I want to share some important information about learning to become an intuitive eater.
I have had many people describe a true fear of noticing hunger, of being hungry. If this describes you, let me explain a bit more about this fear.
Do you fear hunger?
If you have ever dieted and chances are, you have, you may have experienced a real fear of hunger, worried that once you do give in to that feeling in your stomach, it will be impossible to stop eating! There is the fear!
If this describes you or someone you know, it is likely you have a history of restrictive eating patterns, followed by periods of overeating.
Intuitive eating is the perfect antidote to this overwhelming feeling, since it teaches you to trust your body and trust that food will always be there when you need it.
Let’s dive into this a little deeper…and look at ways to overcome this fear you’re feeling.
Are You Eating Enough?
If you are chronically hungry, but notice some fear bubbling up in you at the thought of actually eating, you need to consider whether you are having enough fuel for your body’s needs.
Restricting during the day can lead to out-of-control eating when you do have that next meal or snack.
This pattern of starving, then bingeing, is not good for your brain or for your body!
Hunger has a purpose, and it is our body’s natural guide to help us meet our energy needs! Think of it like a fuel gauge in your car that lets you know when it is time to refuel.
A solution is to experiment with gentle curiosity and notice what happens when you do eat more consistently during the day. Using a journal is one of the best ways to help with this, which is one of the reasons I created my Wellness Planner and Journal.
Using a journal helps you notice patterns in your food choices and how they make you feel. Writing them down is the optimal way to gather this information and allows you to reflect on your mood, your thoughts, and your feelings over time.
Special Note: Food Insecurity Can Cause Fear.
For some people, there can be quite traumatic experiences with food insecurity leading to hunger and famine periods. This could be from regularly having to go without meals as a child due to your family’s financial circumstances, or from a long period of dieting.
Clearly, this fear of hunger can be more complex, rooted in mental health and emotional issues. It can be beneficial to work with a counselor if you notice yourself struggling.
Let Your Body Learn There Are No Famines Coming
A first step in practicing intuitive eating is to eat every 3-4 hours and to honor what your body is telling you. This means that if you feel true hunger, acknowledge it, and eat. If you are not sure if you have physical hunger or even emotional hunger, that’s alright. You are still allowed to eat! You need to let your body know that food will be coming at regular and consistent intervals; you are not going to restrict, you won’t go through long periods of time without eating, and you won’t remove any foods or food groups.
Some people “mentally” restrict foods without realizing it and are also likely to end up eating more than they truly want or need. The solution? Just notice. Notice the WHY you are eating. And don’t judge the WHAT. Eating is an emotional activity!
This Process is Going to Take Time!
There is no timeline for intuitive eating. The participants in my Intuitive Eating Support Circle have been practicing this skill set and it takes lots of patience. Practice and patience. If you were just starting to learn to play an instrument, or take up a new language, you know this will take time. The same applies to learning how to incorporate the principles of Intuitive Eating into your life.
Practicing these principles every day will help you establish your body as the expert over yourself! It can be difficult trying to figure this out on your own; Challenging the world of diet culture is an uphill battle and it helps to be in community.
If you are looking for a strategy to start learning and practicing Intuitive Eating, I have two ways to help..
1. Dip your Toes into Intuitive Eating with an introductory course that helps you get started with Intuitive Eating. It is ideal for anyone looking to explore Intuitive Eating so you can finally get off the diet roller coaster and break the cycle of restrictive and overeating or emotional eating.
2. Intuitive Eating Support Circle is a comprehensive group nutrition program for women and people in midlife, menopause and beyond. This program offers members time with me, one to one, and lessons on Intuitive Eating, as well as our group support calls… which is what every member says they value the most. That opportunity to connect with others in the same boat as them, women in midlife whose bodies are changing and who simply want to feel at peace with themselves, food, and their bodies.
If you have these feelings of fear of hunger or food, or you want to make a change but need some help, reach out and book a quick call with me. Together we can determine what is the best way for you to make this happen.
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
Download our Free Intuitive Eating Guide and get off that Diet Roller Coaster for good!