Intuitive Eating. Or, Instinctive Eating. What is it?
A diet? A lifestyle change disguised as a diet? A diet disguised as a lifestyle change? A form of self-help for disordered eating? A revalation? An all-you-can-eat bingefest? A waste of time?
I’d love to tell you the answer, but I don’t actually know. It’s different for everyone. I’ve heard it’s good for maintenance. I’ve heard it doesn’t work for weight loss. I’ve heard it takes a long time. For me – it IS taking a long time.
Intuitive Eating is a bit like The Loch Ness Monster, The Abominable Snowman, The Bermuda Triangle. People are aware of it. However: if you try to find proof that it exists, nobody has a picture to show you. And like all good urban myths, if you DO find proof of its existence, you’re tempted to call Photoshop on it.
Stories abound from people who’ve lost weight on whatever low calorie, low carb, low fat, low salt, low anything diet. You want motivational photos of someone who’s lost X lbs on Y diet? You got ’em! You want motivational photos of someone who’s lost X lbs by eating whatever they want, whenever they want? That, my friends, is a challenge.
About time I got to the point. Intuitive Eating is about understanding your own body’s hunger signals and reacting appropriately most of the time. Hungry? Eat. Not hungry? Stop. Guilt? Counterproductive. Cheesecake? Sure, just follow the “eat when hungry / stop when no longer hungry” thing. It’s the closest you’ll get to rules. Being dismissive toward food you don’t really, REALLY want? Encouraged! Counting food stats? **** off. Weigh yourself? Whenever, if you like.
It’s a rebel’s diet. Take away my donuts and I will demand to eat nothing BUT donuts for a year, out of pure defiance, if nothing else. Give me all the donuts I want, guilt free, and I will sneer at your suggestion that I eat something so… common. Donuts are below me. I will take my chicken salad and turn my back on you with my nose in the air, taking my air of superiority with me.
What a “normal” diet consists of in rules and counting, IE consists of in mental gymnastics. Doing reverse psychology on yourself the vast majority of the time. Here are 2 things I’ve found you need to get well acquainted with:
1. Your mind
2. Your hormones (that’s for a later post, but google leptin, grehlin and insulin if you want the basics).
I will be perfectly honest with you: when I began IE, giving in to every food my body wanted, I ate nothing but crap. Donuts. Chocolate bars. Large ones. Sugary coffees. Burgers. Chips. Pizza. Twice a day.
I will be honest again: this phase lasted under a week. It might happen to others, or not, depending on body composition, activity levels, hormones etc… But anyway. I could eat ANYTHING I wanted, but… the constant heartburn? The feeling of lethargy? The sense of coming down with a cold from my nose and head being bunged up? My eyes watering for no reason? The insomnia? A big no thankyou to all that!! I could barely get out of bed. This is when I really broke the back of it.
I looked at what I was eating – basically, anything high in sugar. I looked up the effects of excessive sugar, and what I found echoed what I was experiencing. The biggest factor was the constant, unrelenting hunger. I just ate a veggie sausage sandwich! Why am I ravenously hungry after half an hour?! I listened to my hunger for the first time – and it was telling me something was seriously wrong. This is when I started making changes. First, I cut sugar out of my tea, but not my coffee. I just started drinking coffee. The symptoms persisted. I got serious. I cut sugar out of my coffee. (to let you understand, I go through about 10 mugs a day between them. The effect will obviously be different if you don’t drink as much).
About 2 days later… the problems were gone. I didn’t crave sugar. I craved salmon and roasted vegetables. So that’s what I ate. I wasn’t hungry for about 5 hours. And when I was, it was a gentle, quiet hunger that slowly built in intensity over a few hours. I would think of eating, then a while later get a slight rumbling feeling whispering at me to eat. It never became painful. It was a million miles away from the old, familiar hunger that made me want to be sick, that would hit me square in the face like a ton of bricks. My hunger signal had been regulated. It was a revalation.
I ate healthy the first week, and lost 1lb. The next week, 21st December… I remember it well because it was End of the World Day… I had cheesecake for breakfast, walked a few miles to meet a friend, had a large white chocolate mocha with whipped cream, and we shared 6 expensive chocolates, had a cocktail and a beer, then I walked home and wasn’t hungry for hours. I now try to eat sugar (if I want it, not “just because” – some things are worth being saved for special occasions!) on days I’ll be walking a few miles. On 22nd December I was 3lbs down on the previous week. Off I went, skipping through the dasies. This is how it’s supposed to be! This is how thin people eat! I couldn’t return to my old habits if I’d wanted to! Once again, it was all unicorns farting rainbows.
Until last week. Disaster struck! *insert dramatic gesture here* I had a 3-donut, 2-mars bar, depression-related binge. I didn’t feel guilty, and I still don’t. I was getting over the cold. I had “ladies’ issues”. Life started getting difficult, what with an upcoming employment tribunal, and not having enough money to live on. I stalled. I have been re-losing and re-gaining the same lb for over a week. Every day… 202, 201, 202, 201, 201, 202, 202, 201, 201… Why is it a coincidence that my head isn’t in the game? I can hardly hear my long-sought out hunger under the din of life’s stresses.
No way will I be stopping at this weight. Just resting. My mind is in control of my body, but not in control of itself. Perhaps it’s self-sabotage as I can see this is starting to work. I do know one thing though: diets don’t work for me. The restriction. The measuring. The “allowances”. The counting. The tracking. The feeling of it being temporary. The “everything in moderation” advice. The. Whole. Enchilada. I hate them so, SO much. Never again. The only thing that’s keeping me in temporary maintenance is the fact that it feels better to live now. I persevere. Life will always get stressful, but whether or not I lose, 202 is now my “highest weight”. My cutoff point. My glass ceiling. I will go no further. 202, not 212. It’s contrary to most IE advice about finding your healthy weight, but if any day I hit 203, I will exercise like a demon, drink more water (which I hate), do slim fast, anything to get back under my cutoff point. Very, VERY temporarily, to keep myself from going over the slippery slope like I’ve done so many times before.
When I break the back of 201 as well, and make it to onederland and 1 stone lost at 198, and pick up and continue, I’ll post again when I work out what changed everything. It’s only a matter of time.
And as for WHAT Intuitive Eating is? I still don’t know. But this is my personal experience of HOW it is.
Happy Eating, everyone!