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How to Start Eating Intuitively

If you’re a woman in midlife who’s tired of dieting and depriving yourself, you’re not alone! Eating intuitively may be just what you need to tap into what you truly need as your body is changing.

Intuitive eating is a way to honor your health and desire for satisfying foods without dieting. Many women who embrace true intuitive eating may have a natural decrease in weight and an increase in acceptance of themselves. Something many women admit they could use more of in midlife!

As your body is changing and weight is being distributed differently due to hormonal changes, your relationship with food may change as well. But you may recognize you don’t want to diet at this stage in your life and be restrictive with foods you enjoy.

Taking the time to listen to your hunger and fullness cues will allow you to trust your body and create space for what you truly need in midlife to nourish yourself. Learn more at my blog post ‘menopause and intuitive eating.’

What is Intuitive Eating?

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both dieticians, developed the principles in ‘Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach.

First of all, it’s important to remember that this way of eating IS NOT restrictive. You may be accustomed to the diet mentality (restrict, restrict, restrict).

Take a deep breath. You are going to learn to trust your body. It doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. You will learn to trust your body again while nourishing your body!

Intuitive eating has 10 principles:

  1. Reject the diet mentality: Let go of the belief that there is a new and better diet or food plan out there.
  2. Honor your hunger: Don’t wait until you are starving to eat. Otherwise, you will trigger a primal drive to overeat.
  3. Make peace with food: Give yourself unconditional permission to eat rather than allowing for intense feelings of deprivation from restricting certain foods.
  4. Challenge the food police: Scream a loud ‘no’ to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating minimal calories or ‘bad’ because you ate dessert. Check in on your mindset.
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor: Follow what the Japanese do where they have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. We should find pleasure and satisfaction in our eating experience.
  6. Feel Your Fullness: Trust that you will give yourself the foods you desire and listen to your body’s signals that you are no longer hungry.
  7. Cope with your emotions with kindness: Emotional eating can happen when you restrict foods and then have a feeling of loss of control when you soothe yourself with food. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Use a journal to help get in touch with how you are feeling. This is a journal I have found simple but effective.
  8. Respect your body: Accept the genes you’ve been given. Don’t be unrealistic about how you should look even at a healthy weight.
  9. Movement – feel the difference: Get active and choose an exercise you enjoy! Focus on how good it feels to be energized by movement.
  10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition: Don’t strive to eat perfectly. You will not become unhealthy from one particular snack, meal, or a day of eating certain foods. Progress, not perfection, is what counts!

Where To Start with Intuitive Eating

toddler's standing in front of beige concrete stair contemplating eating intuitively.

The first place to start when you decide to eat intuitively is to recognize when you are hungry and when you are full. The longer you have been a dieter, the longer it will take for you to get comfortable with eating intuitively. Be patient with this process and recognize it takes time to trust your body.

You need to train your brain to realize that there is no scarcity of any food. You can have all food whenever you want. But remember to practice the 10 principles, especially listening to your hunger and fullness cues and coping with emotions with kindness. If you are someone who has eaten emotionally to deal with life’s ups and downs, you will need to find other ways to take care of your true needs as you embrace a more positive mindset.

Can Intuitive Eating Lead to Weight Loss?

Blue Tape Measuring on Clear Glass Square Weighing Scale while dieting versus eating intuitively.

Many people report weight loss once they get rid of the diet mentality and stop labeling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But it takes consistency and doesn’t happen overnight. You will naturally get to your natural weight by eating this way.

Once I embraced intuitive eating, my body weight initially increased but then decreased to its natural set point. The most difficult step for me was dealing with my emotions without food.

I was a lifelong dieter, and I also battled an eating disorder in my teens and 20s. Fortunately, I got the help back then I needed to overcome it. As I got older, I struggled with weight gain, especially after pregnancies and then again in midlife with hormonal changes.

Luckily the eating disorder didn’t become a problem again, but the strict rules around food and chronic dieting would reappear. By the time I went through peri-menopause and menopause, I gained over 20 pounds because I used sugar and red wine to ease the changing and confusing hormone symptoms.

As I continued to eat emotionally, I recognized that my body was tired and achy due to increased inflammation from the foods I was choosing and overconsumption of alcohol.

I also knew I was done depriving myself. Without dieting, I nourished my body with foods that made me feel energized and not uncomfortable. I finally embraced intuitive eating, allowing me to nourish my body and mind sustainably without deprivation. If I want dessert, I enjoy it without guilt. I remind myself regularly to ask for what I truly need when dealing with uncomfortable emotions.

Remember that if your sole purpose of eating intuitively is to lose weight, you will never truly make peace with food. Be patient with your progress. Learn to truly enjoy the food you are eating, the people you are with, and the experience of the entire meal.

Benefits of Eating Intuitively

For people who truly embrace eating intuitively, there are many health benefits such as:

  • relief in finally stopping dieting and creating a sustainable way of eating for life
  • decreased prevalence of depression
  • lower risk for obesity and disordered eating
  • better physical and mental health
  • better body satisfaction as well as pleasure when eating
  • improved cholesterol levels

Intuitive eating is a simple concept that helps you make peace with all types of food. It takes time to listen to your body and pay attention to what it truly needs. If you are currently suffering from an eating disorder, consult with your physician before embracing these principles.

Let me know if you embrace intuitive eating. I’d love to hear from you!

Reach out if you would like further support surrounding managing your midlife symptoms and success in eating intuitively. You can also click my RESOURCES page for free helpful information!

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