It sounds pretty ideal: eating what you like, when you like; feeling satisfied after meals; not gaining weight and nourishing your body all at the same time – sign us up, right? What we’re talking about here is ‘intuitive eating’ and despite its name, it’s about a lot more than just your diet.
The basis of intuitive eating is essentially about building a healthy relationship with food. It’s about understanding what your body needs, learning how to listen to your hunger/ satiety cues, and fuelling your body with the ‘right’ amount of nutrient-dense foods that make you feel great. But just like with any big change to your lifestyle, it’s not a quick fix and in some cases, it requires a lot more preparation than you might have imagined.
If you’ve tried eating intuitively and found you either slip back into old habits, fall into over- or under-eating, or perhaps struggle to listen to your body’s hunger/fullness cues, you’re not alone. Learning how to eat intuitively is a process and there are a number of reasons why it might not work for you right now (none of which are your fault FYI). Let’s take a look at 5 possible reasons why intuitive eating might not work for you…
Reason 1: You’ve been too restrictive in the past
Overly restrictive diets can be harmful for a number of reasons, one in particular being that it totally messes up your natural hunger cues. If you’re someone who has tried a number of over-restrictive diets, you’ll be familiar with trying to ignore your stomach rumbling, but the more we do this, the less we are able to recognise when we’re genuinely hungry.
Dieting can also really disrupt your fullness signals, so not only are we trying to battle with not knowing when we’re hungry and when we’re full, we’re also getting sucked into a really harmful cycle.
What’s interesting is that this is a completely learnt behaviour, we’re all born knowing when we’re hungry and when we’re full but over-restrictive eating is one sure-fire way of losing the two vital signals that make eating intuitively possible.
Reason 2: You’re not nourishing your body
When we fuel our body with the right amount of nutrient-dense food, we’re giving it everything it needs to function optimally – including triggering the right amount of hormones that help with digestion, maintaining our energy levels and our satiety signals.
Conversely, when we over- or under-eat less nutrient-dense foods we trigger a less optimal release of hormones which can negatively affect our hunger/ satiety signals.
Our bodies are designed to work in a very specific way to help our internal systems function to the best of their ability so when we’re not nourishing it properly it can make listening to what it ‘wants’ very challenging.
Reason 3: You’re not managing your stress levels
Stress can have innumerable negative effects on our mental and physical health and it can also make intuitive eating very difficult. When our bodies recognise stress, its response is to place us in ‘fight or flight’ mode to combat the perceived threat.
It makes sense, but when we experience chronic stress without respite (as many of us do), our bodies react accordingly – triggering cravings for foods high in fat and sugar and slowing your metabolism to reduce energy output i.e. making losing weight and listening to your body near-impossible.
Reason 4: You struggle to separate your emotions from eating
There’s a reason we all know the term ‘comfort food’ and what it typically looks like – emotional eating is one of the most common outcomes of a negative relationship with food.
Learning to separate your emotions from your eating habits is an essential step when looking to create a healthier relationship with food and learning how to eat intuitively.
Reason 5: You’re not taking care of yourself
Making time for yourself should be your #1 priority when looking to make any healthy changes to your lifestyle. If you’re interested in learning how to listen to your body and create healthy habits, the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re putting yourself and your health first – intuitive eating simply isn’t going to work if you’re not honest with yourself about how you’re feeling.
So, you see, it’s not quite as simple as thinking about what you want to eat, when you want to eat it! Intuitive eating is a great concept and I fully support the path that teaches women to ditch the diet mentality, guilt, and shame associated with food, but as with any change to your lifestyle, I believe it should be gradual, intentional and make you feel great!
Whatever you decide to do, it’s about choosing a path that makes you feel great and making healthy work for you! If you need a hand figuring that out, let’s chat. Book in a call with me to learn more about what I do and how I help women create a healthier, happier lifestyle that truly works for them!