I was raised with the notion that “you can’t leave the table unless you finish your meal” and “not finishing your plate is a waste of food.”
While that may have made me a lot less picky, I’ve recently realized that way of thinking has had awful effects on my relationship with food and how I eat day to day.
If I had a plate of food in front of me, I would eat with the assumption that that plate had to be cleared. That once you start eating, you don’t stop until the food is gone. I’d watch my friends buy a meal, and then halfway through stop eating and throw the rest away.
I didn’t understand it. The only thought that would go through my head was, “don’t they know they’re wasting food that they paid for?”. That was just how my brain thought of things when it came to food. That’s just how I was raised. And part of me thought that even though I’m an adult now who makes her own decisions, I still had to finish that plate of food. That bag of chips. That take-out box.
Until I realized that I didn’t have to finish it if I didn’t want to, this is where my new philosophy of intuitive eating comes into play and how it helps me listen to the rest of my body, instead of letting my brain do the deciding on when I’m full.
Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals. It’s the opposite of a conventional diet. It doesn’t impose guidelines about what to avoid and what or when to eat. It’s just listening to your body and being in tune with when you’re actually hungry and when that hunger goes away.
To some people, this may seem like a simple task and something that they already do naturally. I wish I could say the same. Implementing intuitive eating into my life took practice, repetition and concentration. I’m still not an expert at it.
There are 10 basic principles to intuitive eating that I’ve been trying to follow and repeat in my head during most of my meals for the past four months or so.
The first one is to reject the diet mentality. This means that you don’t let diet culture have a hold on you and your lifestyle. Having restrictions like diets do on yourself will not help you practice intuitive eating.
The second is to recognize your hunger. This means not waiting to eat if you are hungry and stopping when you’re no longer hungry. If you wait too long to eat, it will make you excessively hungry and you’ll feel the need to overeat.
The third is to make peace with food. Realize food isn’t the enemy and that you have permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you’re hungry. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it will lead to you and your body feeling restricted.
The fourth is challenging the “food police” or those thoughts in your head telling you to keep eating or not to eat at all. The thoughts that tell you you’re “good” if you only eat something with 100 calories or “bad” if you eat a chocolate cupcake.
The fifth is the satisfaction factor. Realize that food is supposed to be an enjoyable and satisfying thing and that mealtimes are supposed to be pleasurable.
The sixth is acknowledging when you’re full. This means listening to your body’s signals and stopping eating when you feel full. You don’t have to finish your plate if you don’t want to.
The seventh is to cope with your emotions with kindness. Don’t let yourself get into the cycle of emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your problems.
The eighth is respecting your body. Honor the fact that your body is an amazing body no matter what size or shape it is. All bodies deserve dignity.
The ninth is movement. Let yourself be active in whatever way you feel comfortable. Being active lets you build up an appetite and enjoy when you eat even more.
The tenth, and final principle, is honoring your health. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. You don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy, but let yourself try things outside of your comfort zone when it comes to food.
I’m hoping that with writing this that someone else who struggles with their relationship with food will read this and give this way of thinking a shot and not give up on themselves and eating healthy (however that looks for them).