What is Intuitive Eating?

intuitive eating questionWhenever I mention intuitive eating to someone new to the idea, their response is almost always the same.  They tell me, “If I listened to my intuition all the time I’d be eating [favorite junk food] until I was [sick/fat/dead].”  My answer, too, is almost always the same: “That’s not your intuition.”  Intuitive eating is not about mindlessly eating whatever and however you want.  Everyone knows that doesn’t work!  So, what is intuition, really, and how can you access it for the purpose of eating?

Inside of each of us are many competing influences.  We have old voices from our past, like those of parents who told us to clean our plate, or gave us sweets as a reward, that are so deeply embedded, that we believe they are our own voices.  We have messages from the media about what is good and right to eat, and what our bodies should look like.  We have cravings arising from physical, mental, and spiritual needs that are not getting met.  We may have learned to use food to cope with certain emotions.

Underneath all of that is intuition.  As babies, we were born with a natural sense of what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.  External influences bury our intuition over time, but it’s still there, waiting.  To become an intuitive eater requires peeling away these layers of deceit.  It’s a systematic process of increasing your mindfulness and self-awareness. It’s not an easy process or a fast process, but it’s real.

What is not real?  Diets that promise fast, easy, and lasting results.  The evidence is solid: Diets Don’t Work.  Restricting your food intake in any way is not sustainable.  Whether it ends with midnight binges, or a slow decline back to your old diet, your ability to deprive yourself will eventually run dry.  What’s worse is that every time you lose weight and regain it, you damage your body in such a way that weight loss becomes harder, and your life span is shortened.

Will you lose weight if you become an intuitive eater?  Maybe, or maybe not.  More importantly, you’ll find peace with food.  As an intuitive eater, food no longer rules or ruins your life.  Intuitive eating is about increasing awareness of your internal signals of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.  Intuitive eating is about making peace with food.

Different philosophies of intuitive eating may emphasize certain aspects or practices above others, but the basic premise is the same:  Deep inside, you know what is most nourishing to you.  You have only to do the work of reconnecting with that knowledge.  Again, it’s not easy, and it’s not fast.  But, it’s also the only thing that truly works.  If you’re seeking transformation, what do you have to lose?

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