When i talk about food, i talk alot about intuitive eating, balance, moderation, eating according to YOUR bodies needs.
But how do you do that when your hunger and fullness feelings aren’t working as they should, or maybe you don’t trust your body yet? Or maybe you just have too many fear foods to actually eat them, or when you do eat them you can’t stop yourself and eat the whole package?
If you have lived with an eating disorder, or disordered eating for a long time… intuitive eating including balance and moderation can seem very far away. And learning to trust your body and find balance with food doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process and a journey.
I do personally recommend everyone to try to eat intuitively, to listen to their body…because the body is smart. HOWEVER, the mind is almost smarter and there can be ALOT of mixed signals when it comes to eating.
All the misinformation about nutrition. All the “rules” regarding what you can eat and how much. If you were to listen to all the rules, you wouldn’t be able to eat anything.
It feels like children are the only ones who truly eat intuitvely and listen to their bodies. However unfortuntly more and more children are beginning to develop disordered eating or eating disorders for different reasons. Which is incredibly sad, and also shows that something is wrong with our society/how we talk about food/teach children how and what to eat, and that diet messages are being converted to children early on.
How do you begin to listen to your body and trust your bodies signals? How do you begin to eat intuitively?
First step is to try to get rid of all the rules and regulations you have around food. Sit down and analyse how and why you eat. What choices do you make when it comes to eating?
Do you choose a food based on nutrients? Based on calories? Based on what you deem as “healthy or unhealthy”? Or because you enjoy the food?
Do you portion the food out according to what you crave/want, or how much you think you should eat?
Do you eat when you are hungry or when the clock tells you when to eat? Do you allow yourself to eat when you feel hungry or do you limit yourself because you think you shouldn’t eat at certain times?
Do you eat until you are satisfied? Or do you leave food, thinking that is what you should do?
Do you plan and control your food intake?
Do you enjoy the food you eat? Do you get cravings for more after eating? Do you feel satisfied after eating?
Do you compensate after eating? If you have eaten a big meal do you eat less later on to compensate?
Do you eat foods you enjoy? Do you avoid foods out of fear? Do you have certain rules of when and what you can eat? Do you allow others to make food for you? Do you choose the option you want to eat when eating out?
Once you have answered those questions, you become more attuned to the way you eat/make food choices and whether they are healthy or not. I.e if you never eat until you are satisfied, only eat food that is low calorie and only eat at certain times due to rules… then maybe you need to rethink your relationship with food.
Change rules and habits
The second step is to actually change those rules and habits if you have them. And you can start off by questioning the rules you have.
I.e why do i only eat at certain times and not allow myself to eat when hungry?
Why do i avoid certain foods even if i like them?
Why do i choose the food that is the lowest calorie even if i want another option?
Why won’t i eat food that is prepared by someone else?
By questioning the thoughts and habits you begin to think differently and more rational. Because you have the answer inside of you… often it is out of fear or just out of habit that you eat the way you do/think the way you do about food.
Face fear foods
Third is to face those fears and make changes when necessary. Really try to listen to your bodies signals, and go against the conflicting or controlling thoughts you have about food.
If you go out to eat and you want to order the pasta but your mind says order the salad which is lowest kcal, then you need to go against that fear and order the option you really want. Not the option based on calories.
Do you feel extra hungry between breakfast and lunch, but don’t usually eat a snack then, and your mind says you should wait until lunch? Then go grab a snack and face that fear – listen to your body.
Do you want some cookies but you know you will feel guilty, or you won’t be able to stop yourself at one cookie? Then realise this is the perfect time to practise balance and not compensating. My best tip is to buy single pack items. Don’t buy big packs of cookies, chocolates or crisps, not if you struggle with binge eating anyway. By eating one or two portions, it helps you practise balance and will stop you from binging on the whole pack. And by eating fear foods in a controlled way, it can help you to realise that you can eat the food in a regular amount without anything bad happening or having to compensate. It can be the first step to reintroducing and eating your fear foods in a controlled way…. which hopefully in the future can lead to you being ok with having a whole pack of cookies at home, or going to a buffet or party and eating all types of food in a healthy manner.
Stop compensating what you eat
Another important step with finding food balance, is to not compensate for the food you eat. If you compensate, whether it is by eating less the next meal/next day, or by exercising or purging or using laxatives, this just makes it harder to truly trust your body, and it will also mess with your hormones and hunger/fullness feelings. Not to mention that you can’t find food balance while you still compensate for what you eat… this just turns into a negative cycle.
Eating the right portions sizes
If you are someone who eats very little, or if you struggle with binge eating… your hunger and fullness signals won’t be working as they should. A normal portion could seem huge or could seem tiny, depending on your food struggles. I don’t typically recommend weighing or measuring your food, especially not if you are trying to break free from an obsessive and controlling relationship with food. However, it could be beneficial to try to base your meals according to the “plate model” where you have carbs, protein and fat for each meal. This can be a first step to eating a decent portion of food and eating from all food groups for lunch and dinner, and can eventually lead to you feeling more free with what and how much you eat. Example, beginning to trust your bodies signals and eating more the days you feel you are extra hungry, or other days you may not want a cooked meal at all and that is also part of eating intuitively.
