Re-Becoming an Intuitive Eater

When you were born, you were an intuitive eater.

Your body knew when it was hungry, and when it had eaten enough. But our well meaning parents, had other ideas. They had meal times, and required you to eat then, even if you weren’t hungry. Or you might have heard, “No snacks.  You won’t eat your dinner.” But you were hungry THEN. Most likely, your intuitive eating signals fell by the wayside. Our society and it’s fixation on time makes it difficult to grow up as an intuitive eater.

Are you willing to trust yourself to listen to your body’s signals when it’s had enough to eat? If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss them. Intuitive eating requires us to focus inward, instead of multitasking, watching TV, reading a magazine, eating at your desk, or having a political discussion during dinner. Your body gives you cues when it’s hungry, when it doesn’t like something you’re feeding it, and when you’ve had enough to eat. That’s ‘enough to eat’ by your body’s measurements—not by your mind’s. Pause in the middle of a meal, and observe how the food tastes. It’s usually the first few bites that taste amazing, and then less so as you continue to eat. The change in taste is a sign that you’ve had enough. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll continue to eat, not noticing the fact that you’re not really tasting it anymore,  hoping it will start to taste that way again, or you may even notice that the taste is now unpleasant.

To become an intuitive eater you have to honor your hunger, meaning your biological hunger and fullness. This means paying attention to your body’s cues of satiety, and stopping when you’re comfortably full instead of feeling stuffed. Have you ever been eating and all of a sudden you feel uncomfortably full? You missed the signals that you were feeling comfortable. You weren’t tuned in to your body. Can you identify the feeling of ‘just enough’? I bet you can identify the feeling of ‘stuffed’ after Thanksgiving dinner.

Your eating can be hijacked by the other voices of hunger, such as taste hunger or emotional hunger. Taste hunger may arise when something just sounds good, or because food plays an important role in our celebrations. Say you’re at a birthday party, and the candles have just been blown out. The cake is cut and passed around. You take a piece to be involved in the celebration. If you’re an intuitive eater, you don’t feel guilty for participating. You know this won’t blow your eating for the day. Emotional hunger stems from feelings of anger, loneliness, boredom, or sadness. Stop and ask yourself why you want to eat. You eat for comfort, for distraction, or for numbing out. You may eat because food can be connected to a feeling of being loved. If your parents could only show love through food, why wouldn’t you want to eat? Of course you want to feel loved. Now that you’re an adult you need to find new ways to nurture yourself that doesn’t involve food.

Intuitive eating asks that you respect your body. You won’t be able to make peace with food or your body if you continue to disrespect it. When you criticize yourself, has it made you feel better? Of course not. Focusing on your body in negative ways is not helpful. Find something positive to appreciate in your body. Respecting your body means taking care of it in a loving way. It means treating it with dignity. Be sure your body is comfortable, and stop body-bashing. Don’t engage in ‘fat talk’. Speak to your body as you would speak to your best friend— because your body IS your best friend. It’s going to be with you all your life! It’s waiting for you to show it some love.  Now.  Do it now.

Becoming an intuitive eater is a process. It’s learning to eat all over again. Start paying attention to your body, and start loving it. It’s been waiting for you.