body positivity · Health at Every Size · Intuitive Eating · Self Care

Intuitive Eating: What It Is and Why I Follow It.

Note: There are some affiliate links, as well as talk of disordered eating and exercise, and specific weights. If these topics are upsetting to you, I recommend skipping this post.

Intuitive Eating. This time last year, I had only just discovered it and had become interested in it. Now, I’m still a baby Intuitive Eater who struggles with it almost every day, but I like to think that I understand and appreciate it more than I did.

I first stumbled upon the philosophy of Intuitive Eating while listening to Christy Harrison’s amazing podcast, “Food Psych“. Christy is an anti-diet dietician who uses her podcast to talk about all things related to diet culture and food freedom (two phrases that seemed foreign to me last year) and to discuss life and the idea of Health at Every Size with different guests. Someone asked me recently how I found Christy’s podcast, and while I’m not certain… I think it may have been while searching for diet and weight loss podcasts on Spotify. While it is most definitely not the kind of podcast I was looking for at the time, it was the podcast I needed. I’m so grateful to Christy and her guests to introducing me to the radical idea of loving my body exactly as it is.

You might be wondering, “Okay Katie… I’m glad this random lady changed your life with her podcast… but what exactly is Intuitive Eating?” I’m not an expert by any means. I’m still learning more every day, but I still would like to share with you what I know, and how it’s helped me.

Intuitive Eating, at its core, is trusting that your body knows what it needs in regards to nourishment, nutrition, and movement. In their book, Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Trible and Elyse Resch write: “

Intuitive Eating provides a new way of eating that is ultimately struggle-free and healthy for your mind and body. It is a process that unleashes the shackles of dieting (which can only lead to deprivation, rebellion, and rebound weight gain). It means getting back to your roots – trusting your body and its signals.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Trible and Elyse Resch

In short, instead of listening to exterior cues (how much you worked out, time of day, diet rules, beliefs about what you should eat), Intuitive Eating teaches you to listen to interior cues from your body.

More recently, there was some backlash about Intuitive Eating from Jillian Michaels, who is best known for her “tough love” (though I would rather call it bullying) on the TV Show “The Biggest Loser”. In short, she pretty much said that Intuitive Eating is only eating unhealthy foods. While I understand why people (including members of my family) might think that, this idea is forgetting the root of Intuitive Eating: listening to your body.

Yes, Intuitive Eating does require you to give yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods (no food rules), as you become more in-tune to your body, you will begin to realize that sometimes, your body wants things like vegetables, and lean meats. Sure, other days it wants pizza and McDonalds. But not all the time. As you learn your body’s cues and feelings, you will begin to realize that sometimes, the “unhealthy” foods don’t always feel so great.

For example, since I’ve begun Intuitive Eating, I’ve learned that some milk products make me feel really yucky. Not all milk products, but some. Cheese? Fine. Plain milk? Not so great. Butter? Fine. Yogurt? Fine. Ice Cream? Sadly, not so great sometimes. Intuitive Eating has taught me that drinking plain milk with my cereal and eating copious amounts of ice cream can leave me feeling gross. My body simply doesn’t like it. So, I switched to oat milk with my cereal, and get frozen yogurt or dairy free frozen desserts in lieu of ice cream when I can. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I still eat ice cream. But I know there’s a chance I won’t feel good after, and that I may regret it after.

For years, I tried different diets and “lifestyle changes” to lose weight. The one time I lost a substantial amount of weight, I would tell people that I wasn’t doing anything differently, but would spend hours a day at the gym, walk 15,000 steps at work, and binge eat a pint of Halo Top Ice Cream (around 400 calories) for each meal of the day. I lost around 80 pounds and weighed the least I ever did. But… looking back, that wasn’t an attainable lifestyle. In fact, it was a very disordered lifestyle. Since then, I’ve gained back the weight I lost, and then some. For a long time, that really devastated me. I saw it as a character flaw, or a lack of discipline. Now, I know that my body has carried me through trauma and life changes. She is strong, and beautiful, and I am no longer starving her, but instead working in harmony with her.

Food and exercise have become gifts that I give to my body. Sometimes that gift is my favorite salad and a 30 minute Peloton class, other times it’s my favorite dessert and taking a rest day to recover.

With Intuitive Eating, I have learned to really, truly love myself. Not the me who “could be” if I just lost weight or the me who was when I was at my lowest weight, but the me right now. The me who wears a size 24 jeans and loves riding the Peloton at the gym and whose favorite food is ice cream and who sometimes has the motivation and energy to meal prep. And that self love that I have discovered is a better gift than any diet could ever give me.