I’ve noticed that there’s a certain point at which I find my clients asking me for “tricks.” It’s usually when they notice themselves doing something familiar (like overeating at a restaurant) but despite their increasing self-awareness, they can’t quite seem to act differently. You probably know this frustration well. When we think we know better but don’t do better, we start doubting ourselves, wondering if we are even capable of change. If we’re not careful, our inner critic starts to take over and it’s all downhill from there.
But my clients, once they are used to me, know that I will suggest ditching the inner critic and focusing on kindness and self-compassion instead. So at our next session, they report back, and tell me they tried their best to be kind to themselves, but they’re still frustrated. They ask if I know any tricks to help them. “Tricks?” I respond. Then, they typically list some tricks they learned from Weight Watchers (most common culprit!), diet books, forums, blogs, or friends. “Did those work for you?” I ask. “Kind of,” they usually say, followed by, “So are there any intuitive eating tricks like that?”
So, here is the thing about intuitive eating. There are actually a lot of different exercises and activities you can do to help you become an intuitive eater. I share them with clients all the time and you’ll find the most effective ones in my Udemy course. But these exercises are very different from diet tricks. Intuitive eating exercises are designed to do two main things: 1) Get rid of distractions that keep you from your intuition. 2) Help you tune into your intuition.
Dieting tricks, however, do the exact opposite. They distract you from what’s important and get you to ignore your inner wisdom. Let’s consider an example; one of the most cringe-worthy tricks I know: Asking your restaurant server to pack half of your order to go before it gets to you. (I couldn’t even type that without shaking my head!) The argument behind this trick is that restaurants serve too much food and if you have it in front of you, you’re bound to eat too much.
Sounds reasonable, if embarrassing to execute. But behind this argument is a belief that some people, namely you, cannot be trusted to stop eating when they have had enough. “Well, yeah,” you say, “Clearly I have no self-control when it comes to food.” But, here is the crazy thing: Trying to control yourself around food is exactly what makes you out of control!
If you treat yourself like someone who can’t be trusted, you’ll act like someone who can’t be trusted. When you listen to someone else’s rules about how/what/when to eat, you lose touch with the inner wisdom you were born with. When you have your server pack up half of your food, you lose the opportunity to eat in a way that is truly satisfying.
And you may not trust yourself now, but you are smart. That is why these tricks don’t work on you. They’re just another empty diet promise. They give you the temporary illusion of being free from your eating woes, but leave you searching for the next trick, desperate for another little taste of success.
So then, why do my clients still reach a point of hungering for tricks along the path to intuitive eating? Well, some of the work of intuitive eating will leave you in a state of hyper self-awareness. It is like a magnifying mirror that reveals things you had no idea were even there. When you’re having all of these “AHA!” and “Oh no!” moments you might think that you know everything you need to know to start acting differently.
Sometimes it is that effortless. Your connection to your intuition is strengthened and you just start behaving differently. But some behaviors take more unraveling. Once you stop judging and criticizing, you can really start to understand why you do what you do, but it is still a process. Like a kid taking the training wheels off of their bike for the first time, you may feel scared of relying on your own abilities.
You don’t want to learn how to ride a bike by crashing, but you’ll never know freedom unless you’re willing to crash. Every crash and almost crash has a valuable lesson, if you’re willing to learn it. The more you practice, the more you feel confident in your abilities and you stop wishing for training wheels/dieting tricks. That is the point when my clients and I wrap up our work together, and although it is a little bittersweet for me, I am so pleased that they have found freedom and trust in their intuition.
Have you checked out my online Intuitive Eating course yet? I’m offering a huge discount as a special thanks to my blog readers for a limited time. Use THIS LINK to get a preview and get the coupon.