Intuitive Eating in Difficult Times

To change the way you eat in the future,Do you ever feel like your intuitive eating practice gets derailed when life gets hard?  Take heart.  This is normal.  It doesn’t mean that you’re bad at intuitive eating or that you’re not making any progress.

The most important thing to remember during difficult times is self-compassion.  Lay aside any judgments you have about yourself or your choices.  Being hard on yourself won’t fix anything, or inspire you to do better in the future.

Holding yourself with kindness is the best way to move forward.  I know it seems counterintuitive:  If you accept yourself just as you are, why would you change?  But think of it this way:

  • If you could have done things any differently, you would have.  At any given moment, you are making the best choice that you are capable of.
  • In order to be motivated to practice self-care, you need to see yourself as a person worth taking care of, just as you are today.

So let’s say you have something difficult happening in your life.  Maybe you have a loved one who is sick or dying.  Maybe there was a loss of a job, or a significant relationship.  Maybe your living situation has become unstable.  Whatever it is, something is weighing on your heart.

You find yourself slipping into old eating patterns.  Maybe you’re restricting, or binging, or ignoring your body.  Maybe you’re not trying to ignore your body but it’s just not speaking to you, at least not in a way that you can hear.

It becomes very tempting to say to yourself, “Everything is so hard and now I’m screwing up with eating on top of everything.” This is your invitation to practice self-compassion. Things are difficult, and it’s derailing your eating patterns, but viewing this as a personal failure is optional.

As an intuitive eating coach, I hear these kinds of stories all the time, and I don’t think to myself, “Wow, this person sucks at intuitive eating.”  Instead, I think, “Interesting!  Let’s see how we can use this as an opportunity for growth.”

Possible skills to be gained include:

  • Eating for survival until circumstances improve.
  • Unconditional self-love.
  • Allowing emotions to arise and pass naturally.
  • Staying present with pain.
  • Listening to the subtle cues of the body.
  • Accessible self-care practices.

I know it can sound a little obnoxious and possibly patronizing to suggest that every difficulty is an opportunity for growth (or “AFOFG,” “Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth,” as I like to say), but this mindset has transformed my life, and I believe in it 100%.

However, it’s very important to understand that this doesn’t mean that you need to practice “positive thinking” or feel grateful for things that suck.  You have every right to feel however you feel, unconditionally.

If your eating is off the rails and you don’t feel like you have the capacity to even think about it, then so be it.  Let yourself off the hook.  Do whatever you have to do to hold on.

But if you do have the space for it, either during or after the difficult time, there is the possibility for growth.

So when you feel like your intuitive eating practice is getting derailed, ask yourself: “Is my intuitive eating practice about following rules, or is it about mindfully taking the best possible care of myself?”

Give yourself credit for doing your best, and let go of expectations about what your best should look like.

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