A while back I made a post inside my FB group and it said, “Where do you feel stuck with your intuitive eating process?” It generated some of the BEST conversations about what feels hard, confusing or unclear about finding freedom with food through intuitive eating.
The responses I got on that post are things that I’ve seen over and over again as a dietitian and a coach, and I know that if you can overcome these roadblocks you are going to start to see noticeable shifts in your relationship with food. You’re going to start feeling like it’s easier to trust your body’s appetite signals without second guessing them.
Today I am going to name some of these roadblocks, and give you some super practical advice for overcoming them – so that you can experience the ease, peace and freedom with food that you yearn for.
Remove Your Attunement Disruptors
One of the most obvious roadblocks to eating intuitively is if you’re having trouble recognizing your hunger. It’s hard to “listen to your body” if you’re not connected with your body’s signals, and if you’re not sure what the signals are telling you.
The authors of the book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch talk about what they call “attunement disruptors.” These are the things that get in the way of us being able to listen to our bodies.
There are 2 types of attunement disruptors:
- Physical disruptors – The things that get in the way of you having discernable hunger cues, and your ability to notice and listen to them. This would include things like distracted eating, chaotic eating, grazing.
I have an excellent tool that will help you with this. It’s my free guide called 5 Simple Steps to Reconnecting with Your Hunger and Fullness. It gives you steps to take in order to notice your hunger signals, as well as a copy of the hunger and fullness scale which is a great tool to help you get familiar with the different levels of hunger and fullness. Click here to grab it.
- Mental disruptors – These are the thoughts, rules and judgments you have about food. Feeling guilty for eating a food makes you want to eat more of it because in the back of your mind you don’t know when you’re going to be allowed to have it again. This is why food judgments disrupt our attunement with our bodies. We are stuck in our heads, and the psychological impact the judgments causes us to override our physical signals.
It happens with the foods we label as “good” or “healthy” too. When we tell ourselves we “should” be eating more veggies, it makes us want them less. When you’re at a restaurant and you really want the pasta but you tell yourself you should get the salad because it’s healthier, it makes you want the salad more and the pasta less.
People who are intuitive eaters are shown to actually eat MORE fruits and veggies – not because they have to, but because they WANT TO when they are listening to their bodies.
Neutralizing Food Judgments
Once you’ve identified your judgments about food, you can work on how to get rid of them, so that you can get dialed into not just your hunger and fullness levels, and also start recognizing what your body needs to feel good and function well.
Being fully attuned to how different foods taste AND make your body feel is part of being an intuitive eater.
So HOW do we neutralize these judgments about food?
One of the most effective ways to neutralize the way you think about food is to think of it scientifically, in terms of what it breaks down into inside your body. ALL food on the entire plant breaks down into some combination of 3 essential nutrients – carbohydrate, protein and fat. (Before you start thinking in terms of “macros” that diet culture teaches, I want to slow down and pump the breaks. I’m not referring to macro counting or the macro diet. I’m talking about looking at food literally in terms of what it breaks down into, in a very unsexy way.)
When we look at food as macronutrients, we are thinking of it more in terms of food categories. If you’ve ever been taught the exchange system for food, which we use with diabetes education and meal planning, as well as in the field of eating disorders, we think of food in terms of what nutrition it’s giving us, without worrying about the minutiae.
Let me give you a few examples so you can see what this looks like in action:
- Crackers = carb, even though they have a few grams of protein and fat
- Milk = protein, even though it has carbs and fat
- Pizza = carb, protein, fat
- Cookies = carb + fat
- Fruit = carb
- Pasta = carb, meat sauce = protein, and you could add fat with cheese or a side salad with dressing
You can see that I’m not talking about specific grams of anything. We’re just ballparking what the food is going to be used for nutritionally inside your body, and when we look at it this way we can see that your body isn’t judging the food the way that your brain is and the way that our culture is. Your body doesn’t care if that carbohydrate molecule came from an Oreo or an organic blueberry – it’s still a carb.
This also allows us to mix-and-match foods together in a way that helps our bodies to function well nutritionally. If you can think about pairing carb, protein and fat together most of the time at meals and snacks, you’ll have a good satisfying food combo.
Ok, let’s shift gears and talk about the other roadblock to food freedom and intuitive eating…body image.
Body Acceptance – The Less Obvious Roadblock to Food Freedom
If you’re not doing the inner work on your body image and working towards body acceptance, you’re unlikely to find the full peace and freedom with food you’re looking for. If you’re still hating your body and wanting to lose weight, you’re not going to be able to fully trust yourself with food or let yourself honor your appetite, because you feel like you shouldn’t be eating as much as you’d like – because the underlying assumption is that you should be eating less in order to lose weight.
Let’s keep in mind that one of the biggest myths in our culture is that weight loss happens when we are making healthy choices with our eating and exercise, and therefore we should celebrate and praise weight loss.
I’d like for you to think for a few minutes about some of the unhealthy things you’ve done in order to try and lose weight – the meals you’ve skipped, the times you’ve worked out even when you were exhausted, the diet pills you’ve taken, the coffee or diet soda you drank to try and suppress your hunger, the rice cakes you’ve eaten when you really wanted something else. These forms of actively fighting against our body’s signals for hunger, and our bodies telling us we’re pushing too hard with exercise – this isn’t healthy.
I could give you story after story of people who were complimented for their weight loss when it was a result of disordered eating or an eating disorder. They were being praised and encouraged for a mental illness.
It makes us feel like if we gain weight or if we’re not trying to lose weight that we’re failing, and that we’re not taking care of our health. When in reality, NOT trying to lose weight might be the healthiest thing you’ve ever done.
With body acceptance we are acknowledging that we all have a weight range in which our body is most comfortable, a weight range that is natural for us without us having to fight to control it. This weight range is a moving target, and it will change throughout our lives. Ironically, dieting and weight cycling will increase this weight range over time – which is why we say that “diets don’t work.” In fact, dieting is the #1 predictor of weight GAIN, not weight loss.
If you can overcome this roadblock around body image, you’re going to find it SO MUCH EASIER to eat intuitively.
I get that this part is hard. Really hard.
AND it’s well worth your time and energy to work on thinking about and relating to your body differently. I spend a LOT of time with my clients working on this. It takes time and patience with yourself to learn how to have kindness and compassion towards your body, especially on those days you don’t particularly like it.
Keep this in mind – I’m not suggesting that you need to love your body or feel body positive. I’m suggesting that you can choose to treat your body with kindness and respect, even when you wish it looked differently. This will change everything.
When you can recognize and remove these roadblocks, you’ll find that your intuitive eating journey gets a lot easier. It takes time, so be patient with yourself. You’ve got this!
Let’s get connected!
Looking for more support on your journey to food freedom and body acceptance?
- Join my Facebook group & community “Intuitive Eating Made Easy”
- Take my FREE quiz “What’s Your Unique Path to Food Freedom?”
- Save $120 on HelloFresh, my fav food delivery service!
- Check out my course, Non-Diet Academy