Intuitive eating is the idea that everyone has an innate knowledge of what and how much to eat. It’s oftentimes misunderstood and seen as another approach to dieting, especially nowadays. But intuitive eating is the exact opposite of a diet. While a diet is restrictive and holds you back from certain things, intuitive eating relies on the concept of trusting that your body will inform you when it’s time for food.
This can look like cleaning your plate because you are hungry to stopping because you feel full. It can look like preferring a burger for lunch one day or a salad the next. We have an incredible amount of resource within when we really pay attention and listen to what our bodies need.
But what exactly is intuitive eating?
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating has become a buzzword over the last few years. With all the misconceptions surrounding intuitive eating nowadays, it’s almost easier to describe intuitive eating by what it is not before explaining what it is.
Intuitive eating is not a weight gain or weight loss tool. If you look at the practice as a tool to manage your weight then you’re incorporating a diet, not intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is also not “giving up.” It’s not about eating whatever foods that come to mind. You can’t eat chips, ice cream, and cookies for every meal and call it intuitive eating. It’s not consuming food with reckless abandon.
Instead, intuitive eating is trusting your body to inform you of what it needs and when. All people are born with an innate understanding of eating when hungry and stopping when full. Your body needs specific nutrients to function and can inform you of what you need as you learn how you respond to different types foods.
Hunger and Eating Disorders
Every human being has innate hunger cues that let them know when they are hungry. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that motivates people to eat. It sends signals to your mind and body that it’s time to eat and then you ideally consume enough food to satiate that natural impulse.
Problems arise for individuals with eating disorders. Research reveals that people with conditions like anorexia or bulimia can ignore or reject these hunger cues. Over time, they can condition their brain to override signals from the hypothalamus, eventually even to the point of eliminating taste-reward or hunger itself.
Eating disorders create serious concerns and misconceptions about food. Whether it’s anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or another form of disordered eating, this harmful relationship with food makes it difficult to trust your mind and body. After months or years of overriding natural hunger cues, how can you learn to listen to that innate natural drive?
Eating Disorders and Intuitive Eating
Using intuitive eating in eating disorder recovery can be a difficult practice in the beginning. It’s hard to understand what is a legitimate hunger cue and what is the result of your brain’s reconditioned state. The most effective way to incorporate intuitive eating in eating disorder recovery is to first address your misconceptions and misunderstandings around food.
Many people enter eating disorder treatment labeling foods as good vs. bad, safe vs. unsafe, or comfortable vs. triggering. Labeling foods is not a helpful way to approach intuitive eating. You shouldn’t see yourself as a bad person for eating a certain type of food. You aren’t making a mistake if you eat a little bit more on one day and a little bit less on another.
But this is why seeking effective eating disorder treatment before attempting intuitive eating is so critical. It’ll be difficult to find success with intuitive eating while still holding onto harmful beliefs about food. Once you repair your relationship with food, though, you can begin to approach intuitive eating.
How can you find effective eating disorder treatment? Seeking help at a specialized eating disorder treatment facility is oftentimes the first step. Programs like the one available at Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment offer the compassionate care you need to overcome your eating disorder.
Shoreline centers its approach around the crucial aspect of individuality in treatment. Everyone comes to the program with their backgrounds and experiences. Trying to apply a one-size-fits-all plan will only hurt, not help. Each person has a unique story that requires an individualized program tailored to their needs.
If you’re looking for that in-depth care, Shoreline can help. Fill out a contact form or give us a call today and we’ll be in touch! We’re here to help you through every step of the process from the very first moment you reach out. You never need to struggle with your eating disorder alone again; Shoreline is here for you.