What I wish people knew about going from dieting to intuitive eating

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Recently I’ve seen more and more women (and okay, some men too) throw in the towel with dieting in favor of intuitive eating. But with that liberation from dieting also often comes a bit of panic. 

“What if I never stop obsessing about food? What if I never feel good in my body? I’m trying to listen to my body but all I want to eat is junk food and I’m gaining weight, help!” 

It can be really challenging to go from dieting to a more intuitive eating practice, especially when you don’t quite yet know how to trust your body, and when you’re working to sort out conflicting messages in regards to diet culture and intuitive eating. 

If you’re struggling with the transition from dieting to intuitive eating, here’s what I want you to know: 

Your hunger cues may need a hard reset. 

The fifth principle of intuitive eating is to respect your fullness, but tuning into your hunger cues can be very challenging when your hunger hormones are completely out of balance due to eating a diet high in ultra processed foods, refined sugar and carbs. For this reason, sometimes it’s necessary to be more “strict” with your nutrition for a bit in order to reset your hunger cues. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually get back to more gentle nutrition, but it’s much easier to honor your hunger, respect your fullness, and find satisfaction with your food when you’ve done the work to bring your hormones back in balance. 

It’s okay to have urges and cravings and to not indulge them.

The human brain is designed to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. This served us very well in an environment where we hunted and foraged our foods from the earth, and where food was much more scarce. But in our current food system, where highly processed “frankenfoods” are readily available, designed to be super pleasurable and addictive, and have been shown to disrupt our optimal physiology, sometimes what we crave in the short term isn’t what’s best for our long term health. 

Not indulging every urge or craving is much like telling a four year old that they cannot, in fact, eat candy for dinner and stay up playing games on the iPad all night. Not constantly indulging your urges is an act of love and self-care from your higher self to your primal self.

Restricting food isn’t necessarily bad for your emotional health. 

On that note, saying “no” to your primal self is not in and of itself harmful to your emotional health. Mental/emotional well-being doesn’t come from the actions we take (ie restricting vs not restricting food) - it comes from our thoughts and how we choose to think about our relationship with food and our bodies. That is, choosing a kale salad over chips and soda from a place of self-love and care is a completely different experience as making that same choice from a place of self-loathing and punishment. 

Don’t shame yourself, ever, for still wanting to lose weight. 

Beating yourself up, regardless of what it’s about, never helps. Even though the first principle of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality, the concept of weight loss in and of itself is neither good nor bad — it is neutral. It’s when we try to lose weight from a place of self-loathing, shame, and not feeling good enough or worthy that we get in trouble. But it IS possible to accept (even LOVE) your body and still work toward weight loss. If you still want to lose weight, beating yourself up for having this desire will only perpetuate the self-loathing/guilt/shame. So give yourself the grace and self-compassion to own that you want to lose weight, and let that be okay 💛

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