Eating my Intuition

[[disclaimer: This is a rather heavy post, please feel free to skip over it if you choose.  It’s definitely not the typical ELD post, but I need to get this out there.]]

[[also, please excuse the lack of photos]]

Never in my life have I been skinny.  Yes, by most standards I was thin, but I’ve always had that layer of baby fat that would never go away.  I was always slightly above average, and have never been underweight. As child and adolescent, I always ate intuitively.  I loved every kind of food, especially my veggies – I know, strange child.  But I was always hungry – so I ate!  I had the miracle-metabolism of a growing man, so for years I ate as much as I wanted, whatever I wanted, and never gained a pound.

Then puberty came – and rather late for that matter.  I was 16 already when my body started seriously changing.  Among other things, my metabolism slowed way down – but my hunger did not change.  My intuition did not adjust to what my body needed, or didn’t anymore.  I continued to eat enough food in a day to nourish a grown man – probably twice as much as my body needed.  By the time I was 18, the ‘body-conscious’ hormone kicked in.  No, I did not develop an eating disorders, but my already low self-esteem fell even further – and I dealt with it in my way.  I continued to eat.  Food always made me feel better – it would never feel unfamiliar, like my ever-shrinking jeans did.

I refused to believe I was doing anything wrong.  I started exercising regularly, but it barely changed anything.  What could be bad if I ate what I was craving when I was craving it? What I didn’t realize was that I was confusing cravings with the want to eat.  My intuition failed me.  By the summer after my freshman year of college, I had packed on 20+ pounds, and I was eating intuitively.

I know this is not the typical post about intuitive eating – I had no fear of food at the time.  It was a comfort, something to make me feel better in the moment, and it just felt right.

I know this is post is very similar to my story page, but I needed to get it out again.  After joining the blog world, I’ve read so many posts about how intuitive eating is good for the body and mind.  After a few months of mild restriction and meal planning, I managed to lose the weight and get fit. For the first time in years, I was not afraid to show off my body – I convinced myself I was happy.  And the truth is, I was not unhappy.  I didn’t hate the way I looked, but I had to work darn hard to maintain it.

I ate a healthy amount, but I didn’t eat intuitively. After reading a million and one posts about overcoming fear foods and eating intuitively, I thought ‘hey, why can’t I do that?’ So that’s what I’ve done this summer.  Although I’ve been generally healthier and more in touch with what my body needs, my intuition still fails me – I’ve gained over half of the weight back.  A good part of it is probably muscle, but I that’s not all of it – I can physically see and feel the difference in the way my clothes fit, and it still gets to me.  I refuse to believe that my body’s ‘happy weight’ is what would normally be considered overweight for my height.

I look back at the amount of food I consume, and I can tell I’m eating too much – and that I’m once again eating out of boredom and lack of company.  But that’s what my intuition has told me to do.  And many would see this as seriously twisted, but at this point, I don’t trust my intuition.  I don’t trust my brain to get the correct signal from my body, because it was out of whack for so long.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m not ‘going on a diet’ or planning to do any serious calorie restriction.  I don’t count calories.  I stay away from scales if I can – they only make me feel worse.  I just need to train my intuition, and I’m realizing that it will be harder and take longer than I thought.  It was way too easy to slip back into my old eating habits, which anyone with disordered eating habits can most likely relate to.

I know this is no clinical ‘condition’ or diagnosable disorder, but this is my kind of recovery, despite being almost completely opposite of the norm.  But this is where I am now, and it is a much better place than the one I was in at the end of my freshman year, or even just a year ago.

I am proud to say that I can look at the big picture now, and try to assess the things I need to work on.  My intuition needs help, and I plan to give it just that – by viewing food as fuel and nutrition, not solely as a comfort or pastime.  This is not to say that I will stop being creative in the kitchen, that would probably do more harm than good.  But the mindless eating has to change, and my food awareness level has to become conscious.

For those of you who got through this post, thanks for reading! I know it’s a lot, and will probably be very controversial to what many readers have been through, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How do you deal with intuitive eating?

Do you plan your every meal?  Eat when you’re hungry or have a craving?

