I've been trying to work on intuitive eating for a while now. I follow a lot of people who are also eating intuitively, some of them post pictures eating a giant stack of pancakes and call it an intuitive eating win, some of them post salads and say the same. I'm a little confused about which is right, and whether I'm having any intuitive eating 'wins' at all. Can you give me some guidance about which way is the right way?
The super short way to answer this is: there is no wrong way to eat intuitively as long as you're eating in tune with your body. It makes a lot of sense to look to other people for inspiration or solidarity when you're trying something so unknown (and a little scary!), but the problem with comparing their way of eating intuitively to your own, is that you are the only person who exists in your body. So you are the only person in the world who truly knows what eating in tune with your body looks like for you.
YOU are the expert, the PhD, the judge, jury and Beyoncé of the group when it comes to making decisions about your body... That wasn't the most seamless metaphor but I'll squeeze Bey in any chance I see.
What each of us actually eat when we're eating intuitively will be different for every single one of us. What's on our plates depends on so many things: our activity levels. Our daily schedules. Our access to different foods, both financially and geographically. Are we recovering from an eating disorder? What do we actually like and dislike? It would be pretty bizarre if we all ended up eating the same things in the same way when everything else about us is so different.
You don't need to compare your intuitive eating to anyone else's because it's not supposed to look like theirs. An intuitive eating win is whenever you are listening to your body and eating in tune with your own needs, wants, hunger, fullness and fulfilment. That might look like:
Eating cookies because you've been craving something sweet and crunchy and they're exactly what you want in this moment.
Eating leafy greens because your body feels like it could do with the nutrients in order to function to the best of its ability.
Eating double the amount that your friend is eating because that's how much it takes to satiate your hunger that day, for whatever reason.
Eating less than your friend because you reach a comfortable fullness sooner and you're choosing to respect that comfort.
Sometimes I get comments that say “today I ate three chocolate bars because that's what I wanted and I don't feel guilty about it!”. Other times I get comments saying “today I didn't even eat dessert because I realised that I can have it whenever I want it, and today wasn't one of those days”. Both are intuitive eating wins, and I will cheer on both because each person has listened to their body and eaten in a way that feels in tune to them!
It's okay if eating completely intuitively still feels a little unnatural, if you still find yourself wanting outside reassurance or not being able to recognise if something is a win. You've spent a lifetime being taught to follow outside rules about what you can and should be eating, and every time we follow those rules and ignore our body we lose trust in our ability to eat intuitively. Honestly, it's a freakin' miracle any of us are able to relearn how to eat in a world constantly telling us not to.
Count the little wins. Every time you feel physical hunger and don't instantly try to deny it. Every time you eat something you wanted and then realise you haven't obsessed about it afterwards as much as you used to. Every time you recognise what you actually want to eat, even if it's not available or you're not quite able to follow through with eating it yet.
Don't forget that the opposite of an intuitive eating win isn't a loss or a failure, it's just another eating experience to learn from, and hopefully handle a little differently next time round. You're basically winning every time you even try to eat intuitively, give yourself credit for that. Plus who cares what anyone else is eating? YOU ARE THE BEYONCE OF YOUR OWN BODY.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.