Written by Sally O’Neil | Thursday, 25 July 2019
Have you felt guilty for demolishing the pantry in another binge? Angry with yourself for overeating yet again? Ever question WHY you just can’t control yourself around food?
If you can relate to this, intuitive eating could be the resolve for you.
Picture this: You open that packet of cookies and promise yourself ‘just one’, but it turns into the whole packet and you’re left feeling miserable and guilty. You follow it up the next day with a gym session and avoiding high calorie food because you're ‘trying to be good’. A few days later, it all falls apart again and you’re back into another set of cookies / chocolate / sweets / crisps (delete as appropriate). You are NOT alone.
Hitting the gym hard and eating only a small chicken salad the next day might be one of your biggest mistakes… and it’s what keeps many people stuck in the overeating cycle.
After years of restrictive eating, a stint with orthorexia and then binging to regain the weight, I have more than enough experience in emotionally-driven eating. After much experimenting, different diets and psychology appointments, I have FINALLY come to a happy balance with ‘intuitive eating’. It sounds complex, or some sort of new fad diet, but it is in fact quite the opposite. Listening to your natural appetite and hunger signals to determine when and how much you eat has been a COMPLETE game changer for me, and gifted me with complete food freedom. I can finally trust myself around a packet of cookies.
Thanks to my Nutritional Medicine Studies at Endeavour College, I’ve learnt to understand the body systems at play.
Your brain and stomach are in constant communication with one another. A very smart section of your brain called the hypothalamus receives chemical messages from your gut letting you know when you are hungry or when you are satiated. Remember as a child you only ate when you felt like it? Chances are if you were out playing, you probably forgot all about it. As adults, however, we’ve become conditioned to eat at certain times (12:30 pm lunch break, anyone?) and gained emotional connections to food, thanks to cake on birthdays, ice-cream tubs after a breakup, and turkey at Christmas! We’ve fallen out of the habit of actually LISTENING to our body signals telling us what is wants, and when, based on our natural appetite. When you tune into your hunger and eat appropriately, your body will instinctively let you know when it is time to stop. No more fear about eating the whole packet of cookies.
I eat when I’m hungry, to a point of comfortable fullness. I rarely overeat. I don’t punish myself with exercise. I don’t starve myself to ‘make up for it’. I don’t feel guilty or superior around food. I do not eat at the same time every day.
Some mornings that may mean I skip breakfast, or eat enough toast and avocado to feed a small village. When you learn to respond to signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite, your body will be guiding you to make healthy, enjoyable choices. No more counting calories or obsessing about food.
Like the sounds of that? It's time we gave power BACK to our intuition.
Try it every time you go to eat something for a week, and see what you learn about yourself. The results can be quite amazing!
Firstly, don’t forget to ask yourself if there’s something else going on:
Once you’ve determined you are in fact wanting food, use this handy 3-step tool to suss out when is a good time to eat.
Rate your hunger level on a scale of 1-10.
Eat when you reach 7 on the scale.
Stop when you reach 3. Remember it takes around 20 minutes for your body to realise it’s full, so take time to eating mindfully and savour your food.
When you’ve practised using this technique a number of times, it begins to become second nature (aka. INTUITIVE). Welcome to the club!!
It takes a little practice, but when you get the hang of it, your body will find its natural set point (aka. Homeostasis) - which is exactly where it loves to be. It’s where you thrive, feel nourished, and have energy in abundance. BRING IT ON.