A question I get asked a lot is ‘how can I get started with intuitive eating today?’.
If you’ve looked into intuitive eating at all you’ll almost certainly know that there are 10 principles of intuitive eating. If you haven’t started intuitive eating yet, that can feel like a lot to take in and quite overwhelming to put into practice just to get started with intuitive eating.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can just introduce different aspects over time, as you start to understand it more.
Let me give you a few ways in which you can do that, so that you can get yourself off that dieting hamster wheel.
By the way, if you’d like to listen to this one as a podcast episode, you can do that here…
1. Start noticing diet culture around you
The majority of the reasons why we continue to think we need to diet & lose weight are from external sources.
It’s the social media posts that you see every day. I’ll come back to this a little later.
It’s the TV shows and films that you watch. All the characters that you are led to believe are fat, when they’re not (I did a blog post on that if you’d like some examples). It’s the way they cast typically idealistically beautiful people for parts, unless it suits the script to make someone seem less intelligent, less attractive, lazy etc, and then they will cast the ‘normal’ people.
It’s the magazines that you read and their relentless criticising of celebs for gaining weight, being grey, not having botox, not dressing a certain way. Or the opposite. Having too much work done, too much makeup, too much tan. Celebs have to have this middle ground look of perfection.
And the praise they get when they look a certain way, a way that pleases the media, a way that bags them the designer outfits, the sexy husband, the film roles…
It all upholds these totally unreasonable beauty standards that we’re constantly trying to achieve, and make us think we’re not good enough.
It’s the clothes shops in town, with their limited sizing, their skinny mannequins, and their tiny plus size departments (that’s ironic isn’t it!). ‘You can order the larger size’s online’ is often the response.
It’s the extra money you have to pay for the bigger sizes. It’s the way they don’t make the same styles & patterns for bigger bodies.
What about the conversations you hear around you? Family, friends, colleagues. Using words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to describe their eating habits. Using ‘naughty’ & ‘healthy’ to describe food. Talking about how much weight they need to lose. Talking about their latest diet. Talking about slimming down for an event.
It’s in advertising. TV, social media, magazines, billboards. Sex sells. Beauty sells. Thin sells. Glamour sells. Living the dream isn’t being fat, not wearing makeup, and wearing your comfy clothes, according to marketing companies and advertisers. Have a look at the next ads you come across and tell me I’m wrong.
These are just some examples, but look at the world around you and you’ll see that you’re constantly being fed messages about how you need to change.
Once you can see this, and start to really notice it, you’ll be able to understand why you might be feeling less than good enough, and start giving yourself a little more compassion & kindness.
2. Start noticing your hunger and fullness
Hunger & fullness will ultimately help you to regulate the food that you eat.
Hunger & fullness are the body’s way of saying ‘I need to eat’ or ‘I’ve had enough food’, but if you have been dieting for a long time you may not know what hunger and fullness feels like for you anymore. This is because dieting takes away the reliance on those signals.
Diets tell you what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and you often don’t have to give much consideration to how your body feels. In fact, often diets tell us that we should ignore hunger and eat at certain times only, or that hunger means you’re reducing calories for example, and that it is to be expected, or is normal.
But it’s not normal. Normal is recognising when your body needs fuel and is asking you to eat. Normal is knowing that you have had enough food and allowing yourself to stop before you become uncomfortably full, because you know you can eat again when you are ready.
So start tuning into those hunger & fullness signals that your body is giving you. This will be individual to you, but here are some ideas of how your body might be showing you:
- Stomach rumbling
- stomach discomfort
- feeling Shakey
- feeling nauseous
- grumpy or irritable
- Lack of focus
- Low energy levels or tiredness
Start thinking about the physical feelings that you are experiencing and how they relate to how long it has been since you have eaten. Also think about how food makes you feel after eating, and whether your physical feelings and mental focus change according to what you are eating.
3. Make time to eat
What does life look like in your house around mealtimes generally?
Do you have set meal times each day or does everyone eat as and when they can? Maybe you make sure everyone else is fed at certain times, but you fit your eating in around that?
Finding quality time to eat is so important if you want to be an intuitive eater. Intuitive eating is all about focussing on your eating habits, how the food makes you feel, how it satisfies you, your thoughts around food. So how can you be that intuitive eater if you are not giving yourself the time and space to do that?
Life is busy, I do get that, but at least once a day you must find the time to eat with intention. Whether that’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just snacks, start finding the time at least once a day to sit and eat, without distraction, without multitasking.
It really will help you to slow down and not rush the food without even realising you have eaten. This trait can contribute to feeling that lack of control or and food, feeling nice you’re bingeing, or just grabbing the easiest option rather than consciously preparing your food. So prioritising time to eat can take away a lot of that.
4. Eat mindfully
You’ve made the time to eat, fantastic! But are you focussing on what you are eating, or are you still mindlessly eating?
It’s so easy to let distractions take our focus. The kids’ timetable of after school clubs, what needs doing around the house, pressures at work, or simply having the TV on. All of these things fit a space in our mind and take away from us listening to our inner intuitive eater.
Try to minimise the distractions around you when you are eating. Then you can pay attention to the food. Think about some of these questions:
- How hungry are you when you start eating?
- What food do you really want to eat?
- What will satisfy you, physically & emotionally?
- Do you want hot or cold, sweet or savory, crunchy or soft for example?
- Are you enjoying the food as much as you thought you would?
- Is your hunger reducing & you’re starting to feel satisfied, or even full?
- Are you getting ready to stop eating?
- Are you eating slowly & enjoying it, or are you rushing & not even tasting it?
There is so much you can explore about your eating if you can just take the focus of other things and on to the meal. And yes, this includes the scrolling. Put your phone away for a while.
5. Start buying food you like
I know that as a dieter there is often a list of foods that you buy regularly, and probably a list of safe meals that you make. The go-to list of recipes that you know will keep you on plan without too much thought.
Then there is the ‘absolutely not’ list. The foods at the supermarket that you will NEVER buy. The greek yoghurt, the lovely cheeses, the real butter, the crisps, cakes & chocolate, the…. avocado!!
But as an intuitive eater all foods have a place in your diet. You have unconditional permission to eat all foods. The thought of introducing these foods can be scary though. How will you ever trust yourself to have them in the house? You’ll just eat them all!
You won’t! Ok, you might do it a little at the start, but once your mind & your body know that this food is accessible now, and not restricted, the drive to eat it all the time goes away.
So start introducing the foods you will really enjoy back into your shopping list. Start with the foods that don’t feel too scary first, the foods that diets stopped you having but you’d have really liked, but things that you won’t go mad over. Maybe the full fat mayo rather than the fat free version, or the nice yoghurts over the watery, sugar free, fat free, joy free versions.
You can build up to the chocolate gateau, whole tubs of ice cream, and multi packs of crisps later, when you feel more comfortable trying them.
6. Social media cleanse
And finally, last but not least, please please please take some time to clean out your social media feeds.
I know we’ve already looked at where diet culture is all around us, but this one really is important. We spend so much time on social media – a whopping 151 minutes a day on average (check out more social media fun stats here).
It heavily affects our thinking and behaviours. When you open the app what do you see? Positivity, body confidence, diversity of people, enjoyment of bodies. or do you see beauty ideals, people who you are constantly comparing yourself to, people who make you feel that you’re not good enough, negativity, and diet ads?
These apps show you more of what they think you are interested in, so tell it what you want to see. Unfollow (or at the very least, mute) accounts that negatively affect you.
This includes friends & family. Your mental and physical health are more important than Auntie Jo being upset that you haven’t liked her latest post about her loss on her diet this week.
Follow people who reinforce what you are trying to become. The accounts that make you feel secure in yourself, body positive, and that boost your happiness & good mental health.
Report the ads that you see that don’t support your journey. Social media has to be a safe space for you so while you’re sitting watching TV this evening why not go through your accounts and start that cleanse.
You’ll find all my links here. I’d love to contribute to the good stuff you see in your feeds.
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