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My Intuitive Eating Before and After: creating peace with food

You might be reading this because you’re just looking for a little more information about intuitive eating and what it is actually like to be an intuitive eater.

Or you may have found this page in a similar place to where I started my intuitive eating before and after story. I started having tried just about every diet imaginable and felt like nothing would work. 

So I was hesitant to try intuitive eating because I thought it would be like everything else

Even as a registered dietitian, I struggled with my relationship with food before I found intuitive eating.

So in this post, I share a little about my own intuitive before and after journey plus some other examples from clients and other information about the impact learning intuitive eating can have on your life

My journey from dieter to intuitive eater

Going from being someone who was chronically dieting to not having any rules about what to eat was not easy.

If you’re not familiar with intuitive eating, let me give a brief explanation of what it is.

Intuitive eating is a self-care framework that just gives guidance to help make decisions around food and health.

There are no rules or way you have to eat, exercise, or any of that.

There are some guidelines to provide some structure and understanding of how to approach eating since when most people find intuitive eating they’re coming from years of following diet culture rules.

They’re used to attempting to following an exact method of:

  • Eat this and not that
  • Eat at this time but not then 
  • Exercise this much at this time

If our culture wasn’t so focused on dieting and trying to find the perfect healthy way to eat, we would just call intuitive eating simply eating

Intuitive eating is the natural way our bodies like to eat because it’s the way our biology is programmed.

Our body gives us hunger cues to tell us when we are hungry and need energy from food. Then our body provides us with fullness cues that tell us when it’s time to stop eating.

If we can learn to trust our body’s hunger and fullness cues, we can have a much simpler and easier relationship with food where it doesn’t have to be this complicated stressful guilty time.

Two points to note:

  • After dieting, you might be out of touch with your hunger and fullness cues, so it may take time to reconnect with them
  • Intuitive eating is NOT a hunger fullness diet, meaning you don’t need to wait to feel hungry to eat and just because you’re full doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty about eating more. Learn more about hunger and fullness cues in this post.

Before intuitive eating

For years before starting intuitive eating, I would bounce around between trying different diets. 

I would have success with them at times. I would be eating on plan and completing the workouts as I said I would. Then I would see results and changes in my body. 

But every time the couple month plan ended or I had a cheat day, I would feel out of control around food and feel like all of my progress was lost.

I always felt like I was starting over. 

I struggled to be consistent and couldn’t trust myself to be around all unhealthy foods because I would want to eat all of them or spend my time thinking about not eating them until I finally gave in.

This could go on and on about the types of diet and lifestyle changes I tried. And all the ways I tried to make it work. 

Being a dietitian I had all the information about healthy habits and making behavior change. I couldn’t understand how I wasn’t able to make it work which led me to deciding I needed to try something different.

When I was at my dieting rock bottom, even just thinking about starting to watch what I eat again, even with non-strict plans that just focused on eating more vegetables and fewer bad foods. 

With even just that thought about starting, I would inevitably get up to see what junk food was in the house.

I had this unhelpful thought that if I hate all of the unhealthy food then they wouldn’t be there to tempt me when I was no longer allowed to have them and I could enjoy them one last time.

But I felt like I had worn out my willpower and struggled to stick to anything for more than a day.

So about six years ago, I decided it was time to find a different approach to eating. 

I decided to learn more about intuitive eating.

What changed after becoming an intuitive eating

I started by reading the intuitive eating book and other food freedom books. And I started playing around with some of the concepts in there

And I was surprised by how many of those stories resonated with my own dieting experiences.

Even with that, I had my doubts and I didn’t really go all in with intuitive eating for another six months or so because I was worried it wouldn’t work.

There were lots of lessons I had to learn along the way, especially when it came to emotional eating. 

I’ll be honest in the beginning there was a little bit of rebellion eating because I was still learning what intuitive eating truly was. 

But I will say while rebellion eating is not a way of eating intuitively, it can be part of the process in healing a relationship of food.

If we fast forward from where I started to what my intuitive eating has become, I now have a peaceful and calm relationship with food. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that I can be around any food at all. If I want it and I’m hungry I’ll eat it, and if I don’t want it then I won’t eat it. I have balance between my physical hunger, taste satisfaction, and emotional wellbeing. 

Here are some of my small and major successes now that I’m in my after stage of becoming intuitive eater.

