Intuitive Eating 2.0

This is a guest post written by Skwigg. This girl is a walking dictionary of food and nutrition facts, has read and tried MULTIPLE fitness plans, and every time I check, she’s read another “hot of the press” diet book. And, she tells it like it is.

Well, it took like 25 years of trial and error, but I am a happy eater. I follow no rules. I count no calories. I’m completely over nutrient ratios, meal timing and measuring cups. Plus, as an added bonus, I’m not fat. Any time I’ve flirted with this “intuitive eating” stuff before, I’ve quickly become too fat for my little pants. This time I’m gradually losing. I’m 5?8? and weigh 135-137 most days. I don’t know my percentage of body fat. It’s possible that I’m losing muscle and brains. I’m not concerned enough to get out the calipers. My Tanita scale tells me that I’m between 14% and 24% body fat. Helpful, eh? It’s like asking a Magic 8 Ball. The readout may as well say “Concentrate and ask again.” Or “Signs point to yes.” All I know is that my yoga pants are loose! Woohoo!
So, why did intuitive eating work this time when it’s destroyed my abs so many times before? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I know that in the past I’ve used intuitive eating as an excuse to binge. I’d turn to it after a bout of really restrictive dieting, or when I couldn’t face my nutrition software, or when I wasn’t accountable to a trainer. My “intuition” would tell me to eat boxes of glazed donuts and sheets of cookies. I’d gain weight, scoff at the total lameness of this “embrace your inner cow” intuitive hoody-hoo, and go right back to obsessive dieting, tracking and measuring. I wrote down every single thing I ate or drank for TWO YEARS. That was not fun, and actually not helpful.
I’m more relaxed now. I don’t make food decisions from a place of frustration and panic. My intuition really likes strawberries. I eat chocolate every day. I like bagels. I like to eat out. I’m not limiting myself to dieter food but I’m very aware of portions. I eat one Cadbury Egg, not six. I eat mini-bagels, not those bakery bagels the size of my head. I understand that a typical restaurant serving is enough to feed four people.
Last time I tried intuitive eating, portion control was my downfall. I believed those books that said to eat as many cookies as I wanted and that eventually I wouldn’t want as many. Right!! Weeks later, I still wanted every cookie that had ever been baked. I was reeling out of control on a blood sugar rollercoaster. The more junk I ate, the more junk I wanted. I was never able to pull it together enough to even maintain my weight, much less lose.
Some things that really helped me this time:
– I weigh myself every day. If you’re not going to count calories or measure your food, you’d better be keeping an eye on something. It could be weight, waist measurement, a caliper pinch, a pair of jeans, but you need some kind of objective feedback. If you choose not to track your food and not to look at any of your measurements, then you’d better go buy some fat pants.
– I eat what I want but I always control portions. Generally, the more I want something, the more I need to watch out. I can play fast and loose with spinach but I’d better take my ice cream in a single-serving container.
– I share. I never used to share before. Sharing is the greatest thing ever! You get to eat whatever you want and make everyone around you fat. Try it! Order the double-fudge super cookie dough caramel delight. Eat three bites and watch your dining companions devour the rest of it like hungry hyenas. Share your French fries. Split the sandwich. Order three tacos and only eat one of them. It’s exhilarating! Plus, I always have great leftovers.
– I strike a nice balance of healthy food and treats. You can’t eat an all-treat diet and look or feel very good. I eat loads of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. I love whole grains. I eat nuts and seeds like I’m a squirrel. I’m a sucker for a big salad. I enjoy lean protein as long as it’s not forced upon me every 2-3 hours. I eat a lot of healthy whole foods but I like to add a Pop Tart or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for good measure.
– I don’t eat six times per day, or three times per day, or three meals and two snacks. I don’t follow anybody else’s rules because how does the book or the calculator know what I’m doing or when I’m going to be hungry? It doesn’t. So, I eat when I feel like it. On an active, hungry day I might eat 5-6 times. On a lazy day with restaurant food, I might eat 2-3 times. I’m no longer dumb enough try to force three more meals after lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.
– I grasp the importance of good nutrition. I’m not knocking diet plans or nutrition programs, especially if you’re trying to achieve a sports performance or body comp goal. A little bit of structure can be good. I base my eating on the healthy principles I’ve learned but I don’t allow myself to become a slave to the details. And don’t believe that I can eat as many cookies as I want and still lose weight. Big derrrr there!
– I flow. That’s significant because I used to battle. I battled my weight. I struggled with willpower. I waged a war against fat. I fought with the numbers. I kicked myself when I slipped. My mindset was one big bloody massacre. My fitness goals were always at odds with what I really wanted, which was to relax and eat Cheetos. Now, if I want to relax and eat Cheetos, I do so immediately. No struggle. No stress. No guilt. I know that for my next meal I’ll choose something a little more ab-friendly.
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