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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

How Intuitive Eating Can Turn Your Relationship with Food Into a Positive One

You might feel like your relationship with food is fraught with anxiety about your weight. Maybe you’ve tried sticking to diets, only to give into binge eating. Perhaps you’ve attempted to suppress or ignore your own hunger signals, telling yourself that if only you had more willpower, you would lose weight.

But crash diets and strict calorie-counting are likely to have an adverse effect on your mental health. And if a particular way of eating isn’t sustainable, you won’t be able to keep up with it in the long run.

That’s why “intuitive eating” can be such a transformative approach to your relationship with food. Practicing intuitive eating allows you to let go of your anxiety surrounding food and simply give your body what it needs. Let’s explore the meaning behind intuitive eating.

Let Go of “Food Rules”

Intuitive eating does not involve any rules about what you can and cannot eat. Nothing is off-limits, not even sweet desserts or salty snacks! Instead, it’s all about paying attention to your body’s needs.

A balanced diet is all about getting the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need to support your physical and mental health while leaving some room for tasty treats.

Therefore, nothing is off the menu. There are no “good” or “bad” foods—attaching labels like this to food only exacerbates anxiety and shame.

Tune Into Your Body’s Signals

When you’re on a diet, you might try to ignore your hunger signals. Even if you feel weak and tired, and your stomach has been grumbling for hours, you may tell yourself that you’re not “allowed” to eat yet.

But when you feel hungry, your body is just sending you the signal that you need to eat—it’s natural, and you shouldn’t ignore it. When you’re eating intuitively, you can simply listen. You’ll feel more energetic and motivated when you’re fueling your body.

Viewing Food as Nourishment

If you’ve been trying to follow unworkable diets, you might have a negative view of food itself. For instance, you may feel you don’t deserve to eat an indulgent meal at a restaurant with friends. Or you might view unappetizing, low-calorie meals as a sort of punishment for breaking your diet earlier in the day. Eating can become a chore because you rarely let yourself eat foods you enjoy.

Intuitive eating involves learning to view food as nourishment. It’s not a punishment or a reward, it’s a necessity! And by allowing yourself to explore what makes you feel your best, you can nourish yourself without sacrificing health or taste.

Differentiate Hunger vs. Emotional Cravings

We often mistake emotional cravings for hunger cravings. While it is perfectly normal to reach for comfort foods when you’re feeling stressed, you may not feel your best. Eating intuitively lets you practice differentiating actual hunger pangs from cravings that are driven by stress and emotions.

When you realize your cravings are emotional in nature, you can turn to other outlets to process your anxiety and stress. This could include journaling, exercising, calling a friend, or getting lost in a good book. (However, a part of intuitive eating is also being compassionate towards yourself if you don't always listen to what your body needs and react from a place of emotions... because you're human!)

Being Healthy at Every Size

Finally, intuitive eating goes hand in hand with the concept that one can be healthy at every size. The number on the scale is not as important as your overall mental and physical health. Intuitive eating emphasizes paying attention to how you feel over how you look. It’s all about embracing self-love and treating yourself well, especially regarding your relationship with food.

Do you feel anxious about your relationship with food? Working with a therapist can help you begin eating intuitively. Reach out to me today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.

For information on anxiety counseling, click here

For information on how I work using IFS therapy, click here.


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