Written by Ashley Seruya, B.A.
Are you noticing yourself placing diet rules and restrictions on your intuitive eating journey? Leave diets behind once and for all and avoid these 3 diet mentality traps.
For many of us, intuitive eating is something we come to when we finally give in and seek refuge from diet culture. We’ve likely been battered for so long, the rules and restrictions hammered into us for years on end, and we’ve seen it all fail miserably time and time again. Those of us who come to intuitive eating often do so with heads hung low, knowing we’ve finally hit our diet limit, and hoping beyond hope that maybe there’s another way; a way out.
When we finally decide to leave dieting behind and look into the world of intuitive eating, things can feel really off balance. Nothing is the same, and every new principle laughs in the face of everything we’re been taught our entire dieting life… which for most of us, is essentially our entire life, period. For some of us, these stark contrasts can feel like a relief. But even those of us that finally find comfort in relying on our intuition to nourish ourselves can fall into a very common trap: making intuitive eating just another diet. It’s certainly not intentional, and it happens to the best of us. We put our old skills onto the new way of eating and think, wahlah, I’ve figured it out! But anything that mimics dieting flies in the face of intuitive eating, and eventually will lead to you feeling like you’ve “failed” yet another way of relating to food.
Three Ways to Avoid Turning Intuitive Eating Into a Diet
So before you embark on your journey, or maybe while you’re right in the middle of it, consider these three common ways people try to turn intuitive eating into yet another diet. Read them, absorb them, and adjust if you find yourself falling victim to them. Remember, this is a learning process, and there’s lots of diet mentality to unlearn. Be patient with yourself, and continue exploring this new way of being.
- The hunger and fullness diet: When we come from diet backgrounds, all behaviors around food are rules. There are no suggestions or guidelines, just rules. And so when we start intuitive eating and hear things like honor your hunger and fullness, we might be quick to treat this like yet another rule. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. But intuitive eating isn’t that simple. For example, intuitive eating makes room for eating past fullness because something is just yummy. It also makes room for eating before hunger hits because you know the next opportunity you’ll have to eat will be five hours later, and by that time you’ll be seriously hangry. This is some of the flexibility within hunger and fullness that can’t be accounted for by saying, “Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.”
- Thinking it will help you lose weight: There are many people out there who tout intuitive eating as a weight loss solution. “Heal your relationship with food, follow your intuition, and you’ll drop the weight just like I did!” they promise. But part of intuitive eating is understanding that when we make peace with food and get back in touch with our natural hunger and fullness, a few things might happen. We might gain, lose, or maintain our weight, and there is no way to know ahead of time what camp you will fall into when all’s said and done. Similarly, while some people overeat emotionally and hold onto weight due to trauma, there is no guarantee that when you make peace with food you will lose weight. None! Weight gain drives our set-range weight up, and so sometimes after all the yo-yo dieting is said and done, we have to settle into our larger bodies and make peace with that. If someone if promoting intuitive eating as a weight loss solution, they don’t actually understand what intuitive eating stands for, which is size diversity, body respect, and Health at Every Size.
- Only allowing yourself to eat what your intuition tells you you’re craving: We can quickly get caught up in the idea that if we don’t eat exactly what our body is asking for, we’ve failed at following our intuition. But just like with hunger and fullness, following your cravings must be flexible. Maybe you’re dying for mom’s chicken soup, but mom is across the country. You’re not a failure for hunting down the next best thing. And sometimes convenience and life has to come first, because really, self-care comes first, and the first step in self-care is meeting your needs and reducing stress in your life. Sometimes we have to grab a granola bar, not because it sounds super yummy, but because it’s what we have on hand. Every new food moment is a new opportunity to flex your intuitive eating muscles, and you’ll be sure to get ‘em next time.
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