How to Eat Intuitively: From Guilt to Mindful Eating

holding a chocolate truffle near mouth

Learning how to eat intuitively has changed my life, I went from saying "I shouldn't have ate that" to I can eat whatever I want, but it wasn't always this way. I used to feel ALL THE GUILT that would come after eating. I thought this was what all girls and women did. My mom did it, so did aunts, cousins and friends. As I got older, I noticed pretty much all the women I knew did this to some extent, so I normalized it. Eating food that was deemed as "bad" or unhealthy was to be eaten in shame. But I did change all of this when I learned how to eat intuitively and challenged my relationship with food. I am sharing how to eat intuitively with you so you too can experience food freedom.Before I discuss how to eat intuitively, let me take you back a little bit. When I went away to university, I felt the pressure to eat healthier in front of others because I didn't want their shame to add to my own. So, when I was alone, I would eat ALL THE THINGS. I would sit in my dorm room and binge on chocolate or chips and then have to hide the evidence after. I felt so guilty, like I had committed some kind of crime or something.

Binge, Shame, Restrict, Repeat:

Years later when I moved out on my own (with my then bf) I carried on much the same way. I was so ashamed of how I ate, I would hide things and only eat them when I was alone. I worried that he would catch me eating so much (on a binge) and would be disgusted. Surely he would, because I was so disgusted with myself. I did the same thing, hid my junk food and after eating it in one binge, I would hide the evidence in the garbage so nobody would see it.

Then when I went vegan, things got a little easier because most of the stuff I had been eating, I couldn't anymore. That vegan label served as a form of protection for me as it shielded me from bingeing on foods that I deemed as "bad."

Soon after going vegan, I did discover vegan junk food and I would binge on that. My one "vice" was always Doritos so when I found a vegan version, you can bet, I stocked up on it. I would eat half (or a full) bag in one sitting, I felt like I had no control. Then after, I felt sick for eating it and would be angry with myself for not having any willpower.

What was my problem with food? Why couldn't I just eat a handful of something and be done with it? The truth is, I couldn't do that because I had all these restrictions on myself. So when the opportunity to eat came up, I went completely crazy because I knew that the restriction would come again soon. This is exactly what the binge/restrict cycle is about.

But eventually I did learn how to eat intuitively and get rid of the food guilt.

So how did I change this? Below, I am sharing how to eat intuitively as a short guide to help you.

sprinkling coconut on bowl of oats

Release my food and dietary labels: 

When I decided to let go of my vegan label, I tried on many other labels after that. I tried paleo for a bit, grain free, high fat, keto (for like a day lol) and gluten free. It wasn't until I really let go of all the labels that I found food freedom. I get that some people follow these types of eating styles for various reasons and I have a lot of respect for that. However, I think that personally if you have past issues with disordered eating or disordered thoughts around eating, it may not be the best idea to label your diet.

Release dieting and it's allure:

It was hard to let go of all the dieting drama, I had been immersed in it since I was about 15 when I went on my first diet. Even when I had ditched dieting after going vegan, I still followed pseudo dieting (i.e. counting macros, eating only "safe" foods, paying the price for eating "bad" foods and restriction/cutting back when I had an event/vacation planned). When I came to realize that all these ideas surrounding food I had in my head were really messing with my self worth and making me second guess and judge myself, I knew that I had to ditch all dieting thoughts once and for all. This was not easy by any means. It's so easy to get caught up in the diet culture without even knowing you are doing it and its even respected in our culture to jump on a juice cleanse before an important vacay. But once you release this guilt and shame and learn how to eat intuitively, you will find ultimate food freedom, I promise.

Let go of food restriction:

This was probably the scariest thing for me, but I am so happy I did it and went through it. I was truly petrified that when I gave up restriction and allowed myself to eat anything I wanted, I would immediately go back to my adolescent self and eat/binge all the food. I'll admit when I first said no more restriction, I did go a little crazy with food. I gained some weight and wanted to jump back on a juice cleanse to "reset." The thing is, I was still in my head thinking that I would restrict later on so food still had this allure and I wanted to eat all of it before I restricted again. When I truly let go of the restriction and allowed myself to eat anything I wanted, I learned that it was ok to leave food on my plate. I didn't have to eat everything because if I wanted to, I could just eat again later. Therefore, there was truly no need to binge on anything.

I stopped weighing myself:

For so long, the scale was the ultimate determinant of how small I was. It really piqued when I was vegan and I dropped some pounds and continued after that for a while too. It was so easy to see how well I was doing by how much weight I had gained/lost. I let it define who I was and it controlled me. When I finally let go of the scale and its hold on me, I was able to really find out what I valued about myself on a much deeper level. When I did gain some weight, I knew this because my clothes were fitting a bit tighter not because of the number on the scale. Gaining weight as a side effect of intuitive eating was rough I am not going to lie, but it is entirely possible to still love and respect yourself. I think I could write a whole separate blog post about this another time!

You can read more about how weight loss has nothing to do with intuitive eating over here.

standing next to window eating

I stopped tying my self worth to my dress size:

Similar to above, when I did ditch the scale, I had to also learn to stop tying my self worth to a certain dress size. I was always a size 0-2, then I jumped to a 4-6 and I had to accept my body through all of it. Yes, at first, not fitting into any of my old clothes was depressing to me, but rather than restrict/diet all over again, I went out and bought new clothes. I used to think that if I did this, it would mean I gave up, but instead it meant to me that I loved and respected myself no matter what. I needed to feel comfortable in what I was wearing and if that meant a bigger size of jeans, then so be it. I allowed myself to go through this period and yes, I had bad days where I did get hung up on the numbers but I also showed myself love and respect. My value as a human is not made better the smaller I am.

You can read more about how to show yourself love after weight gain over here.

I learned to listen to my body and my hunger:

This was probably the one thing that really made the biggest difference in going from guilt and learning how to eat intuitively. I learned how to slow down when I was eating so that I wouldn't eat too quickly without realizing I was actually full. It's funny, the hungrier you are when you eat, the more you tend to eat. However, when you eat when you are moderately hungry (and not starving) you don't need to binge on food. I also learned how to ask myself what it was I truly was hungry for and didn't judge myself for eating any of it.

How to Eat Intuitively: Your body will Know

I know that it can seem scary to allow yourself to eat anything you want because you think you will eat nothing but pizza and chips, but trust me your body will eventually get tired of those too. You can't survive off of chips and chocolate forever, your body will naturally want different foods. Just like your body will naturally want to move and be active without you needing to force it.

I hope that me sharing my story about how to eat intuitively serves to show you that it doesn't need to be scary to let yourself feel free around food. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I

I hope my how to eat intuitively post was helpful for you and made intuitive eating a bit more real. Share with me in the comments if you currently suffer from shame and guilt around foods or if you have learned to eat and live more intuitively.

writing in a journal

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Susan Renee Hennings
January 12, 2022
Yes, I like it a lot. Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive.
Carole
January 2, 2022
I’m just learning about adaptogens and trying to incorporate them into my “healthy arsenal”. Thanks for the info!
MAdeleine
December 27, 2021
This is the first cinnamon roll recipe i've actually gotten to work! I let the dough rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours and then rolled and filled it, then let it rest in the fridge over night and it worked great for an early morning bake. I looked through the whole recipe and you never mention what temperature to bake at. It just says "place in your preheated oven to bake" I baked at 350. Also it would be really nice if the caramel sauce recipe was included here. All in all totally delicious, worth the effort, and I will be making this again.