable for me to apply at a later date.  

This approach to eating - more even keeled, inquisitive, rational - as opposed to critical, judgemental thinking that leads to reactive behaviour - continues to serve me well.  It's a set of skills that I continue to learn and practice.  'Intuitive' does not mean the same as 'easy', and while we are born with the ability to regulate our hunger and fullness, it doesn't mean that this is always easy to do and that life, needs, emotions won't get in the way.  What it means is learning a new way to think about eating, managing feelings, listening to your body's sometimes conflicting needs and deciding what the kindest course of action is.  All of these small individual actions add up to create a sense of wellbeing, confidence, solidly grounded self assurance with less inner conflict around food.

Is this what you are looking for?