“Intuitive Eating doesn’t work for me, I just eat all the things and it doesn’t feel good.”
Have you been feeling this way or have heard someone say this when you share the Intuitive Eating approach with them?
Then brace yourself for a lightbulb moment:
You’re probably confusing Intuitive Eating with Impulsive Eating.
It can be easy to confuse the two, especially when it’s been over simplified with advice like just ‘’eat whatever, whenever you want’’.
There’s a lot more that goes into how to eat intuitively (true Intuitive Eating does not include chaos and feeling out of control) and it’s so important for you to be able to differentiate between Intuitive Eating and Impulsive so that you don’t opt out of an approach that can change your life and you have clarity as to what you actually need to start focusing on to truly eat intuitively.
Because I see it all too often where some people will be quick to denounce intuitive eating by saying it ‘’doesn’t work for me’’ when in reality what they have experienced and are describing is not intuitive, it’s impulsive.
So let’s understand the difference between intuitive eating and impulsive eating in a nutshell:
(Prefer to listen to this advice as I guide you through it? Listen to the podcast episode version! Listen to Ep 69: Are you eating intuitively or impulsively? How to know the difference and what to do about it HERE)
This includes pausing to think about the food choice beyond the initial impulse of wanting it. You make a decision that considers not only taste buds but also the body and overall well being so that you FEEL good, too.
An example of this would be when seeing a cookie on the counter and before grabbing it and taking a bite, you reflect before making a decision: Do I want a cookie now? How will my body feel? Am I enjoying it? Does it make sense to have it now if I can have it whenever I want?
These appear like lots of questions but with time and practice it is a matter of a few seconds.
This is when you eat without giving it much thought. It is reactionary and on impulse.
This can feel chaotic or mindless and leave the body feeling bad. You lead your eating ONLY with what your taste buds want, and not what your body actually wants, holistically.
An example would be when you see a cookie on the counter and eat it without further reflection. It’s there. You want it. You take it. Sometimes just because it’s there!
A lot of life moments can trigger impulsive eating, some reasons can be:
📣 When you’re in a ‘’honeymoon phase’’ of making peace with food when you are reintroducing ‘’off limits’’ food back into your life. This is usually a temporary phase and often necessary. Don’t judge it.
📣 Lack of emotional coping skills
📣 Lack of impulse control across many areas in life, not just food. Notice where else this impulse control comes up.
Example: going on your phone even when there is nothing to check in on (just out of habit or impulse)
📣 Rebelliously eating against subconscious underlying food rules that need to be addressed & challenged. Examples:
- Not really being in the mood for a cookie, but you don’t want to go back to any kind of dieting or restriction – so you eat it anyway because ‘no one will tell me not to have cookies!’.
- Giving yourself ‘permission’ to eat a cookie but really feeling like you ‘shouldn’t’ – so to quiet that voice in your head, you proceed to eat more and more cookies even when you are full or don’t want anymore. And then you end up not feeling good both physically and mentally.
When my clients reach out for support because they desperately want to be liberated from food rules, chaos, and guilt and feel peace & ease with food BUT they feel like Intuitive Eating is ‘not working’ – I dive deeper with them on different possible triggers that are causing this.
Once we identify the core trigger (see above for several possible reasons), it can be addressed and resolved at its core and they are amazed at how different they feel with food. How much more calm, conscious, and centered making food choices are.
Their experiences with food start to look and feel like this…
Now that they are experiencing true intuitive eating, it is clear that before we worked on identifying and resolving the CORE issues, they were actually eating impulsively, not intuitively.
While making peace with food can initially feel overwhelming, eating intuitively should ultimately FEEL GOOD to the body and mind.
If you feel stuck in a chaotic or impulsive eating behavior, it is a signal that a deeper root cause is at play, and it is the root cause you want to address and resolve in order to truly eat with freedom and in ways that feel good and serve your body best.
Usually when healing from all the past dieting damage, healing and becoming an intuitive eater is much more nuanced and complex then ‘just eat whatever you crave or want’ as it completely disregards the deeper level of healing and reflection that is required to be able to eat what you want AND feel good, too!
If you’ve been feeling stuck in your Intuitive Eating journey, perhaps it’s time you slow down the process and take it step by step by understanding what mistakes to avoid and what you DO need to do to effectively stop the food chaos.
P.S. If you’re a Food Freedom Dietitian or Nutrition Professional desiring to support YOUR clients in their food and body peace journey – check out these resources to help you elevate your Intuitive Eating & Body Image counseling skills and coach with confidence:
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