Another step in finding balance with food is being mindful of your eating, but NOT overthinking/overanalysing your food or eating. If you suffer from restrictive eating you may already be super mindful of how and what you eat and overanalyse/overthink how and what you eat. But balance with food is having a mindful approach to eating… are you eating out of hunger/boredom/stress? Are you eating your meals in 5 minutes or 45 minutes? It can be hard to explain this point without making it seem like you have to overthink each time you eat… because that is not the case. But if you are someone who eats very mindlessly, always snacking or sufers with binge eating… trying to tune in more with your body and whether it is real hunger or boredom/stress can be helpful.
And if you are someone who suffers with restrictive eating, it can be beneficial to become more mindful of your hunger… to actually eat when you feel hungry and not just drink coffee/chew gum or skip eating.
By being mindful of eating also means savouring your food. Enjoying your food. Taking the time to eat and not rushing your food.
Take the time to cook your meals
Taking the time to cook food and actually have food at home is a way to find peace with food. If you take the time to cook a wholesome meal it is also a form of self respect and taking care of your body and mind. Take the time to enjoy each meal your eat and savour the food. If you eat in a rush or eat without really noticing you are eating, it makes it harder to feel full or to really enjoy the food.
Typically eating without distractions is recommended, however we live in a society where most people like to eat and watch tv/series/YouTube. So atleast taking the time to cook – whether it is by meal prepping or cooking each meal, you know you eat homecooked, nutritious food. (Even if not every meal has to be homecooked, it is fine to eat out or premade food every now and then).
Also, having “healthy food” at home is a way of nourishing your body. I know far too many people who pretty much never have food at home and instead order out each day or just don’t eat because they don’t have the interest, time or motivation to cook or buy food. But actually taking the time to do a grocery shop each week, meal prep if you don’t want to cook each day and if necessary, planning your dinners/lunches for the week, can be a way of taking care of your body and mind. It also limits the risk that you skip meals or order take out/heat premade food just because you don’t have any food at home.
Food is part of your life, not your whole life
Another step to finding balance with food, is allowing food to be part of your life, not your whole life. If you spend every minute of your day thinking about food, planning what you will eat, thinking about what you can and can’t eat, it will take up alot of time and energy. Not to mention that food begins to take a huge part of your day and alot of your focus. That focus, time and energy could be spent on other things.
Of course, if you are someone who works with food… whether it is cooking, baking, creating recipes, recipe blog, working with nutrition or any other job involving food, of course it will be part of your day and thoughts. But don’t let it take up more time and energy than necessary. Your day and thoughts shouldn’t be consumed by food thoughts… and especially not thoughts of what you can eat, when you can eat, what you can’t eat etc
Try to focus on other hobbies or interests you have, or surround yourself with friends and family if you find yourself consumed by too many food thoughts or obsessions. By allowing food to just eb part of your life, part of your day it is easier to find balance with food when it isn’t the sole purpose of your day.
People may make jokes that, “they live to eat”, or “food is my only happiness” or other quotes… but as long as they are just jokes it is fine. Because if the only happiness in your life is food or you only live to eat, then you need to question your eating habits and your relationship with food.
Îf this if you in real life then you need to overthink your relationship with food and make changes to focus less on food.
Intuitive eating isn’t perfect
It is important to note that just because you eat intuitively doesn’t mean you always listen to your bodies signals. Food is more than just energy and eating nutrition. Food also plays a role in social contexts, it can have an emotional connection and times such as stress, tiredness, anxiety or other emotional states food can be a comfort. So don’t think that just because you eat intuitively and try to listen to your body, that that is what you do 100% of the time… because nobody really does that.
Intuitive eating isn’t supposed to be controlling or restrictive either… you can’t eat a perfect diet/eat perfectly while eating intuitively… there is nothing perfect about it. You should feel satisfied with the food you are eating and the amount you are eating. You should feel nourished and energized (as much as possible anyway!).
Summary: How to find balance with food?
So to summarize, how do you find balance with food? Well, first off questioning your habits, thoughts and mindset.
If you are reading this post, it is most likely that you are aware that you need to change something in your eating habits or you need to find more balance with your eating.
How you find balance also depends on what you struggle with …. whether it is restrictive eating, binge eating, constant yo-yo dieting or just not being able to trust your body or bodies signals.
A good recommendation is to try to eat regular meals throughout the day and to not restrict or cut out food groups.
Be mindful of your choices and be honest with yourself… that is where change begins. You often know the truth and why you make the choices you do.
It is not easy to find balance, especially not in todays society where it seems like every other person is on a diet or trying to lose weight.
Try to focus on YOU. Tune into your body…. of course like mentioned, many factors can affect your hormones which can affect your hunger/fullness which in turn makes it hard to trust your body. So just by starting to eat regular meals, and finding a routine with eating is the first step to trying to eat more freely.
Face fear foods in a controlled way to start off with. Be honest to yourself about your food choices, and make small active choices to make changes. And facing your fears is part of finding balance.
It is possible to find peace with food and find a balance relationship with food. However.. .remember there is no perfect way of eating. And most people have days where they eat too much or days they may not eat as much or days they just eat chocolate and bread… that is ok. It is not about eating a perfect diet or just eating fruits and vegetables, but LISTENING to your body and somedays that means eating oats for lunch or cookies as a snack. Othertimes it may mean a green smoothie for breakfast and a salad for dinner. That’s balance.
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