- Kelly Neilson, MDA, RD, LD
Overcoming Fears of Intuitive Eating
I get it. The thought of Intuitive Eating can be scary. Maybe you’ve already “tried it” and it hasn’t worked for you. Maybe you don’t trust that your hunger and fullness cues are enough to guide your eating because they have “failed” you in the past. Maybe you worry that you’ll eat all the foods that you’re scared of and never allow yourself to have.
The road to Intuitive Eating is not an overnight change. There is no quick-fix to anything that is worthwhile and long-lasting. It takes time and practice to fine-tune your body wisdom. Technically, it should be something that you never stop practicing once you become an Intuitive Eater. But I can tell you that the benefits FAR outweigh the work it takes to get there.
The joy of Intuitive Eating is that it LIBERATES you from food rules, judgment, guilt, and dieting and opens your eyes to a new world of enjoying eating and the role food and eating can play in your life.
So how do you do it? How do you start being an Intuitive Eater? The first thing you need to do is start challenging your old food beliefs and be open to accepting a new way of looking at food. The first Intuitive Eating principle is Reject the Diet Mentality. You need to be comfortable letting go of any diet or rules telling you: “carbs are bad, fat is bad, sugar is bad, desserts are bad, etc” and you need to put all foods on an equal playing field. This is what is known as Making Peace with Food (introduced in my last post). That means you let yourself eat those things freely without feeling like you have to hit the gym the next day to “work it off”. There are a lot of deep psychological processes underlying this thinking that we can cover another time.
In the beginning stages of Making Peace with Food, the floodgates in your mind are opened and you can expect you will naturally be eating more of those foods that were previously forbidden. But as you continue with patience, you will notice that you’ll slowly get tired of those foods, you’ll start to crave more of a variety of foods, and you’ll only want the previously forbidden foods every once in a while. This phenomenon is called Habituation. It’s just like when you’ve been on vacation and eating out a lot, and when you come back from vacation all you want is fresh produce or a home-cooked meal.
This process is not only backed by scientific research, but I’ve also seen it work in my experience as a dietitian. I’ve seen how Intuitive Eating changes lives and liberates people from the chains of dieting that weigh them down.
So give it a try! And don’t just give yourself faux-permission—with lingering thoughts in the back of your mind that it’s not going to work, but give yourself unconditional permission to be accepting of all foods and you will see how it can change YOUR life.