Why “Just Let Yourself Eat” Isn’t Effective: Mastering Intuitive Eating for Better Health

June 27, 2024

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Today, we’re exploring why the approach of “just let yourself eat” might not be working for you, and I’ll share what you can do instead to foster a healthier relationship with food. By understanding the limitations of this approach and implementing effective strategies, you’ll be able to reconnect with your body’s hunger signals, make mindful eating choices, and achieve lasting wellness through intuitive eating principles.

The Limitations of “Just Let Yourself Eat”

“Just let yourself eat” is a well-meaning suggestion when you’re trying to break free from dieting and diet culture. However, it often falls short in guiding someone towards becoming a true intuitive eater. 

This approach can lead to erratic eating patterns—sometimes undereating because you’re not attuned to your hunger signals, and other times overeating impulsively, not intuitively. Understanding this distinction can be a major revelation for many of my clients.

Today, I’ll teach you how to slow down and connect with your hunger, moving away from the “just let yourself eat” trap.

How Dieting Leads Us Astray

Dieting teaches us to ignore our appetite signals. Here are some common examples:

Drink a glass of water before you eat – This tricks you into feeling less hungry.

Portion out your food according to calories/points/macros – This makes you ignore your hunger and only eat a prescribed amount.

If you’re really hungry, you’d eat an apple – This dismisses your body’s cravings and desires.

Family messages like “Do you really need seconds?” or “Eat your veggies to get dessert – These undermine listening to your hunger and fullness signals.

If you’ve ditched dieting and are now trying to eat intuitively, you might find it trickier than expected. Reconnecting with your appetite signals and undoing the damage caused by dieting takes time.

Creating a Semi-Structured Eating Schedule

Your appetite is tied to your circadian rhythm or biological clock. Just like your body prefers to sleep and wake at regular times, it also prefers to eat at consistent times each day. A regular eating pattern helps your body expect food, making your hunger signals more reliable and predictable.

Suggested Eating Schedule

Here’s what a semi-structured eating schedule might look like:

  • 7 am – Breakfast
  • 10 am – Snack
  • 12 pm – Lunch
  • 3 pm – Snack
  • 6 pm – Dinner
    9 pm – Snack

Or, if your breakfast and lunch are closer together:

  • 8 am – Breakfast
  • 11:30 am – Lunch
  • 2 pm – Snack
  • 5 pm – Snack
  • 7 pm – Dinner

Adjust the schedule to fit your lifestyle. The goal is to train your appetite to align with your circadian rhythm, making it easier to recognize true hunger. Listen to this episode of the podcast for meal inspiration.

5 Simple Steps to Connect with Your Hunger and Fullness

Step 1: The Powerful Pause

Before eating, take three long, slow, deep breaths. This will stimulate your vagus nerve and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you be more mindful and present. Pausing will make it easier to eat intuitively and help you stop eating when you’re full.

Step 2: Befriend Your Hunger

Diet culture teaches us to fear hunger. Instead, view hunger as a helpful biological signal. Just as you respond to the need to pee without second-guessing, you should respond to hunger neutrally and without fear.

Step 3: EAT – Unapologetically

When you’re hungry, eat without guilt or shame. Eating is a natural, necessary part of being human. You deserve to eat when you’re hungry, unapologetically.

Step 4: Create a Speed Bump

Intentionally slow down while eating to check if you’re getting full. This helps you recognize your “last bite threshold” and prevents mindless overeating.

Step 5: Honor Your Fullness

Pay attention while eating and stop when you’re comfortably full. This is more nuanced than “just let yourself eat.” It involves listening to your body’s signals and eating an amount that satisfies you.

BONUS Step 6: Go Live Life

After eating, move on to other activities. Appreciate the food and the energy it provides, but don’t dwell on it. Food is just one important part of your life.

Recap and Free Guide

Let’s recap the five steps to reconnecting with your hunger and fullness:

1. The Powerful Pause

2. Befriend Your Hunger

3. EAT – Unapologetically

4. Create a Speed Bump

5. Honor Your Fullness

6. BONUS: Go Live Life

I’ve compiled these steps into a free guide, “5 Simple Steps to Reconnecting With Your Hunger and Fullness.” If you’ve downloaded it before, grab the updated version with additional resources.

Remember, you are worthy just as you are.

Listen & subscribe on your favorite platform:  Apple Podcasts  | Spotify | Deezer |  Google

Search for Episode 132: What They Won’t Tell You About Intuitive Eating That I Will

Looking for more support on your journey to food freedom and body acceptance?

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