Intuitive Eating for Health
There’s always a few buzz words popping up in the world of nutrition. Different seasons bring different trends (celery juice, anyone? And do you remember the cayenne and lemon juice craze 10 years ago? I vividly remember someone passing out from this one. True story). Some of these trends have valid health benefits but are often not sustainable practices. Good thing--save some celery for the rest of us, people.
The reason why it’s called a trend is that it tends to come and go. So why do people jump on board with these fleeting eating habits? And why don’t they stick around? The second question is easy to answer, in my opinion. They trend rather than stick because most of these practices aren’t sustainable. I would also suggest that most people don’t receive the magical results they are looking for, if you really dive into their reason for trying it. So after a while, losing motivation to keep up the unsustainable practice because their weight or health ideals aren’t coming true, they slowly stop their new routine. But why did they start in the first place? When it comes to health and weight loss, I think a lot of people are looking for that “magic pill.” And I get it. They are hoping that they have finally found the answer they have been searching for that will get them to that “ideal” they have in their head. But in the end, these practices rarely work, which leaves us wondering… what DOES actually work? How do people get themselves to a healthy, happy place and stay there?
This is where we find intuitive eating. It lives right here, at the end of that question. Now, there is also a huge emotional aspect that needs to be discussed here, but if we attempted to tackle that right now, this post would be a book. But know that you have to get to a place where you are ready and willing to eat intuitively and accept the benefits that it can bring to your life, despite the fact that you may not reach the ideal body that exists in your head. You need to deal with your crap and figure out why that ideal has manifested and determine how to move past it to the things that are ultimately more important, like long-term health and feeling great in your own skin, reducing your risk for chronic disease and increasing energy levels. Knowing and believing that healthy looks different in all people is an important shift here.
(Note: I had to move past MY own crap just to be able to write a post like this. There is no way that gym-rat, performance-based, aesthetics-focused Lindsay that was kicking around this blog five years ago would have the ability to write these words from an authentic place. I had to live it first)
My own journey to intuitive eating has been an interesting one and has certainly seen many seasons. Upon reflection, I think I made it here through experience, further education, shifting focus, and maturity. Before getting pregnant with my daughter, I was really into fitness and ate to support my goals. This meant learning how to track food and reach certain macronutrient goals in order to maximize performance in the gym. I am not afraid to say that I actually really enjoyed this for many months (maybe years) and treated it primarily as a hobby and learning experience. I learned a lot about using nutrition to fuel performance and even coached other people with similar goals. And although this is not how I eat today, I do believe, if used correctly, there can be a time and place for tracking and that it can be a major tool for understanding how food acts as fuel, how our body reacts to different macronutrients, and what food is made up of. That said, I also believe food tracking can lead to obsessive behaviours and can easily spiral out of control if attempted by the wrong personality type. This is extremely important. Tracking at any point in one’s life, even if just meant for a short period, is NOT for everyone and can even be dangerous.
However, after becoming pregnant with my daughter, a couple of things happened. I was way too sick and exhausted during my first trimester to even think about focusing on gym performance, and also my priorities quickly began to shift. Suddenly, I was much more interested in long-term health for not only myself, but my child. I was very aware that I was now in my 30s and started to look into my future and envision the healthy life I wanted for myself and my family as I got older. I began to eat for my overall health and not necessarily for aesthetic and performance goals. I looked at food as fuel for my growing baby and aimed to optimize my choices as much as I could to support her.
Additionally, I became incredibly appreciative of the female body and all it is capable of. I developed so much gratitude for my body and its abilities, which lead to having more compassion for myself and giving how I looked on the outside less power and importance. And so began my journey of intuitive eating and eating for long-term health.
As it turns out, it’s a much more sustainable place to live. It’s far less complicated and stressful as food tracking and works, well… forever. When you eat intuitively, you learn to turn inwards and listen to what your body needs. You nourish your body with the foods that make you feel strong, satisfied and energized. This knowing allows you to embrace flavours you instinctively love and maybe even try new recipes.
Personally, I found myself gobbling up seasonal foods and literally felt them allowed them nourishing me as nature intended through our transition from hot to cold in this Canadian climate. I didn't exhaust my will power by constantly fighting cravings, but learned to enjoy certain foods without going crazy, because I was not restricting. There was no pressure. It's a lovely lifestyle, if I do say so myself.
Would I still use food tracking and performance-based eating if the mood struck? For sure! If I decide that those goals are something I would like to focus on again, I would most likely create a hybrid of intuitive eating for long-term health plus focusing on the foods/eating style that brought me closer to my goals (i.e. no chemical laden zero-calorie drinks or sugar free pudding). It really depends on how aggressive the goal is, how badly you want it and why. I would suggest it would be suitable for a very small population.
People often wonder if different styles of eating can fit under the intuitive eating umbrella, like paleo, vegetarian or keto. I would say, yes. But it may be difficult to eat within these specific parameters without feeling the effects of “diet culture,” which can often lie within the realms of deprivation. So, that’s something to keep in mind. I’m not big on labels. Your diet may be more reflective of a keto or plant-based paradigm, but there is absolutely no need to label yourself as such. It’s unimportant. Eat to feel well. That is all.
Now, we can’t really talk about intuitive eating without addressing emotions. If we are eating intuitively, emotions naturally fit in there somehow. Can that cloud things a little bit? Very likely. If you’ve ever been an emotional eater, it can often be a result of deprivation and it’s very important to heal this first before being able to fully embrace the benefits of intuitive eating. If this is you, I really encourage you to work on this part first, either by exploring resources yourself or finding a professional to speak with. It’s an important step towards long-term health and building a healthy relationship with food.
If you want to discuss the world of intuitive eating more, feel free to reach out. I would love to support you on this journey.
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