“You can’t eat intuitively if you eat healthy!”

I recently received a comment from a reader that stirred some thoughts in my head about intuitive eating and healthy/clean eating and whether the two are one and the same or whether they cannot exist simultaneously at all.

It was the post where I discussed some dietary changes I am adopting namely limiting dairy (except for grass-fed organic butter and goat cheese) due to lactose sensitivity as well as limiting my consumption of gluten and (beginning to, well see how that goes) grains (with the exception of sprouted and soaked) due to the scientific research that links it to the myriad of health dangers to the body and the brain (have you heard about Grain Brain?). My reasons for this are health-related, as much preventative as it is treating current discomfort. I want to function at the highest capacity for my body and I want to feel good and be healthy at all times.

I’ve talked at length about intuitive eating on this blog after I gave up dieting a year ago and began a journey into intuitive eating. This journey lead me to make many shifts and discoveries about myself especially by beginning to lean more into the mental, emotional, and spiritual health rather than focusing on the superficial things like how I look and how much I weigh.

The number does not define you!

The fact that I gained weight during the process was bothersome at times since clothes don’t fit the way they used to (aka I had to buy new ones) but I am much less worried about it as I would have been when I was in the midst of my chronic dieting mentality. The truth is – I don’t care about my weight that much. Ever since I threw out my scale I haven’t bought a new one so I only really step on one maybe once per month or two when I’m at my parents house, out of curiosity. I’ve learned to never associate judgment or contempt or happiness with the number, however. The number does not define you! (tweet this)

I am not in tears and shambles because I am at my highest weight. Who cares. And if you do, then you are most obviously not a friend I want to keep. Get your negative judgmental ass out of here. And lighten up.

Dieting and your weight/looks is not what life is all about. I’m happy to say that the journey of intuitive eating has led me to find a greater sense of peace with myself as well as realizing the things that truly are important that I used to always squash away below the surface, hiding underneath the symptom of incessant dieting and exercising regimens.

Let’s go back to intuitive eating. What is intuitive eating? I think it would help if we defined intuitive eating:

“Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.”  (source)

Now, let me get into the core of what I’m trying to talk about in this article – well, it seems like there is a certain perception around IE (intuitive eating) that it not necessarily correct. It seems like some people think that when a person practices IE they eat whatever the heck they want, whatever comes their way at all times. It often becomes synonymous with gluttony and using it as an excuse to eat emotionally and without a care in the world – “Office is having birthday cake, bring it! Pizza for dinner during the game, do it! Chocolate at night because I’m just used to doing it and it makes me feel good.”

Now before I go on a tangent, let me just say there is nothing wrong with eating those things, even in that type of manner. I was there in the beginning of intuitive eating as well. I ate anything I wanted to and/or craved emotionally. Any thought I had about food, I’d eat it. I ate emotionally frequently and the fact that I had extreme sugar cravings certainly didn’t help. The weight kept going up.

I knew I was following a process of neutralizing food and not seeing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ anymore and that’s why I trusted the process and ate whatever I wanted without judgment, just like you’re meant to.

I think it’s hard to be a true intuitive eater if you have a sugar addiction or any nutritional imbalance because, while your body might think it wants something (sugar), it does not do it in a healthy way. Don’t get me wrong – I love my sugar. However, it wasn’t until I started actually getting digestive issues from all the overeating that I realized that something was not right. There’s more to it than just “eating what I want” and that’s where I got to a point of realizing I need to pay more attention to my health and my body in terms of how it feels and how it affects me.

This is a natural thing that is part of intuitive eating but many people seem to forget that. People seem to think that IE is just about eating whatever the heck you want without feeling guilty forever. And that IS what it is. But IE is also all about taking note of your body and mind at any given point in time. It is focused on listening to your body and seeing how your body reacts to different foods. It is focused on making decisions based on what you learn about what your body likes and dislikes that will influence your eating habits in the future.

My digestive issues were not overwhelming but they were apparent enough for me to want to take charge of my health and my body. Intuitive eating is not about eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner simply because it makes you feel good and it numbs your pain. Intuitive eating is about listening to how your body feels before, during and AFTER you have eaten a bowl of ice cream and taking note of that feeling, more than just the sugar high you get at first.

Your body is always talking to you, you just have to stop and listen.

Paying attention and taking note of how my body was reacting to certain foods made it clear to me just how much my body was talking to me. It was telling me things I was too busy to notice. I was on a sugar high half the time and therefore blind to what my body was trying to tell me. Until it go to a point where it HAD to be heard and so it started giving me GI issues. That’s when I finally stopped and listened. I wish I had listened earlier but I am glad I am listening now. Now that I KNOW the annoyance and the difficulties you could face if you ignore your true (sometimes quiet) body signals, I want to avoid those feelings in the future.

So it really annoyed me when someone said to me:

“So this is a blog about intuitive eating? Because honestly, your whole post is about restriction, restriction, restriction and sounds very ED-ish.”

This offended me because clearly the person did not read the post and what my reasoning for the dietary changes was based on. It also offended me that they would put me back in the ED bucket where I know exactly how it is like over there and there is nothing I am doing that has anything to do with how I look, how much weight I want to lose, etc. The whole idea behind MY concept of intuitive eating is eating what you truly want and your body desires. 

This means that eventually your body might tell you that, “Hey – you actually don’t do very well with lactose and gluten, and heavy carbs put you in a fog, and don’t even get me started on sugar- you are addicted and it rules you life. You cannot go without sugar for even a day and that’s a problem because it is making your tired, sleepy, uninspired, and frankly – it’s making you lazy.”

Is there anything wrong with me listening to my body? Even if it tells me that I should eat HEALTHY nutrition-rich foods and focus on eating REAL and WHOLE FOODS based on traditional nutritional practices? Is there anything wrong with me wanting to be my very best so that I don’t have to feel tired, lazy, and uninspired?

Is there?

what-is-balance

And on a side note, yes – if you crave that chocolate cake and you really want it. Go for it. There’s nothing wrong with that. I go for it too although not as much as I did then. I now have physical reminders that tell me why I shouldn’t indulge in conventional processed foods but there’s nothing wrong with a little processed food action once in a while. The beauty of becoming more in tune with your own personal signals is that you can now ask yourself, is the prolonged discomfort worth the temporary high and taste of white flour and sugar?

But still, life in balance is a realistic life. 

But what that balance looks like for YOU is different than it looks like for me or your neighbor or another blogger down the street. We are all different.

I think it’s time we realize that it’s okay to eat how WE want to eat and not follow some fad. It’s okay to eat what our body tells us to eat. It’s ALSO okay to indulge in foods if we really want them. Food is nourishment AND it is pleasure AND it is fuel. It’s all of those things. It’d be silly to think of food as just one of those things because that’s not true! And that’s the whole concept of balance once again. We use it for different things but the main thing is that we have to be CONSCIOUS and aware of how we are using food at any given point in time.

That’s my take on intuitive eating.

What’s yours?

Note: If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, you can’t use digestive issues to ONLY eat clean and restrictively. You MUST go through the initial “eat whatever you want” phase that comes with intuitive eating because that’s what’s the main point of recovery of dieting mentality and ED, so you cannot just skip through that phase. I encourage you to read the comments below and learn more about what others think about this as well.

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Comments

  1. says

    I wrote a post about my take on eating called the “not Shit Diet” and then a week or so later Calee did a guest post responding from an IE perspective. She opened my eyes up a lot to what it really means. For me, the bottom line is that you have to find what works for YOU. No two people are the same, and you shouldn’t judge those who’ve found a different way of eating or looking at diet. This judgement we see so much of is ridiculous and – IMHO – comes from places of insecurity and/or ignorance.

    Cheers to you for finding your own path and feeling healthy! :)
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Sriracha Tours + Accidentally Gluten-Free WIAWMy Profile

    • says

      I take the digestive issues I got as a blessing too. It’s lead me take hold of my health and become a better person inside AND out so I can always be on my A game. A lot of people don’t have these physical symptoms of eating crap all the time until much later (and sometimes never) and hey, if it works for them that works for them. Who am I to judge? But I think you just have to know WHAT makes you feel like you are at your full potential and capacity at any given point in time.

  2. says

    according to you in the path that leads to eating healthy how is important the help of other people? do you think is an important thing? thank you

    • says

      I’m sure help of other people would be helpful in achieving better health, however I did not have much support and have done pretty much everything on my own – reading a lot of blogs, doing online programs. I only recently hired a health coach but before that, it was all me. It’s possible either way!

    • says

      I’m so glad that you read this then with an open mind and that I changed your view on IE! I definitely think it’s possible AND GREAT to do IE and honor your intolerances and what works for your body. It’s the only way to live, I Think – that’s long term, realistic, and happy.

    • says

      Absolutely, that’s why there’s not one clear cut “diet or eating plan” and those that claim to work for everyone are simply not true – because we ARE all different and that’s the beauty in it. It might take time to learn what works but that’s also what makes it a journey. Thanks so much for reading, Annette! LOVE your blog!

  3. says

    I admit to not knowing a whole lot about the culture of this trend called INTUITIVE EATING, but to me the phrase ‘Intuitive Eating’ means that one is eating when one is physically hungry. And not eating when one is not physically hungry.

    I cannot imagine that eating for any other reason is ‘intuitive’.

