The classic definition of “Intuitive Eating” is “eat when hungry, stop when full, and eat what your body wants.” The general idea is to relinquish the external controls of traditional diets (which generally encourage us to rebel deep into a pan of brownie batter, if not anything else that isn’t nailed down), and start listening to our bodies for guidance.
The place where I find my intuitive eating clients struggling to put this into practice, however, is when they start to approach intuitive eating with the same black-and-white thinking with which they've previously approached conventional diets. They go on what I like to call the “Hunger and Fullness Diet.”
There will be times when we have to make decisions about food that aren’t 100% in line with what our bodies are telling us to do, but which are also totally valid. Some level of flexibility, even around hunger and fullness, is required for any kind of sustainable change in eating behavior.
For example, you have a packed schedule until lunch time, and although you’re not super hungry when you wake up (i.e. on a “free day” you would wait to eat), you may consider having a light breakfast so that you don’t find yourself starving in the middle of an important meeting.
Or when you have dinner plans with friends but aren’t quite hungry when dinner time rolls around, it’s ok to participate in the very legitimate ritual of social mealtimes, even if you’re not super hungry. The goal is simply to do the best you can by both your body and your situation at any given time (i.e. just because you’re out to dinner with friends doesn’t mean you have to order steak frites and a hot fudge sundae when you’re not even hungry for it).
These situations, or what I call the “gray zone” of intuitive eating, remind us to do one critical thing that we so often forget...
Put the INTUITION back into Intuitive Eating. Your intuition around food will be guided by physical hunger and fullness cues, but will also be guided by your environment, your rational thinking brain, and something even deeper than that: an inner knowing of what is right in any given situation when we get quiet and tap into it.
Our intuition is a powerful tool in life and with food. We can practice using it in all situations. And the more we practice using our intuition in life, the easier it is to follow with food and vice versa.
For more strategies on retraining your brain around food, download my guide “How To Not Eat Chocolate Cake” or visit www.isabelfoxenduke.com. Let’s finally drop the diet wars and make peace with food once and for all.