Sometimes intuitive eating gets translated as impulsive eating.
There's this idea that it all boils down to eat what you want, anytime you want. While with intuitive eating, you do have the permission to eat what you want, anytime you want, it's more than instinctively responding to cravings. The paradigm also helps you get back in touch with your body's cues to make conscious decisions around food.
Listening to your body in intuitive eating is more than paying attention to hunger, fullness, cravings and how food makes you feel. Those are all important, but we also need to listen to our brain. That might feel counter to intuitive eating, especially if you're used to your brain shouting a lot of dumb, diet-y things. But as long as our thoughts are stemming from a place of nourishment, not deprivation or weight control, your brain can help guide you to make food decisions that are in line with your needs, values, and also honor your health.
Here's a few examples of how I've listened to my brain to make food decisions recently:
- I came home from work on Wednesday and a glass of wine outside on the porch sounded perfect. But I also knew I had a wine tasting event the next day, a graduation party on Friday, and Rosewood Crawfish Fest on Saturday, so perhaps my liver could use a day off.
- When I made a jerk salmon sandwich earlier this week, I initially planned on using ciabatta bread, but when I thought about what I had planned for the week, realized it was a little skimpy on whole grains, so purchased a bag of whole grain buns instead.
- On Monday, starting at 11:30 I had to see a consult and teach a class at the recovery center where I contract, then immediately get back to my office to see a couple clients in a row. Since I knew I wouldn't have a break in there, I ate an early lunch around 11 when I wasn't feeling super hungry yet, and ate till I was slightly uncomfortably full to tide me over longer.
- I swapped chicken for tofu in a stir-fry because I try to reduce the amount of animal protein I eat when I can because I value the environment. I prefer chicken, but I also really love tofu too.
The difference between these decisions and restriction is that a.) it's not stemming from black and white thinking about food, b.) I'm still eating foods I enjoy, and c.) the goal isn't shrinking my body, it's fueling my body. Instead of thinking "AHHHH WHITE BREAD IS SO BAD FOR ME I CAN'T HAVE IT SO MUST EAT A GROSS WHOLE GRAIN ROLL INSTEAD," it was more like "hmm, this brand of whole grain rolls actually looks pretty good, and my body could use a few more whole grains this week."
And when I was "overeating" (which really wasn't overeating because it was exactly what I needed at the time), it was a conscious decision, not an attempt to numb emotions, eat a food I knew I wouldn't eat again or the result of going into a meal overly hungry.
In order to get to this place, I think you need to be in a place where all food is morally equivalent. So if you're early into intuitive eating and still in the "honeymoon" phase, it might be smart to honor your cravings first, because gentle nutrition might trigger diet mentality.
Remember, your brain is part of your body. As long as it's thinking independently of diet culture, it can be trusted.
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