How did you eat when you were a kid?
Did you worry about your weight, or attempt to count calories? Commonly, deciding how much to eat is second nature for children, guided by hunger and fullness cues. How much of a worry was food in your life? For me, what I was going to chef up in my toy kitchen for mom and dad often seemed much more urgent than the specifics of my own diet. A child will typical tell you when they are hungry, but when they aren’t hungry, they rarely come looking for food. More pressing things have their attention.
As we grow, things often change. We may turn to food for emotional comfort, eat mindlessly while we work, or eat to procrastinate from work. We may even become discontented with our weight or body shape, and this stress can cause us to eat more as well. Even if you don’t struggle with emotional eating problems, you may feel a lack of control over your diet. You may constantly say to yourself “I’ll do better tomorrow, I’ll eat healthier, less, etc.” but fail to ever be happy with your choices when you crawl into bed the next night.
Restriction of caloric intake or food type might help us reduce body fat, but a restrictive mindset doesn’t work with our body’s natural mechanisms for maintaining balance and contentment. Whether you are “cutting back,” “cracking down,” “dieting,” “going strict,” “cutting back on carbs” or “cutting out snacks”, restriction and control will never heal your relationship with food. They will not bring you peace, contentment, or sanity.
Gripping the wheel more tightly does not make it turn. Choosing to turn the wheel because you want to is what will ultimately move the car in the preferred direction. More willpower is not what you need to make the changes you desire. What you need is to choose what your body actually needs, and sometimes what it simply wants. Let time shape those desires into “gentle nutrition” that will give you the best health outcomes.
Sometimes, to be honest, you just need to let yourself eat the one thing you really want. Been craving a pop-tart for 3 days? Don’t feel like you have to eat oatmeal today. Get that pop tart, toast it up right, sit down in your favorite chair, and eat it on a nice plate. Allow yourself to enjoy every. single. bite. Own that decision. Restriction often leads to overindulgence, and overindulgence to guilt. Guilt results in feelings of inadequacy, and not trusting yourself, and more restriction, and more splurging. It’s an ugly cycle, and you might not even enjoy the splurges because you’re consumed with guilt.
I’m not talking about eating whatever you “want” 24/7 – self-control has its place in normal life and fulfillment. I’m talking about listening to your hunger and fullness cues, and eating reasonable portions of foods that are right for your body and make you happy.
Consuming without being consumed.
Instead of making a goal to eat flawlessly…. why not try to eat peacefully, with sanity, joyfully? I guarantee you’ll feel a lot more satisfied.
Think about the most normal eater you know. He or she might like food, but doesn’t seem to worry about it “after hours.” This is the friend who can keep a big jar of Christmas candy in her bedroom, and still have most of it there when Valentine’s Day rolls around. How are they thinking that some of us aren’t thinking? The thinking, not the behaviors, make the ultimate difference. Willpower is not the difference. Normal eaters are not trying to control themselves around food all the time. And that is precisely why they have success.
They consume, but aren’t consumed.
Sure, your body might sometimes lead you astray. Your eyes might be bigger than your stomach sometimes. Slow down before you beat yourself up – view your behaviors through a nonjudgmental lens, and you can find the self-acceptance to help you improve your choices.
If you’ve read this far, you should have an idea of what intuitive eating is all about. Finding this in college has made a huge difference in how I view myself and food. Obsession has gone down; acceptance has gone up. I give you below, as per “The Original Intuitive Eating Pros” at intuitiveeating.com, the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
- Reject the diet mentality, along with any feelings that you are a failure.
- Honor your hunger.
- Make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.
- Challenge the food police (the voice that dictates “good” and “bad” choices).
- Respect your fullness. Slow down, and assess your fullness as you eat.
- Discover the satisfaction factor. Seek to satisfy, not stuff.
- Honor your feelings without using food. Treat yourself, and develop life passions.
- Respect your body. Love and nurture it, because it’s amazing.
- Exercise to exercise, not to burn off food.
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition. It’s progress, not perfection, that counts.
If you’d like to read more about these, click here. I also recommend Michelle May’s mindful eating videos – GOLD. I’m promising you that living with this mindset is better than chocolate. Especially because… it allows me to eat some chocolate now and again.
You may never be 100% in tune with your body, but what if you were 80%? Give it a shot. I promise, being a little mindful is ALWAYS better than stuffing your face mindlessly. When you tune into your reasons for cravings, you often find that what you really need is not food – it’s a break, or a phone call, or a hug.
I’m also providing a link for you to a hunger and fullness scale – this was essential in my understanding of my food needs. I hope it helps you as well.