For most of my life, I never gave much thought to what I ate. I was lucky and grew up in a home where all kinds of foods were offered: fruits, vegetables, proteins of all animal and vegetable origins, starches, snack foods, sweets, and dairy… really, all of it. I also was fortunate enough to be young and carefree and active, so naturally my body and metabolism regulated my hunger and fullness cues adequately. I ate when I wanted to and stopped when I felt satisfied. Sounds great, right? Keep reading.
It got more complicated as I got older. I began to consider nutritional value more in my teenage and college years, partially related to my performance as a dancer, and very much as a result of the nutrition courses I took in college. Eating was not as carefree as it used to be, and I was no stranger to news about fad diets, ways to “lose weight fast,” and disordered eating behaviors I observed among my friends and fellow dancers. But once I became a dietitian and learned about the many different approaches to weight management and modifying dietary intake, a certain approach really jumped out at me:
The antithesis of what many weight loss or healthy eating “gurus” will promote (intense calorie restriction, fasts, cleanses, shakes, supplements, drinks… I could go on for days), intuitive eating involves getting in touch with your body, it’s unique signals for hunger and signs for fullness and… wait for it, because here’s the best part… building a TRUST in those signals. I thought, “Hey! That’s what you grew up doing… It was easy. There was no stigma around certain kinds of foods, no foods were taboo or off limits… you ate for reasons like taste, and pleasure, and availability, and yes, nutritional value too!” I knew this was the approach I needed to teach clients and share with the world, and I knew that this could really work for people struggling with more than just weight concerns, but fears about eating, concerns about body image, and constant worry about food choices on a daily basis. I learned to give myself permission to become an intuitive eater, and so began a journey to help others become intuitive eaters too.
So does it work? You might be thinking, “WHAT?! I can’t trust myself around pizza or cake or any food for that matter!” But actually… you can. Say it out loud, “I can be trusted around food…” That’s step one… affirmation and building skills that improve your ability to listen to your body and recognize it’s biological cues. It involves exposing yourself to a wide variety of foods, learning to cook, and coming to grips with managing your emotions without food in order to get there, but it IS possible! Here’s a tidbit of my most recent journey in Intuitive Eating.
What Being a Mom Has Taught Me About Intuitive Eating
Now, I am a mom... The most rewarding and beautiful experience I have ever had. The joy in seeing a little part of you grow and learn and change is unimaginable. And teaching her to enjoy and love both food and the amazing things it can do for her body are equally wonderful!
But since my little one started eating solid food, my dedication to being and raising an intuitive eater has truly been tested! There’s still that little voice in the back of my mind saying, “Is she eating enough? Too much? The right thing? Is this even safe for babies? How old do you even have to be to eat black beans?” The learning curve is HUGE, even for a dietitian! So I take deep breaths. I stop. I watch, and I listen… both to her cues and mine. Some days, this sweet girl eats 3 meals and 3 snacks that are all balanced in food groups and have a wide variety of colors, shapes, and textures represented. Other days (as in just last night), she eats cherry tomatoes and animal crackers for dinner, because that’s what she picked out of my wide variety of offerings.
Sometimes she eats more... A LOT more. Sometimes she eats less, much less. Sometimes she likes a certain food, then the next day decides it’s no longer going to be on the menu. And guess what? It’s O.K!
I’ve realized, unlike an adult, she does not do this because some fad diet or awful TV commercial has put any kind of fear in her mind about a certain food, and not because she’s worried about body image or calories or fat grams, but because her BODY is telling her something. Maybe it’s saying, “Hey, I need more vitamin C today…” or “Let’s eat only peas today because they taste really good,” or “Let’s confuse mom and eat only new foods today!” Kidding!
But in all honesty, seeing this process is amazing. Babies and toddlers exemplify intuitive eating in a way you can only understand if you see it firsthand. It has renewed my faith in intuitive eating and the biological way our bodies can regulate our intake and encourages me to continue modeling intuitive eating behaviors in our home. One of the million things she has taught me and one of the million reasons I am so grateful to be her mom!
If intuitive eating is something that interests you, check out the book: Intuitive Eating : A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and Pam Ward
And if feeding your family is more stress than fun, I really recommend: Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook by Ellyn Satter M.S. R.D. L.C.S.W. B.C.D
If you find yourself struggling with managing meals, family time, your own health and wellness, or just want to get back on track with trusting your body, please reach out for a consultation through our website. We would love to meet with you, help you meet your goals, and start you on your own journey to intuitive eating!