Intuitive Eating : The Part That Everyone Fucks Up

burgerI’ve read all the books on Intuitive Eating with all its variations and there is always one section that everyone glosses over. It is the part where you have to give yourself permission to eat what ever you want, otherwise known as Sacking the Food Police.

Most people come to Intuitive Eating from a history of dieting. There are so many things that are “bad” they haven’t eaten in years. For me it was carbs — mostly goodies with sugar, fat and white flour, everything from croissants to chocolate. When I gave up dieting I could have eaten those things all day.

But I didn’t. Sometimes I wish I had. Geneen Roth in Breaking Free From Emotional Eating talks about eating chocolate chip cookies every meal for two weeks. Then on the fourteenth day; she ate something else as well. On the fifteenth day, she never wanted to see another chocolate chip cookie again.

At first I couldn’t image what would make me stop wanting chocolate chip cookies. And then I couldn’t imagine wanting another. (p.19)

Instead of giving ourselves over completely to what we want, we let the reigns out slowly. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but it means it will take longer to get past the notion that a particular food is “bad” or a “treat” and must be rationed out in small quantities.

The process of legalizing ALL food takes a long time. Too often, I see women making progress by eating outside their previous limits, thinking they have it all under control and then sneaking in a rule that backfires and sees them back in the land of comfort eating.

The nutritional structure you set up for yourself has to be something you can do for the rest of your life — during the times when you are sick, when your dog has died, when your mother has dementia and you’ve lost your job. Saying you’re going to only have chocolate on Sundays or that you’re never having bread again will only stick when things are going well. When things go wrong, the guidelines will dissolve as quickly as any diet will.

I have fallen out of love with food. I know I can eat anything I want all day long, put on ten kilos, and my life will be no worse than it is now. So most of the time, I just eat to stop being hungry. When it makes no difference to my brain and my enjoyment of life if it’s fish and chips or a huge salad then I’ll go for the salad. If I want to eat fish and chips because it’s exactly what is required on a Sunday afternoon after lying on the beach then that’s what I’ll eat.

I have only arrived in this place because I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted until I didn’t want to eat shit any more. I eat crappy food very rarely because I know I can eat it whenever I want and the novelty has worn off.

If you start restricting, even in small amounts before you get to this place then you are heading for trouble. You have to be completely desensitized to the allure of forbidden food.

I always come back to this question — if this was my last day on earth what would I eat? At the beginning of my Intuitive Eating journey I would have said Magnums and marshmallows and dates and caramel fudge washed down with Sangria. Now I’d probably not even bother to eat if it was my last day and spend the whole day in bed with my beloved (maybe getting pizza delivered to keep up our strength).

Wait. Wait my friends. Wait until the siren song of the cake is silent. Wait until you stop eating halfway through a slice of cheesecake because it’s too sweet. Wait until it’s just food again.

Then you will have the power to choose food that is whole and healthy and healing. Then you will have power to choose food that is decadent and wicked and naughty. You will have taken back your power for good, and no feeling or event or person will ever be able to take that away from you.

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About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

15 thoughts on “Intuitive Eating : The Part That Everyone Fucks Up

  1. Hi Katie,

    This was fantastic. Thank you for sharing your insight and giving me a clear image of the kind of relationship with food to aspire to. I deeply admire your freedom. I loved how your asked the question of “what would you eat if this was your last day” and said you really wouldn’t eat much at all. So many people, including myself, are caught up in the notion that food is so closely tied to happiness when there are far more pleasurable, joyful things in life.

    1. Hi Grace — you are right — there are a lot more pleasurable things than food … things that last longer, feel better and don’t weigh you down.

  2. Great post, Katie. I wish everyone in the world could understand that food is “just food”. It makes me mad/sad when people talk about cake or pizza or chocolate as being “bad”, “naughty” or “evil”. 🙁

    Hopefully a few will read this post and get it…

  3. Love this Katie, I’m only just starting to understand what this means… On Saturday did just this. I was starving wanted to shout myself at a cafe, then thought it’s only food and I have food at home, so ate at home and saved money… I am finally finding I am actually saving money now that I know it’s “just” food…

    So much more pluses too, but thank you for sharing 🙂

  4. Hi Katie,
    I’ve recently found your blog and have been reading your posts on intuitive eating with interest. I’ve gotta say the whole idea really scares the shit out of me. I’m scared that if I just let myself eat whatever I feel like I’d eat nothing but chocolate and icecream until I slipped into a sugar induced coma!! I’ve got this list of foods that I’ve branded dangerous and last week I vowed to give them all up. I did for a week and then I ate some cake at my brothers birthday. Yesterday I ate a 1L tub of icecream for lunch. Today I’m vowing to try again. I think the thing that scares me the most is that I feel I really can’t afford to put on more weight – I’m already over 100kg – I guess I really can’t afford to keep doing what I’m doing either so I’m feeling a bit stuck!!

    1. Hi Lauren

      I’d suggest you read some of the amazing intuitive eating books and see how you feel about it. It’s not easy and it takes a long time to make peace with food but it is so worth it. The thing is, that for most of us, deciding to restrict means certain binging — you can’t have one without the other. Allowing yourself to eat anything you really want, means the lure of it falls away. It sounds like a fantasy but it does work.

      Don’t vow to try again with another diet. Vow to give up dieting for ever and figure out eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. I would also recommend Renee Stephen’s Inside Out Weightloss podcast and her new book and program Full-filled.

      All the best x

  5. Wow it’s liked you walked in my head and pulled out the thoughts I can’t seem to put together. I want food to just be food. It’s never ever been that for me. At the beginning of the year I was willing to put myself on a 6 mo liquid diet because of some crazy on youtube. But i got skeptical when she never posted again since reaching her goal weight. I’m only guessing she couldn’t keep the weight off and didn’t want to tell. I found out I was pregnant a month after deciding not to blow almost $700 on the stuff and intuitive eating a few weeks after. I can say this is the most successful slowest weight gaining pregnancy i could have expected.
    I keep getting itchy to research diets I remind myself that listening to my body has done me great. Example: for a week I craved lentils and finally gave in. At the dr’s office yesterday i read in FitPregnancy Sept 2012 that lentils are one of the foods that ease or cure restless leg syndrom especially during pregnancy! I realized all of the sudden my legs hadn’t kicked randomly in bed since i started having lentils!

    I’m really enjoying the blog and can’t wait to read more,

  6. Great post! I just want to know how LONG I have to wait for the fear and anxiety to go away. 🙂 I still tend towards restriction and know I just need to give myself permission to eat what I want, when I want to but it’s a lot harder than I though.

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