4 common Intuitive Eating pitfalls
As with any journey we take, there are going to be roadbumps and forks in the road where we have a choice which direction to take. The journey to finding your beautiful balance isn’t linear, and twists, turns and bumps along the way are totally normal. But it’s important that we don’t allow these challenges to turn into setbacks. So I wanted to address some of the most common challenges I see women face their journey to balanced eating, and ways you can move through them- or other challenges you might encounter, to continue moving forward- after all, there is no time frame to living your most balanced life, it’s all about consistently moving forward into the life you desire to live and the relationship you desire to have with food and your body.
There is no time frame to living your most balanced life, it’s all about consistently moving forward into the life you desire to live and the relationship you desire to have with food and your body.
A few common challenges women face on their journey to balanced eating: 1. Turning Intuitive Eating into a set of rules (‘the hunger and fullness diet’) or trying to go at it too fast.
2. Getting stuck in the permission phase- allowing Intuitive Eating to become an excuse to eat (without the mindfulness piece). 3. Getting caught up in body changes. 4. Comments and doubts from family and friends. So let’s explore these, a little bit. 1. Turning Intuitive Eating into another set of rules, aka The Hunger/Fullness diet. Intuitive Eating can feel really freeing- in the beginning. Once we get down the habits to allow us to listen to our body- like hunger and fullness- it can be easy to get stuck in utilizing these tools as hard and fast rules. This is when eating becomes complicated, again! Isabel Foxen Duke coined the term ‘the hunger and fullness diet’ and this is what she says about it: The “Hunger & Fullness Diet” (aka the “Don’t-Eat-Emotionally Diet”’) are terms I coined to describe the single most common pitfall I see clients fall into when they beginning Intuitive Eating. This happens when people turn “hunger and fullness” into RULES to follow— for instance, when people turn “eating when physically hungry” or “not eating emotionally” or “not getting too full” into things they “should” or “should not” do. The “Hunger & Fullness Diet” is problematic for a few reasons: First off, trying to eat ONLY within certain “acceptable” boundaries (e.g. “hunger and fullness”) can trigger binges when you inevitably “give in” or “fail.” When I first started practicing Intuitive Eating, I used to feel incredibly guilty (or even ashamed) when I would eat emotionally, or get really full. In other words, I thought my “emotional eating” was a “screw up.” Of course, whenever I thought I “screwed up,” I would then binge my face off, because… “I’ve already ruined my day—so I might as well binge my face off and try ‘Intuitive Eating’ again tomorrow.” In other words, I turned Intuitive Eating into a “wagon” that I could fall on and off of. When you turn Intuitive Eating into a “wagon” that you can fall on or off of, you’re almost guaranteed to “fall off” of it eventually—and probably binge your face off in the process. (source) I love her unique style of sharing-- but it’s true that when we turn intuitive eating into another plan to follow, it’s also something we can fall off of. Knowing there is no right or wrong way to intuitive eating takes away the pressure of should’s and shouldn’ts, allowing you to fully step into what works for YOU.
Knowing there is no right or wrong way to intuitive eating takes away the pressure of should’s and shouldn’ts, allowing you to fully step into what works for YOU.
2. Getting stuck in the permission phase/using Intuitive Eating as an excuse to eat
The second challenge I see clients face is the opposite problem-- getting stuck in the permission phase and using Intuitive Eating as an excuse to ‘eat all the things, all the time’. This disregards the mindfulness piece to Intuitive Eating- the piece where we begin to tune into what our bodies need, which is VERY likely different than the constant see-food diet (i.e. see food and eat it). It’s OK if sometimes, we eat only out of pleasure. But it’s important to hone in on the three roles food plays- nourishment, fuel AND pleasure-- and determining, through tuning into how our body feels in terms of energy, mood and focus. 3. Getting caught up in body changes
It's really hard to non-judgmentally tune in to what our bodies need when we are still judging our bodies for not changing-- or for changing. Remember: body changes can occur, up or down, or not at all, during the IE process. Removing the expectations around body change and putting weight on the backburner is essential during the process of becoming a balanced eating so you CAN learn to tune in, not influenced by desiring to change your body with every bite. Learn how to release body negativity and accept your body, as it is. 4. Comments and opinions from family and friends The last challenge I see come up is getting caught in comments and doubtful remarks from family and friends. THIS is where boundaries come into play. ONLY YOU know what is best for YOUR body, and it’s ok to protect yourself and the work you have done in healing your relationship with food and remove yourself from diet-talk, and comments that make you feel bad about your body or your choices.
ONLY YOU know what is best for YOUR body, and it’s ok to protect yourself and the work you have done in healing your relationship with food and remove yourself from diet-talk, and comments that make you feel bad about your body or your choices.
How do we work through challenges that come up on the balanced eating journey?
I have three re-’s that I think you’ll find helpful when working through Intuitive Eating challenges: 1. Re-frame failures into feedback and embrace the gray. There are NO failures in intuitive eating or living. Your intuition is the connection between your mind and your body. Recognizing and responding to the cues your body gives you, with trust and instinct, rather than pushing against your body's cues as so many of us are taught. The cues come from OUR body, and the connection happens with OUR mind and that is how we make our decisions, unique to us-- and therefore we can not fail. Sometimes the decisions we make don't serve us. Sometimes it's because we didn't trust our bodies well enough to respond and sometimes it's because we read the cues wrong and neither of these are bad or make us bad; they simply provide feedback for the future. Whether it's with food or life decisions there are no failures when it comes to intuitive eating and living- only feedback, which we can use to make more aligned decisions, in the future. This concept, of feedback vs. failure can be a powerful way to help you move forward in your intuitive eating journey, when you're feeling stuck and like you'll never become an intuitive eater or be able to eat well without rules: remember you can not fail when you are relying on your own body, and each time you receive feedback, is another step towards knowing what your body needs the most. Embracing the gray means recognizing Intuitive Eating isn’t black and white. There is no right or wrong way to go about it- so you can live, confident you’re not doing it wrong, and every time you tune into your body, you’re serving her well. 2. Re-focus on your values. If you’re experiencing challenges, often what’s happened is that we’ve lost sight of what we value in life and our eating isn’t aligned with this any more. So re-focusing on your values is REALLY important here. 3. Re-set boundaries. Boundaries are HUGE- if we don’t set boundaries around the life we want to live and how we want to feel around food, we will constantly let the things in that threaten to take away the freedom we’ve had with food. When we’ve let things in like comments from the people around us, comparison on social media or the enticement of a new diet- it’s time to re-set our boundaries and realign ourselves with what matters, putting up the necessary walls to protect ourselves from outside influences that threaten our peace with food and our body. Remember: no matter what challenges you face, food isn’t the answer-- better tuning into your body, your values and your needs is-- you can ALWAYS pivot, as needed, re-frame those so-called failures, reminding yourself you are NOT a failure for experiencing bumps and challenges, and re-align your eating and your life with the things you value the most.
Get started on your journey to stress-free, balanced eating with my free 4 steps to stress-free eating guide.
Remember: no matter what challenges you face, food isn’t the answer-- better tuning into your body, your values and your needs is-- you can ALWAYS pivot, as needed, re-frame those so-called failures, reminding yourself you are NOT a failure for experiencing bumps and challenges, and re-align your eating and your life with the things you value the most.