Dec 26, 2019
The fresh new year is coming SO soon. This is such a fun part of the year. With a new year, we all have a clean slate and an exciting new future. Most of us are leaning forward in anticipation!
As I prepare to teach even more women about how to kick dieting to the curb and embrace intuitive eating, I'd love to take a chance to respond to the two biggest (and most common) questions I get asked.
Ready? Here they are:
"Is intuitive eating healthy?" and its companion question, "How can I eat whatever I want and still be healthy?"
Have you ever wondered these things?
If so, you're in good company! These are good questions, and it's worth taking the time to explore the answers. As I share more, I hope you're able to consider whether intuitive makes sense for your life and needs!
Have you signed up for the Food Freedom and Body Confidence Challenge? It starts with a workshop that covers the 4 simple steps of intuitive eating, and then follows up with 4 easy, daily challenges that give you a chance to practice intuitive eating. (You'll find out just how fun and easy it is!)
It's free, it's fun, and you can sign up today at:
Back to the two big questions!
Before we can determine if intuitive eating is healthy, we have to define what "healthy" even is. And honestly -- true health is about your WHOLE being. It's not just vital signs, numbers on a scale, or your level of physical stamina. In fact, the World Health Organization shares that:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Wow! Too often, when people talk about health they're only taking a limited amount of data into account. Ultimately they are often talking about (and promoting) some form of diet or exercise that will impact your physical body, but not much else. (Or worse...will have a negative impact on your emotional or social wellbeing.)
Intuitive eating, on the other hand, covers the WHOLE picture! Rather than just focusing on calories, workouts, or lists of food that you're "allowed" and "not allowed" to eat, intuitive eating considers your whole being. You learn about meeting your needs, what makes you feel good, and how you can best care for yourself.
My clients are often shocked but just how comprehensive intuitive eating work is!
So...is intuitive eating healthy?
According to the World Health Organizations definition, it IS! In fact, it's likely healthier than any diet or regimented plan you've attempted in the past.
The second question gets at the root of how intuitive eating can be healthy for you, since it literally means you can eat anything. So many people voice the concern that they'll only ever eat donuts or candy if they try to eat intuitively. After all, isn't that what we all really want?!
I go more in-depth on releasing restrictions around food in this episode (https://caitlinball.com/2019/09/intuitive-eating-101-letting-go-restrictions/), but I still want to touch on this here. Its a hot topic!
Here's the truth of the matter: You will NOT want chips and cookies all day, every day.
Yes, you might eat quite a few of them at first. But that part of the process is for your mental wellbeing. Giving yourself freedom physically helps you release the rules, stress, and tension you're mentally holding.
As you release stress around food (and being to eat the foods you've formally restricted), you'll eventually get to point where you recognize that those foods truly ARE allowed. And as you accept that, you're able to take those foods off their pedestal and simply accept them.
Again -- think of health as being physical, mental, AND social. Some steps you take in intuitive eating may emphasize one area (like mental health) first, but they come full circle and have a positive impact in other areas as well.
Another big positive mental impact of practicing intuitive eating? Improved body image!
If you're constantly berating your body, that is NOT healthy.
Think of criticizing, shaming, or otherwise critiquing the body of a child in your life. That would be awful, and the child would suffer. You're surely not doing that to a child, but you're often doing it to yourself.
And in the same way a child would suffer under that treatment, you do too! Your mental and emotional wellbeing is compromised, and that often comes through in the way you treat your physical body as well. You might overexercise, overeat, under-eat, or do other things that don't express love towards your body.
Intuitive eating allows you to begin treating your body with respect. Your body deserves to eat food that allows it to feel good, it deserves to have fun with movement, and to be dressed comfortably. Movement can feel good, and clothes can fit right when you practice eating intuitively!
And back to our big question of health: Learning to respect your body is healthy for your mind, body, AND physical self.
Intuitive eating also addresses your emotional wellbeing. If you tend to deal with stress or emotions by practicing emotional overeating, you're not helping your emotional or physical health. Although emotional eating is a coping mechanism, when taken too far it can take a negative toll on our wellbeing.
Learning to address your emotions without the use of food (or in a more productive way with food) is a powerful step towards living a more holistically healthy life! (I dig into this here: https://caitlinball.com/2019/03/episode-22-feel-your-feelings-instead-of-eating-them/.)
Another amazing tool that intuitive eating brings to the table is the chance to begin caring for yourself with love.
Self-care is a huge part of intuitive eating, and can encompass a whole variety of things. Journaling, reaching out to professionals who can help with your specific needs, and moving in ways that feel good all count. So does making time for yourself, practicing small acts of self-care, and more. As these things come together, they form one of the biggest pieces of the intuitive eating puzzle!
Many of my clients are surprised at how much self-care and self-love work takes place in intuitive eating.
Many of them return to old beloved hobbies, begin practicing new forms of movement, and otherwise reconnect with themselves from a place of love and care. This often has a ripple effect. They find they want to do things that make them feel good. Instead forcing themselves to go to the gym from a place of body hatred or anger, they find joy in choosing to perform some form of exercise that genuinely feels good.
They find themselves dressing in ways that make them feel wonderful. They start choosing food from a place of self-care, rather than stuffing emotions or "punishing" themselves or their bodies. Self-hatred or loathing will never create a strong foundation for true health. Intuitive eating addresses that, and helps you learn to make healthy decisions from a place of self-care and compassion.
Finally, intuitive eating helps you get back in touch with your own body's wants and needs.
You'll learn what foods feel good for you, and which foods you may want to eat less of. These choices don't come from a place of restriction or diet rules, but from a place of checking in with yourself. Your body knows, and it will let you know, if a certain food or menu item isn't going to make it feel that great. Maybe you'll decide to skip it all together, maybe you'll just have a bit, but you'll be able to do so from a place of self-love and self-care. That makes all the difference!
Now, I would say that when I was dieting, there were diets that helped me discover things about what my body likes or doesn't like. For example, years ago when I had done Whole 30, I learned that less processed foods and more vegetables made me feel really good.
When I started my intuitive eating journey, I was eventually able to use that knowledge to inform what made me feel good.
The difference? When I was dieting, I was following rules from a place of needing to make myself "better". As an intuitive eater, I was able to use self-care and self-love to determine what would make me feel my best. It's an important shift!
If you've been a dieter in the past, you can take what you've learned and utilize it! It's incredible how making food choices that are about self-love (rather than weight loss or physical appearance), feels completely different.
Most diets address only one element of health, and often even have a negative impact on other areas! In my opinion, intuitive eating is truly the healthiest way to eat and live. It positively touches ALL elements of your health, and it helps you approach your relationship to yourself (and eating!) from a place of love.