  • I no longer think about food all of the time. I’m not wasting time and energy recalculating food and making sure I’m following the plan for the day.
  • When around foods I used to restrict, I don’t spend my whole time trying to avoid eating it. I’m able to be more present in conversations with people and the event that I’m attending.
  • I forget about the food that I have in the house. Before intuitive eating, when I used to bring something like ice cream bars into my home. The entire time they were in the house, I was thinking about trying not to over indulge. Which just led me to overeating them and spending way too much energy thinking about them.
  • Exercise has become enjoyable again. My workouts are no longer a way to earn more calories and I no longer view exercising as something I have to do. I enjoy moving my body because it helps my body feel good, which makes it fun and not a chore.
  • I have more fun on holidays. When I go on vacation or at a holiday event, I no longer use it as a cheat day and excuse to enjoy food. So I’m no longer overly full, bloated, and uncomfortable. I’m not overindulging because when food is always available and I can have whatever I want I don’t have as much urges and need to eat in the short instances where I can.
  • Rarely do I overeat and feel uncomfortably full. Yes, it still happens on occasion, but for the most part I am able to stop when I feel comfortably full and satisfied. 
  • No longer get hangry. I used to feel hangry multiple times a week, even daily, but now that I honor my hunger before I get to an extreme hunger stage I don’t reach the irritable stage from ignoring my hunger.
  • I feel more energized because I take better care of my body and eat a more balanced diet with intuitive eating. Plus I’m not wasting so much energy trying to use willpower and control that left me feeling extra stressed.
  • Less stress and no longer feel guilty after eating.
  • More trust with my body and myself.
  • Better body image.
  • More kindness towards myself and a better relationship with myself.
  • More enjoyable experiences because before I wouldn’t go out to dinner with friends or I wouldn’t make plans if it potentially messed with my meal or exercise plan
  • More time back in my life because I am no longer wasting hours and energy on calculating my macros, counting calories making sure my food and meal plan line up exactly with my goals.

Other examples of what intuitive eating before and after could look like

We all are on our own unique intuitive eating journey. The problems that led me to intuitive eating may look similar or very different from your past experiences with food. 

No two journeys are exactly alike, so let’s go over some examples of what other short term and long-term changes I’ve seen in my clients and people I’ve had conversations with. 

Intuitive and healing your relationship with food is really a long game. 

It takes time to change beliefs and unlearn the behaviors and habits we pick up from trying to diet, but I know how hard it can be to stay with something when you’re waiting for that long-term change.

That’s why I want to spend some time go short term changes that you could experience after becoming an intuitive eater

Short term changes after intuitive eating

So one of the most common short term changes that I hear with my clients in our intuitive eating coaching program is an immediate reduction in binging, emotional eating, and overeating. 

One of those first steps that we take in the intuitive eating journey is starting to give ourselves more permission to eat. Which often immediately reduces our judgment and gives ourselves permission to eat that can reduce the urges to overeat.

This is different from when you are rebellion eating after stopping a diet. Because when people overeat after a diet, they usually overeat because they weren’t getting enough food and because we have more intense cravings for restricted foods. 

But starting intuitive eating is different because it allows us to eat anything without restriction. So the initial permission tends to help slow cravings and urgency to eat. And people tell me they experience a lot less cravings, emotional stress, guilt after eating, and have an easier time with stopping when their body feels comfortably full.

Here are some of the short term changes starting intuitive eating:

  • Less overheating caused by extreme hunger and hangry feelings
  • Reduced judgment about your food
  • Increased trust around food

Long term changes after intuitive eating

The long time changes you may experience depend on where your relationship with food, your body, and exercise started. 

But here are some of the long-term changes that could come with become practicing intuitive eating

  • More consistent healthy behaviors, like exercise and movement
  • Better physical health
  • Less stress around food
  • More energy
  • Reduced risk of disordered eating behaviors and better mental health

Keys to success with intuitive eating

So you might be wondering if intuitive eating will work for you.

The answer is 100% yes it can work for you. 

The key is just figuring out how to make it work for you. 

It can be extremely overwhelming to start intuitive eating because it’s a no food rules approach. Especially when you’re used to following the common diet and healthy lifestyle tips. It takes exploring your habits and thoughts around food, exercise, and your body.

I think some of the keys to being successfully embrace intuitive eating:

  • Patience
  • Grace and kindness for yourself
  • A willingness to build awareness of your body and your mindset
  • Courage to go against beliefs you have from diet and wellness culture
  • Persistence to keep trying
  • Repetition
  • Honesty and awareness
  • And practice practice practice

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