Intuitive Eating 101
Getting healthy is a process. You can’t go from eating McDonald’s every day to drinking detox smoothies in one week. That is a recipe for disaster. The thousands of “gurus” out there, creating fad diets that unrealistic short-term results and long-term misery for their followers, aren’t helping. The Atkins Diet, is the perfect example. It became hugely successful because of the immediate results it produced, but it failed to teach people about how to properly use carbohydrates to their advantage. In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of intuitive eating.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuition, oftentimes, gets written off as a silly feeling in the medical community, but it is a very powerful tool!
Think about it for a second. Have you ever felt like you needed to eat a specific food and don’t know why? Your body is giving you clues to what it needs. Here are some common examples:
- Bananas after a workout. This powerful fruit is rich in potassium, which maintains a healthy fluid balance in your body, preventing dehydration (1). That is incredibly important, especially if you just completed an intense cardio workout and you’re dripping in sweat.
- Chocolate during your period. When women have their periods, the levels of a compound called prostaglandins skyrocket. They are connected to inflammation and pain (2). Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is rich in magnesium, which brings down inflammation and pain (3). So, eating chocolate is great for relieving period pain.
- Salty food cravings. Many doctors will tell you to minimize the amount of salt you eat. They are aware of the dangers of having too much in your system and have good intentions. What they don’t realize is that salt is a key electrolyte in a healthy body. When there is enough it adequately regulates important processes in the body such as good blood pressure and proper hydration (4).
My intuitive eating story
When I say that diet manuals are making you ignore your intuition, it’s coming from a place of concern/regret. I can’t tell you how many diet books I’ve read over the years, but there is one experience with the Atkin’s Diet that really sticks out in my mind. When I first read into the Atkin’s diet about 10 years ago; I went into it with an open mind, but I ended up confused about what to do.
After reading that I was expected to cut out ALL carbohydrates for the first two weeks, my reaction was to literally yell out “Bullshit!” Even though I had that visceral reaction, I decided to try to give the diet a try anyway, and boy did I fail MISERABLY!! Every two or three days, I’d have to say to myself, “Okay, you ate a banana when you shouldn’t have. You can start again with a clean slate tomorrow.” That’s no way to live!
What I do differently today
I don’t know about y’all, but every day I start out with the best intentions of eating as clean as I possibly can. However, there are days where I have a craving for a childhood favorite and I cave. Any time that happens, I immediately give myself a pass because I realize that I’m human and I cannot be perfect.
How can you improve your intuitive eating skills?
David Wolfe is a raw food advocate and encourages everyone to incorporate more raw foods into their menus. Doing so will help re-activate the intuition that we’ve lost over the years. Don’t freak out and think you must go 100% raw by the end of the month. Adopting more raw foods into your life is a journey. It becomes much easier when you sit back and think about how often you already eat raw.
Don’t think you do? Think about this: have you ever eaten a banana, an apple, an orange or a fruit salad… Congratulations! You’ve eaten raw!
Going fully raw is a shift you do not have to make overnight. In fact, that’s probably the WORST thing you could do! Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Remind yourself of that every time you worry about your attempts to get healthy. You didn’t develop your current eating habits overnight, so you CANNOT expect to change them overnight. Small steps done in three-week increments (that’s how I made my shift!) leads to permanent change.
How to notice and celebrate your improvements
I am in no way trying to force you into the fully raw lifestyle if it’s not something you’re comfortable with. I’m only giving you a frame of reference for how people honed their intuition in the past, including me. To be completely honest, even I don’t stick to the fully raw lifestyle. I have an occasional bowl of tortellini Alfredo because I love it! At the end of the day, you need to feel good about the kind of food you feed your body and the only way you can do that is to practice LISTENING to what it tells you.
Here’s a very simple exercise to help you sharpen that skill: one hour after you finish eating, take five minutes to check in with how you’re feeling. I know that when I indulge in too much pasta, my stomach feels like it was filled with a ton of bricks and I have very little energy.
Once you’ve noted how the meal made you feel, make ONE minor adjustment like using a smaller bowl to enjoy your pasta. Stick with that change for at least three weeks, and it’ll become a habit.
I’d love to know how this works out for y’all and if you have any tips that work for you. Remember that you WILL succeed in getting healthier!