At the beginning of July, I took a really positive step in regards to my diet: I decided to start eating intuitively. If you're new around here, you might not know that I have been very open about my experiences with disordered eating throughout high school, college, and post-grad. I've written about how transitioning into working full-time caused a significant weight gain, as well as my trials in clothing my body in this new size. What I haven't documented here is my last year in therapy, the bulk of which has been spent exploring my issues with food, body image, and shame.
Over the last year, I have worked incredibly hard to shift my view of food from a punishment/reward capacity into a source of nourishment. One message that has come up again and again is the idea of listening to my body. If I'm feeling dizzy, I ask myself "When was the last time you ate?" If I'm having trouble focusing at work, I know my blood sugar is low and I need a snack. When I'm getting ready to podcast and realize I've been snapping at Dago a little, I remember that I worked through lunch and have only eaten a Pop Tart, so I should probably have dinner before we record. I even have a sticky note on my computer at work that says "How can you nourish yourself right now" with three times listed below to help me remember to eat several times throughout the day. These things that might be natural for some people are not for me, and I have to be extremely deliberate about remembering to eat and especially aware of my needs.
Intuitive eating is something I have heard about in passing before, but I came across this fantastic article from Refinery 29 writer Kelsey Miller about intuitive eating myths and something clicked. Eating without shame, eating what your body is craving, eating when your body is hungry -- all of these are things I've been working towards!
Somehow putting the title on it -- Intuitive Eating -- empowered me to really do it. It's like a step was taken out of my over-complicated equation. Instead of thinking about what I was craving, thinking about whether or not I was hungry, thinking about whether or not I should eat, I just ate. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. At first, like the article describes, this feels a little reckless. You mean I can have pizza for lunch two days in a row? I can buy Drumsticks without having a breakdown once I get home and end up eating the whole box while I cry on the floor? YES. And, just like it's supposed to, my body began craving all kinds of things. Oh, I'm craving grilled chicken? I must be lacking protein. I can't get enough salad all of a sudden? Duh, I ate pasta for every meal yesterday.
Over the last month, I've begun to fall into a rhythm. Suddenly grocery shopping isn't the eighth layer of hell it used to be, and I'm actually interested in exploring new and easy recipes based on what I tend to crave at work during the week. I have a good understanding of what products to pick up at the store because I know what fills certain roles and what habits I've been leaning into lately.
I've been eating a ton more fruit -- something I've always loved! My fast food intake has gone down significantly. I'm eating more balanced meals throughout the day, and throughout the week too. Sure, there are days still where I get home and realize I haven't eaten since a peach and avocado salad around noon, but it's not because I was withholding food, I just wasn't hungry. It's forcing food that breaks my rhythm and brings the shame crawling back into my mind, and therefore my eating choices.
One of the ideas that has remained at the forefront of my mind since I started eating intuitively is that I can, and should, eat like I did when I was in elementary school. I brought a packed lunch to school every day, filled with things like string cheese, rolled up deli meat, blueberries, carrot sticks, peanut butter sandwiches, and cottage cheese. These foods are healthy* and good for me. They helped me be strong when I was a growing second grader, and they help me be a stronger 25 year old, too.
I hope to keep chronicling my journey with intuitive eating, so if you have any questions, I'd love to do my best to answer them! Is intuitive eating something you've heard of or tried before? Am I the only one whose mind is blown that I'm allowed to eat without dedicating several hours to thinking about it, and all its rewards and consequences, first? Here's to stronger, more productive, healthier bodies and minds!
*It's really important for me to note that I personally define health specifically in terms of getting enough calories in a day, as well as the balance of basic food groups like proteins, calcium, fruit, etc. This may not be how you define health, but for me this is the goal it's essential for me to keep that in mind.