When I hit diet rock bottom in 2013 and discovered Intuitive Eating, I was desperate for change. I was also doubtful that Intuitive Eating would help me heal my profoundly dysfunctional relationship with food, but I was willing to give it a try because I just couldn’t tolerate the thought of trying another darn diet! Honestly, I thought that it would be easier than it initially was. At first, I was excited not to have so many restrictions around food, but with that freedom, also came a lot of fear, confusion and stress. Please understand that I’m not saying any of this to discourage you. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m telling you this because you may be feeling similarly, and I want you to know that you’re not alone.
The good news is that it’s possible to get through all that initial unpleasantness and discomfort. Yes, all of it! If you continue and work through the potential fears, confusion and stress (or other uncomfortable emotions), you’ll get to the other end of the proverbial rainbow and discover food freedom! To help you accomplish this, I’ve compiled some tips that will empower you to keep moving forward in your journey.
1. Join online support groups – If you’re not already in online support groups, join them! They’re a wonderful way to meet other people who are in your shoes. Knowing that we’re not alone and hearing what others are experiencing is critical for success with Intuitive Eating. It gives you an opportunity to read what others are going through and allows you to share your wins and/or struggles. Believe it or not, both help to inspire others. There are many great ones, but the groups I hang out in a lot are The No-Diet Sisterhood (my group), The Diet-Free Living Community, The Dare Not to Diet Society and the Food Psych Podcast. There are probably hundreds of others, but these are my go-to groups and I know and trust the women who host them. Be sure that whatever groups you join are tagged with “Intuitive Eating”, “no-diet”, “ant-diet”, or “Health at Every Size (HAES)” (if you subscribe to that philosophy). Not all groups are created equal.
2. Educate yourself – Please don’t fall into a common trap by thinking that Intuitive Eating is just a “hunger/fullness” diet because it isn’t! When you embrace all that Intuitive Eating is, your whole life will change, not just how you relate to your food and your body. Take time to read the book Intuitive Eating and get the new Intuitive Eating Workbook. Both are invaluable resources that will help you in your journey. Also, follow online publications like Refinery29 because they have a lot of relevant articles about Intuitive Eating.
3. Focus on freedom not weight – One of the things that many struggle with when they first start practicing Intuitive Eating is weight gain. While not everyone gains weight, many do and it can be very uncomfortable at first. Understand that if you’ve been restricting and/or dieting for some time, your body has been deprived and needs to catch up. I know first-hand how physically uncomfortable this can be because I experienced this myself. The great news is that it very likely will taper off and you’ll find your natural weight without dieting! To help dispel some of these common concerns (which can really keep people feeling stuck), I recommend focusing on the freedom that practicing Intuitive Eating is giving you instead of just the weight gain and/or the way you look. As Taryn Brumfitt says so beautifully in her documentary Embrace, “My body is not an ornament, it is the vehicle of my dreams.” Remembering that we are so much more than just our bodies goes a long way in the healing process.
4. Social media – I’ve already mentioned online support groups, but Pinterest and Instagram are also great places to get support and inspiration. In Pinterest, search for “Intuitive Eating” or “Body Positive” and you’ll see loads of articles, images, free resources, etc. Instagram is also great for this! Search for relevant hashtags like #IntuitiveEating, #BodyPo, #Nodiet, #BodyConfidence, #SelfLove, etc. Both these resources pack a lot of anti-diet punch.
5. Give back – It’s a well-known fact that one of the most effective ways to boost our own vibe is to be in service or help others. So, if you find outlets that are helping you, give back by supporting others. Make supportive comments, share with others who might benefit, and whenever possible (up to your comfort level) share your experiences. This will help you and others to keep moving forward. Remember, we’re all connected, so when we raise someone else up, we all benefit.
6. Move your body – When you’re feeling crappy and just want to give up, move your body. Go for a walk, hike or just go out in nature. One of the many powerful phrases I still remember from my days in Overeaters Anonymous is “Move a muscle, change a thought!” Even if you just fold laundry, clean your house, do some gardening, it’s all good. You’d be surprised how a mood can turn around by just moving. It doesn’t much matter what you choose to do, just move in a loving, self-compassionate way.
7. Have faith – When you feel low, it’s hard to believe that it’s ever going to get better. I’ve been there and know how hard this one can be. But, we must remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Better days are ahead and the more we believe that, the better we’ll likely feel. So, keep the faith knowing that this is one season of many in your life.
8. You can have it too – Know that if someone else can have success with Intuitive Eating, you can too! As the late Debbie Ford said in her profound book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers “If you want to be like others, it’s because you have the ability within you to be like them.” So, by keeping this in mind, move forward knowing that your day is coming. It won’t come all at once, but it will come if you stick with it.
9. Get 1:1 support – If you’ve been practicing Intuitive Eating for some time and still just don’t think you’re fully embracing it or have tried my other suggestions already and still feel “stuck”, get help from a certified Intuitive Eating professional. Refer to the certified counselors on the Intuitive Eating website. Keep in mind that many of the counselors offer remote sessions, so if you don’t find someone in your area, remote sessions are another option.
Intuitive Eating has given me the freedom I’d craved for decades while I was dieting. I believe that with the proper support in place, anyone can experience this freedom in their own lives. By sprinkling more self-compassion into every day; trying out my tips and others that resonate with you; and paying close attention to the subtle changes in your behavior, you’ll begin to experience changes. Remember to take time to acknowledge your daily efforts and your bravery because this is not easy! I’m confident that food freedom is on its way to you!