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10 thoughts on “Eating my Intuition

  1. Very similar story here -) I used to be a bit overweight and lost it by the following salad-only diet. Then I was scared to gain it back if I will start eating normal food. Now, I do yoga and light strength and cardio training 5 times a week and yes I am planning my food. I have regular timings for my food intake – and I get really hungry if I miss one of them. I include a lot of super foods, proteins, veggies and gluten free grains in my daily meals. But I still follow my moods with planning – like today I want to have turkey but tomorrow I might want to eat fish or beans – so I plan according to my inner cravings. If I would feel like having some sweets and some gluten loaded products – I will but just once in a while – it would be my so called “cheat day” which I would really enjoy at the most and then would carve to go back to my healthy eating again -))

  2. great post! I am glad that you have listened to your body!! I try to only eat when I am hungry but there are those few moments where my emotions kick it, usually I can control them but it happens and that is ok! And I have to work HARD too to get my body where I like it 🙂

  3. I try to only eat when I’m hungry and I make sure to listen to my cravings. When I eat something I don’t really want to eat I end up eating more because I don’t feel satisfied… I hope that made sense. I try not to relate my emotions to when I eat like – ice cream makes me happy then I feel mad for eating too much of it. I’m still learning balance… I think it’s important to make sure youre getting in the right about of fat protein and carbs but other than that just listen to your body you’ll get there girl 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this Rachel because I think it’s a side of intuitive eating that gets ignored. The blog world tends to have this “eat what you want when you want it and the world will be full of flowers and rainbows” sort of optimism, but I think that attitude oversimplifies intuitive eating. Knowing when to tell yourself “no” is just as important as knowing when to tell yourself “yes” when it comes to food. I think eating when you are hungry is the way go, but like you I’m still working on learning how to tell the difference between a real craving and an emotional need. I guess it’s just one of those things that takes time and practice.

  5. this definitely is a great post. i think if you emotionally eat so much for a long time it could get difficult to train yourself out of that mindset. Try to step back and make sure you are really feeling hungry when you eat and being more conscious of your feelings and why you over-ate in the first place really helps.
    If you listen to your bodies hunger, then I think you will be at the perfect place (-:
    xo

  6. Hey girl! Aaargh intuitive eating is such a tricky thing, and you’re definitely not alone in your struggles in trying to figure it all out. I spent years battling with an ED and my intuition was all out of whack. I didn’t remember what it felt like to be hungry, or what foods I truly loved, and it was soooo so hard to try and figure it all out again. I wish I could give you a good answer as to how to go about doing it all, but I don’t really have one 😦 I just spent a lot of time trying new things. At first I stuck to a meal plan and ate at set times, but then my body’s signals started to come back, so I started listening to those. Now I usually eat when I’m hungry and eat what I’m craving, but there are still times where I’ll have to force down a meal when I’m not hungry because I know that I need it, or I’ll be anxious to eat more when I feel like I’ve had enough. I think it’s pretty much a lifelong learning process.

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  8. Hi girl! Thanks for this post, because I can really really relato to your thoughts on intuitive eating. I read about it all over the blog world, all over the magazines´ pages…but it just doesn´t work for me. I eat five times a day at given time and not when my body tells me to eat. I eat meals that I have planned to eat and not what my body craves..because I think my body often craves stuff that isn´t good for me and it definitely always calls for much more food than it should get. Maybe my body´s intuition is wrecked but I feel I can´t rely on it.

  9. Thank you for writing this! The blog world often gets in to a lot of whimsical discussion about “eat what you crave” and “intuitive eating” and such– and think they are all great but, honestly, it works different for everyone. Sure, you can “eat what you crave” but your body doesn’t always crave stuff because it needs it (in the case of sugar and salt), but because those foods have genetically programmed us to desire them more and more. Intuitive eating, to me, involves, yes, consulting you body and desires and intuition, but also your common sense.

    When a person is switching from a diet of soda and mcdonalds, they can’t trust their “intuition” becuase their body is conditioned to crave salt and fat and sugar. They same is true in reverse for those recovering from eating disorders. I have done both to a certain degree, and you have to use common sense and intervene with self-control and analyzing in the adjustment period. Once you have gotten your body used to eating the healthy foods and you know in your head all the information, then sailing off into the ocean of intuitive eating is easier and much more doable. And even when you are eating intuitively 24/7, you still need to use your common sense to paddle yourself int the right direction (if we are continuing with that analogy) and sometimes you need to go sit on the shore for a while to reassess your needs.

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