Intuitive eating is a term thrown around a lot and to be honest, it's hard to explain because it's so simple and complicated at the same time.
Eat what you like and what feels good. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full.
Before you can do this, however, you need to actually sit with yourself and figure all that out. And make many mistakes.
"Eat What You Like" -- As a lifelong restricter/binger, the first part of figuring out what I really wanted to eat was confusing and hard. My knee-jerk reaction of "how can I eat a bowl of cereal with regular milk?" continued for a long time. And what did I really like? I thought I loved macaroni and cheese, since that was a major binge food for me. Turns out I lusted macaroni and cheese. The idea of it. The high of it. But true love? Nah. It just doesn't taste good enough for true love. Tuna sandwiches or grilled cheese? That's true love.
Finding out what foods you actually like takes time. But for a diet lifer it's liberating and fun. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to have what you really wanted for lunch? You'll make mistakes and think you really wanted a second serving of pasta. Then you feel kinda gross afterwards, and that's necessary information for you. "When I eat two servings of pasta I feel kinda gross afterwards. Next time, I will have just one because I don't like this feeling."
"Eat When You're Hungry and Stop When You're Full" -- Duh. When I first heard that I remembered sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting a million years ago and the group leader -- a thin, frenetic, over-caffeinated woman -- said "when you feel hungry, go for a bag of baby carrots instead of the chocolate." I remember thinking, if any of us in this room were the type of people who would "go for the baby carrots," we wouldn't be here in the first place. I have never once, even for a nano-second, wanted baby carrots. Because they're... carrots. I also had no idea if I was ever hungry. In my family we have a running joke. When people turn down food because they're "not hungry." We always say -- "Hunger? What's that got to do with anything?" I'm pretty sure I've been truly hungry like five times in my life. I never let myself even get to the point of hungry because that sensation freaked me out. And often led to binging. I was surprised to find out that feeling hungry doesn't actually kill you.
The only way to figure out when you're hungry or full is to be in touch with your body. Ugh. Who wants to do that? I hear you. It's not pretty at first. But it's essential. You need to quiet the noise that's been on a continuous loop for decades. It's noise. You know you. Your core. How you really feel. If you don't feel like you do (and I didn't either) -- start getting to know you now. It's the kindest thing you may ever do for yourself. Inhale, touch your belly, do yoga, sit in silence, write, listen to music that moves you, light a candle, lie down -- whatever you can do to be inward. One of the best things I learned this year is to just notice things. Don't do anything. Don't fix it. Just notice and be aware. So if you're trying to be inward and all that keeps happening is your mind racing about needing to clean your gutters and fill the tank up in your car and finalize vacation plans and submit work proposal and meditate more -- just notice that's what you're doing. And keep breathing. It gets easier.
Once you have a better sense of your body and your feelings/sensations -- you will stop eating when you're full. The majority of the time. This experience is MIND BLOWING for diet lifers like me. It was like a glimpse into what normal people do with food! It's nice to feel normal sometimes.
You will make mistakes. You will have the second piece of cake because it tasted really good. And then when you feel a bit yucky afterwards -- remember that next time and maybe you'll only have one. Or maybe you'll still have seconds. It doesn't really matter in the end. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. And to eat grilled cheese with joy. And to touch your belly and be OK with it. And to know that you are so much more than wide hips and no inner thigh gap and back fat. Get to know yourself. You're worth it.
Keep breathing. The rest will come.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.