    Our bodies are all different and all work differently and require different combinations of nutrients for optimal health and wellness. My body is very clear about telling me if I have eaten something that doesn’t work well with my own chemistry and systems.
    Elle recently posted…My Latest Obsession – North Coast Naturals Organic Hemp Protein PowderMy Profile

    • says

      I think it’s really all about trusting the process. I have allowed myself too much too. And as I said, it lasted for a while too. I gained weight. But what you LEARN from this, and you LOSE from this (the dieting mentality and the perception of foods as bad or good) is just irreplaceable and totally worth it. Then, everything else starts to fall into place.

  4. says

    What a great post! I also started this mindset about 7 years ago and it has served me well, eliminating all the stressing about what I was eating. Too much/too little/too many carbs/not enough fruit, etc. I also (as of two weeks ago) got some discouraging food sensitivity test results that mean I am so on the digestive mend, and am doing my best to eliminate diary/gluten/yeast-y things. I definitely get flack for how I mind my food, but at the end of the day, it’s what makes me feel good and what makes me feel happy.
    Chrissy recently posted…Monday Musings: Romance, Sochi and AdventureMy Profile

  5. says

    THIS is how to write a kick ass post. Informative, passionate and to the point. Loved every bit of it as well as share the same thoughts. Being someone who has recovered from an ED (well, still is I guess) the idea of giving up dieting was terrifying, but now the word gives me a headache. I can’t stand it. I hate that so many people think they have to “diet” to be healthy or lose weight. The key to being healthy to me is really all about learning to listen to our bodies and it’s triggers and cues.
    Kat recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #9My Profile

  6. says

    Very thoughtful and articulate. I have been trying to put this in words for a long time and just couldn’t articulate as well as you did! I certainly agree that you can’t do both intuitive eating and healthy eating, but I do think you can re-train, to some degree, your intuition so that you can eat better by instinct. But…easier said than done! Great post!

    • says

      Sorry, it seems like my message didn’t go across as I meant. The title is in quotations because it is not what I believe, it is a shortened version of what the person has accused me of. I do believe you can eat intuitively AND eat clean, and I am a living proof of that.

  7. says

    THANK YOU. This articulates much of what I’ve been thinking lately – except for me it’s in ED recovery sense. You don’t not have to just eat junk ALL THE TIME just because you use to have an eating disorder!! Your body can still tell you it feels best eating whole foods!

    • says

      Exactly! You’ll start noticing that you WANT to eat healthier foods and you feel great eating those types of foods and therefore start craving those healthy nutritious foods in return. Nothing wrong with indulging either, but I do think it’s just important to honor what the body wants. IF you’re hungry, eat. If you’re hungry for pizza but you know it will make your body (not even talking about your mind, there is no judgment with food) feel crappy afterward.. re-evaluate if it’s worth it and if you really DO want pizza, have it. Or just have a grain-free pizza instead if you know that’s an option that won’t make your body/tummy feel upset with you.

  8. says

    You likely received those responses as many people within the healthy living community are currently struggling with/recovering from some form of an ED. For those in recovery (who may read your blog), you DO need to go through the whole ‘eat whatever you crave’ phase, before you can trust yourself enough to jump into this. I totally believe that you’re doing this for absolutely the right reasons, but just for other’s, who may use this as an excuse to restrict, it may give them license to do just that. Obviously, reader responsibility, yadda yadda, but just thinking you may want to have a little reminder, “If you’re recovering from an ED, you can’t use digestive/fatigue issues to ONLY eat clean and restrictively.” Just putting this out there, as this is what I did for two years recovering from anorexia, and claimed I was “recovered because I was eating.” I was hyper-focused on digestion and any form of lethargy after eating, and I guess this is exactly where that elusive BALANCE comes in. Again– your intentions are genuine and for your health. Just thinking of other younger/new to recovery readers you may have.

  9. says

    I loved this post! I think the perspective is key. Many people with EDs use food sensitivities as a way to restrict, but you can also listen to your body to identify the foods that cause negative health symptoms (there is real research on food sensitivities). At first, intuitive eating may involve eating less healthy foods that they were restricting, but with time, most people naturally lean to whole foods because they feel better eating that way. Even though most of my diet is full of nutrient-rich whole foods, I still include other foods like chocolate, etc. when I want to.

  10. says

    I love your take on intuitive eating and think it’s sounds very practical and balanced! I know that everyone has their own dietary needs and have to figure out what works/doesn’t work for them. I love that you’re just trying to eat as best as you can for your body, but allow for some indulges now and again.

  11. says

    I love that you have thrown out your scale. I have never owned own and live intuitively on how I feel and what I need to do. I am always listening to my body. Thank you for such an honest and open post.

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