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Habits That are Hijacking Your Intuitive Eating

Sneaky diet culture remnants you can ditch!

By Emily the Period RDPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Habits That are Hijacking Your Intuitive Eating
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Intuitive eating is an incredible tool in today’s diet-ridden culture – from the new Ozempic craze for non-diabetic folks, continued push for fasting and carb-cutting, and even a resurgence of the carnivore diet, we’re bombarded with messages that we would be healthier if we ate less and were skinnier. Intuitive eating gives us the freedom to use our own body cues, preferences and values to guide the way we nourish ourselves.

Practicing intuitive eating can come with lots of privilege. Having access to food to explore body cues is one area that continues to deserve discussion, and understanding the different reasons why folks choose not to engage in intuitive eating is critical.

If you’re learning about intuitive eating, it’s good to know up front that it’s a journey, with no final destination and lots of twists and turns along the way. You truly have to practice intuitive eating, and you will not get it perfect. The way you choose to do intuitive eating can also vary and it’s important to know that what’s healthy for one is not healthy for all. Nuance, nuance, nuance!

But if intuitive eating feels like it isn’t going anywhere for you, consider how these things might be hijacking your journey!

1. Allowing snack foods but only in set amounts. The principle of “Permission to Eat” encourages granting ourselves permission to eat all foods, whether they be energy-dense, nutrient-dense, both or neither. This might not mean we eat them all at the same time or have to eat a certain amount, but it does remove the moral labelling we give to snack foods. If you’ve been practicing allowing snack foods, but trying to limit them to a certain amount, it’s possible that these foods still feel “off-limits” because you aren’t able to tune into the amount that actually feels good to you. This mental restriction maintains the restrict-binge cycle we might be familiar with.

2. Only choosing the low calorie versions of foods. Low calorie foods contain low amounts of energy – that's why we don’t crave spinach when we’re ravenously hungry, we need energy and we need it fast. When we’re experimenting with allowing more foods or more food volume, it can be easy to lean into the lower energy foods. We’ve been taught that snack foods are “better for us” when they’re 100 calorie snack portions, or that they’re okay to consume in large volumes when the entire volume is so low in energy. This doesn’t allow us to honour our fullness, and certainly doesn’t allow us permission to eat “regular” foods. We’re also more likely to end up fatigued and hungry later, because these low energy foods don’t fully meet our needs for good health!

3. Avoiding keeping some foods in your home for fear of overeating. This is the most common complaint I hear in sessions about intuitive eating - “I can’t keep that food in the house, or I’m going to eat it and I’m going to eat it all”. Chances are good that eating a food in a volume that is larger than you are comfortable with doesn’t feel good long-term, and as a result allowing access to these foods might not mean you’re eating them in large amounts always. Our brains also need exposure to different food stimuli to normalize them, meaning we need to “see” information more than once. After this point, we can consider these foods as equal to any else we might eat. And the restriction of not having these foods around just sets you up to binge them when you have them.

4. Only allowing a certain amount of time to eat. In the early stages of intuitive eating, especially if you have a history of chronic dieting or disordered eating, it can be supportive to use time limits to eating – when eating is distressing or a person is going through recovery, completing a meal feels impossible and may take hours to do. As you move through intuitive eating, you might use the clock to guide eating patterns and this helps if hunger cues are hard to read. However, setting limits on how long it should take to eat and avoiding eating outside of these time frames doesn’t serve you.

5. Using the scale to measure “progress”. We can’t make guarantees about what will happen to the body as it goes through intuitive eating. It might increase in size, decrease or stay the same. Weight isn’t a good marker of health to begin with, and when we use it as a marker for intuitive eating “progress” we accidentally shift the focus back to weight loss and dieting instead of tuning in to our body cues. And because intuitive eating is a journey, there won’t be an end goal to compare to – you'll be continually growing and changing as a human and what your body looks like through the process isn’t as valuable as we’re taught it is. I encourage all folks to consider taking breaks from their scale to bring their attention back to caring for themselves, versus punishing themselves for their relationship to gravity.

With time, practice and support (from an educated provider!), you can build your intuitive eating skills without the diet culture hijacking – ask me how!

wellnessweight lossself caresciencelongevity magazinelistlifestylehealthdietbodyadvice

About the Creator

Emily the Period RD

I help people with periods navigate menstrual health education & wellness with a healthy serving of sass (and not an ounce of nutrition pseudoscience).

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