What's Intuitive Eating and How Could it Work For You?
Going through recovery for anorexia you learn a lot about nutrition and how you take care of your body. At first, I was pushed into eating certain things for my health and to gain weight. Then I learnt the true nutritional value of food and the science-y bits I suppose which helped me to understand that what I thought was 'bad' for my health like pasta, rice, bread etc were not 'bad' at all. In fact, I learnt that no food is inherently 'bad'.
After I was discharged, I was on a journey of self-discovery I suppose, merging into a new life, trying to figure out how to live as me again. I had the tools and the freedom to eat again. As I've previously mentioned, there were mental challenges that came with eating new foods, especially foods I had once written off as unhealthy - I felt guilty afterwards and had an urge to compensate by exercising for hours the next day or restricting my calories.
I had to figure out what worked well for MY body: what I enjoyed the taste of, what made my body feel good inside and what my body needed or craved. I used to ignore those urges and feelings - but allowing yourself to feel those opens new doors of happiness. If your body wants something, it's usually a sign that your body needs something, so give it what it wants. This is when I discovered intuitive eating - which basically means eating in tune with your body. So, I define that by listening to your body and giving it what it wants, eating when you feel hungry (no matter the time) and figuring out what your body enjoys and makes it work at its absolute best.
I promised myself that I would not talk specifically about what I ate or how much I ate because I don't want to dictate or inspire your eating habits as that is how my eating disorder started. I'm so passionate about creating your own routine and diet rather than following someone else because each body is unique and you'll want / need something different! your food choices depend on so many factors! like your activity levels, your daily routines, whether you're recovering from an eating disorder, what you actually like the taste of etc. So I would encourage you to experiment and find out what works best for you personally!
I also hate labels - I try to cook vegetarian at university for many reasons: I don't like handling meat, I'm trying to do my bit for the environment and other ethical reasons, I don't particularly like the taste and I wanted to try something new and see how I felt! but I don't label myself a vegetarian because when I go out I'll order a meaty burger or if I'm craving some meat then I'll allow my body that!
I had a fairly strict meal plan during recovery - I needed my three main meals and multiple snacks throughout the day because I needed more energy and weight gain. Now, I'll eat more if I go to the gym because my body needs more fuel and I try to add more protein and carbs if I've had an intense gym session, but other days I might not be as hungry, so I cater for that. If I'm hungover I'm craving foods that I might not usually want on a daily basis. I used to reserve chocolate strictly for an after dinner 'treat' but these days I just give into my cravings and that actually works better because I'm not craving it all day and suddenly binge on chocolate later (I do sometimes tho - especially now Easter eggs are out!) and I'm majorly into marmite on toast at the moment so I've been eating that alllllll the time!
The most important thing to me is treating my body with love and respect. I try to eat nutritious and colourful food that make my insides shine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to eat well and keep your insides working and glowing! A lot of people think body positivity is rejecting all of that and just eating whatever you want - but it's more about having the freedom to make your own choices about what you eat and accepting your body. But I don't think about the calories and I don't think about making 'good' or 'bad' choices - I allow my body to feel how it wants and I react to those cravings and signals. This works best for me! Having a strict routine or meal plan often leads to restriction and overthinking all my food choices if I don't stick to them so I feel a lot more free and positive eating intuitively. Another huge aspect of this lifestyle is the lack of comparison - there is no way to compare your diet / lifestyle to someone else because it is crafted specifically to your body, so I believe it relieves a lot of pressure.
I believe this lifestyle rejects the dieting culture of our society and gives us the freedom to make our own rules about health, so I am 100% an advocate for it! It has bought me so much peace to just think of food as food rather than something evil and challenging. Reject everything and everyone that classifies food into 'good' and 'bad' terms and questions your eating habits. A big thing for me (that might not seem major or might seem trivial to you) but buying a meal deal in Tesco - I would always choose the option with the lowest fat percentage and number of calories no matter what, now I choose what tastes nice and what I'm in the mood for and having that peace with making food choices is unbelievable for a recovered anorexic.
A couple of other principles of intuitive eating:
- Respecting your fullness: often we feel like we have to finish everything on our plate but don't push your body more than it wants to be. Some days I can eat massive portions and other days my body just can't hack it - so again, just listen to your body.
- Don't use food as an emotional release: I have definitely used food, or the lack of, to cure my sadness, boredom or stress but that isn't a healthy relationship. Find other things that help you deal with your emotions.
Try a week of eating intuitively and see how you feel afterwards! Let me know whether it works for you! Have a fabulous weekend my lovelies xxx