For as long as I can remember, I have never had a healthy relationship with food. I’m a young female in her early 20’s—is it really that hard to believe? Regardless of stereotypical statistics, it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s outrageous that this is even a thing. People shouldn’t have a bad relationship with food; it’s a vital and necessary part of surviving.
Here is the thing: I never used to see food as vital or necessary. I struggled with eating from my junior high years all the way through college. Even to this day, I’m hit with thoughts of why I shouldn’t eat a certain thing or memories of how I lost ten pounds in five days. I can’t control them; nor can I ever stop them. I just have to deal with them. I’ve tried everything you could think of—from a no carb diet to an ABC fad diet where you only eat a certain amount of calories a day; the highest being a measly 800.
I was deep within the labyrinth of diets, weight, scales, fasting, binging and restricting for years. I can’t tell you how much I lost out on because I was too concerned with my body. I wouldn’t go out to eat because I didn’t know how many calories were in the food. I absolutely dreaded and detested taking pictures because of how I looked. I loved dessert, but would never have it; I didn’t feel “right” indulging in those types of food. I was barely 16 at this point. I was still a kid. But I wasn’t living like one.
It wasn’t until I reached my early 20’s, so yes, pretty recently, that I finally found solace with my body and food and eating. I was introduced to intuitive eating by people raving about it on a social media website. They claimed it help them overcome eating disorders and improved their relationship with food. Of course, I was instantly hooked. My mind turned on like a switch after years of trying new diet fads; this was essentially just another name to the list. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, well I might as well try it. It won’t hurt, right?’
Let me tell you, I am so, so incredibly happy that I tried it. In a tiny nutshell, it changed my life. I know, I know, a little cliché? A little over the top? But in all honesty, not at all. My relationship with food has never been better, and it’s all thanks to intuitive eating. I can’t even begin to thank this way of living enough. A main aspect of my problem with food was heavily restricting myself of it. I wouldn’t eat certain things, or at certain times of the day for fear of gaining weight. That mindset destroyed me. This new one saved me.
Intuitive eating. What exactly is it? You eat what your body wants. Sweets? Salty goodness? Yes and yes. It’s a way of living that doesn’t put restrictions on what you can eat—it allows you to build a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body. You learn how to distinguish between emotional and physical feelings that help you become your body’s best friend, nurturer and savior.
I have never been so conscientious of my body until now and what I put in it, because I care for it now. I never cared for it before; to me, my body was just a vile, big shell shielding who I really am. But I’ve come to realize it’s so much more than that. So much more.
If you’ve been where I am, or are even there right now, I urge you to give it a try. Don’t think too much into it, just do it. Here are a few guidelines that have helped me embrace this nature of living and really attain satisfaction from it.
1. It is not a diet. It may seem like it, but intuitive eating is not a diet. X out of the websites that claim “I lost 10 pounds in 5 days!” or “How to lose weight—fast!” because they’re all liars. It is severely unhealthy to lose that amount of weight in a measly five days, also very detrimental to your overall health. Instead, replace that mentality of losing weight in any amount of time with intuitive eating. You get to eat, you get to enjoy yourself, and more importantly, you get to have dessert. You get to live again without the burden of calories clouding up your mind.
2. Change your mindset. Don’t wake up with thoughts of what you can or cannot eat, how much weight you think you lost from the day before, or the amount of calories you’re allotted for that day. Stop over-obsessing with numbers, be it the amount in what you’re eating or the scale. They don’t matter; drop them like a bad habit (pun intended). It’s the only way to properly intuitive eat. Also, don’t think certain foods are bad. There’s no such thing as a “bad food”, it’s just a term society coined. Don’t look at food like it’s the enemy, look at it as fuel for your body. I can’t tell you enough, it’s okay to eat. Learn it. Love it. Do it. Trust me.
3. Make amends. With food, with yourself, with whatever/whoever. Don’t punish yourself for eating, pat yourself on the back for doing so. Don’t be so hard on yourself, either. Whether you ate “too much” or “too bad”, its okay. Nothing will happen. Move on from the moment. Don’t hold a grudge against yourself—learn from it. Figure out why you ate too much and go from there. It’s not a crime! Everyone overeats or eats bad sometimes, it’s completely okay.
4. Ditch the scale. It’s as simple as that. Intuitively eating isn’t about checking your weight seven times a day, it’s about making peace with food and eating. It won’t be found on the scale. You must realize that weight fluctuates a good 5-10 pounds in a given day. It’s crazy, I know. That’s why you can’t rely on the scale for accomplishments or applause. You have to rely on yourself.
5. Eat without regret or guilt. This whole lifestyle is about appreciating the food you eat. So eat what you like. Eat at 12am if you’re craving something sweet, but don’t wake up regretting it. There’s no reason to. Enjoy what you’re eating without feeling guilty or disgusted, if you like it, that’s honestly all that matters.
6. Don’t eliminate foods. Nothing is off-limits. The key is moderation. Instead of having a certain favorite three times a week—have it once or opt for a healthier choice if you’re concerned about it. It’s not healthy to deprive yourself of a certain type of food; it can lead to overeating, binging, and even restricting.
7. Focus on yourself. Don’t look to others for approval. Do this solely for yourself. It matters what you think. How you live. How you are. It’s your life that you live day after day, do what is best for you. Intuitive eating is a learning process that takes time and patience to fully succeed at. If you’re worrying about other people, it won’t do you any good. It’s all about you. Be all the selfish you can be. It’s what you deserve.
Intuitive eating can and will only help you. For the amount of research I have done on this—I’m a research freak—I have yet to see one negative thing about it. This just goes to show you how effective, important and life-saving it can be to someone; like it was for me.
Have you ever tried Intuitive Eating? How has it worked for you?
Also see: How to Stick to a Healthy Eating Plan
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling