Intuitive Eating is often discussed within the healthy living blog community, but what does it really mean?
Is it something to which we should all strive—or is it yet another slippery slope into the world of disordered eating habits?
In my opinion, eating intuitively is actually pretty simple—since it literally means eating without conscious reasoning or active thought.
First, it means eating when one is hungry.
Simple and straightforward in itself, but how many people do you know—including yourself—who live by rigid meal schedules?
I don’t mean to bend the rules of set meals (i.e. breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the morning/afternoon/evening snack), but if your stomach is growling at 11 AM because you refuse to eat before your 12:30 lunch schedule, then you’re not listening to your body.
Second, I believe it involves balance.
Ideally, every meal would contain perfect portions of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) as well as an abundance of vitamins and minerals, but in the real world, this isn’t always possible.
Eating intuitively may mean splurging on dessert-like French toast but having a vibrant salad for lunch or dinner.
It may mean gobbling down a protein bar at a busy work lunch but eating a satiating bowl of oatmeal before work and nutrient-rich stir-fry for dinner.
Though every meal isn’t “perfect,” it all balances in the end.
Third, eating intuitively means no deprivation.
Unless you’re vegan for ethical reasons, struggle with food allergies/intolerances, or take certain medications that have adverse side effects to particular foods, there’s no good reason to avoid certain food groups.
I know from experience that I feel awful when I eat fast food, so I tend to avoid it. Not because I’ve deemed it off-limits, per se (what I lack in Big Macs and French fries, I make up for in cupcakes and cookies), but because it causes me to feel fatigued. I don’t eat ice cream as frequently as I used to because I’ve noticed it causes digestive issues.
Fourth, and possibly most importantly for us bloggers, it means avoiding the comparison trap.
Though I’ve never personally suffered from an eating disorder, I know that having a competitive and comparative nature is often the impetus for such struggles.
Sometimes I’ve felt guilty about my over-indulgence of cookies, but beating myself up for it is a recipe for disaster. My body will tell me when it’s reached its sugar overload because I’ll lack energy and crave salads, so why worry if so-and-so hasn’t had refined sugar in a year?
I’ve been thinking about intuitive eating this week partly because my normally-insatiable appetite has been rather timid lately.
I don’t know if it’s the Bikram yoga (I was ravenous Sunday evening after class, but Monday night, I ate less than half my meal) or boredom with my meals (yesterday morning, I forced down my usual yogurt bowl), but unless it persists or I start to lose weight, I’m just going to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry.