Finding Freedom From Food Intuitive Eating

Are you completely overwhelmed with meal planning? For those people trying to lose weight, it’s super stressful, and therefore, most people don’t like doing it! You may feel like you must look at every meal and count calories or track carbohydrates for your entire day. Maybe you’ve learned about macronutrients (macros) and have incorporated tracking them into planning your diet? While it is important to understand how this all plays into your health, we also believe there can be freedom from this where you don’t feel stressed trying to figure out what to eat. Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard. What if you could free yourself and find meal planning fun? Learning how to listen to the cues your body gives you will simplify this process tremendously. It is possible to find a balance where you know what your body needs and how to fuel it without so much work. Here we will investigate finding freedom from food: intuitive eating. We will answer the question “what is intuitive eating?” and look at how it can help you in finding freedom from food.

tracking macros

One way to track your food is to look at it from the macronutrient perspective. Seeing your food relative to what it is actually providing versus how many calories it contains can open the door to learning a lot about what foods to choose and when. The macronutrients (macros) are fat, carbohydrates, and protein. All of the food you eat can be measured in these three macros. Many different diets out there utilize macros instead of calories for measuring food. For example, in a ketogenic diet, you will want to have a high fat, moderate protein and low carb plan. Another example is the paleo diet which is usually pretty equal in moderate carbohydrate and protein levels with a slightly higher amount of fat. This way of measuring food provides you with better knowledge of what makes up what you’re eating. Once you have awareness of how much of each macro your food contains, it is easier to make food choices intuitively. Some people will eat whatever they want if it fits in their macros. While this works for some people, for others they will choose less than nutritious things just because they can make it fit into their macros. How do you count macros? There are a lot of food tracking apps out there, and most of them will show you the carbs, protein and fat when you enter your food. For example, if you look up mozzarella string cheese, you will find it is approximately (depending on brand) 1 gram carbs, 6 grams fat, 6 grams protein. There are a few tricks to using these tools successfully. First, make sure that you are comparing similar portion sizes. Second, when dining out, it is hard to know exactly what to enter as you don’t know how the food is prepared. Not having full knowledge of preparation methods can skew your entries when it comes to macros.

counting calories

food lists

Probably the most common way of tracking food is calories. Most people recognize that weight loss will occur when they pay attention to their caloric intake. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. This means in order to lose 2 pounds in one week, you would need to remove 1,000 calories from your diet each day. Counting calories is usually fairly easy for people to do. Calories are printed on most labels, and it’s simple to add up throughout the day. A common problem with this method of meal planning is that you will find some foods with low caloric content but also low nutritional value. So, at the end of the day, you can eat it because it fits into your allotted calories, but it doesn’t provide you with any benefits when it comes to nutrition.

You’re familiar with the phrase “empty calories,” right? Let’s look at the mozzarella string cheese example: there are 80 calories, but you are also getting healthy fat (6 grams) and protein (6 grams) with minimal carbs (1 gram). Let’s look at another example, 100 calorie Oreos (you know those little snack packs?): there are, as it says, 100 calories but 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 19 grams of carbohydrates. While this isn’t that much more than the mozzarella string cheese regarding calories, it really doesn’t offer anything in the means of nutrition. So, if you are just counting calories, you could likely choose either of these options for a snack, but which one is the better choice nutritionally? Clearly, the mozzarella string cheese, but you can see just how easy it is to choose the other option if you’re focused on counting calories! How do you track calories? You can use similar food tracking apps to enter your food and keep track of your daily caloric consumption, but it is usually much easier to add this up throughout the day since you are not looking at three different measurements. Some people will just use a food journal since you will simply be adding up the calories as you go.

intuitive eating

What is intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is a simple concept, yet something that is so foreign to so many people. This philosophy around food is simple: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Why is this so hard for so many people? We end up listening to all of the noise around us surrounding food regarding what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Often, this leads to a negative relationship with food and that can be a precursor to poor body image. One of the biggest issues with intuitive eating is recognizing the difference between physical and emotional hunger. If you can identify the cues from your body indicating physical hunger, you will be well on your way to intuitive eating. Intuitive eating occurs when physical hunger is in charge of all your choices regarding your diet.

Remember that food is fuel and many people often use it to manage emotions instead of eating when actually hungry. You know the phrase “comfort food,” right? Where do you think that idea came from? Many people use food to comfort them in times of emotional distress. Which is a bit of an oxymoron, by the way. Have you ever found yourself eating because you’re upset? Then you eat things that make you feel ill or aren’t aligned with your health goals. What happens next? You likely feel guilty that you ate what you did in that time of emotional trauma. So emotional eating leads to more overwhelming emotions.  Taking control of your eating by fueling your body when it is hungry is intuitive eating.

happy couple

The book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch was the beginning of this entire concept becoming more mainstream. It was definitely an idea in earlier years, but this particular book coined this term and the principles behind it. They presented ten key principles for intuitive eating. They are as follows:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Respect your fullness
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor
  7. Honor your feelings without using food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise – feel the difference
  10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition

You can see how these principles can help you find freedom from food by honoring your body and recognizing hunger and satisfaction which is exactly what the concept of intuitive eating is!

freedom from food

How can you find freedom from food? Understanding what makes up the food you eat is an important step. For some, it is helpful to track macros for a while, so they know how their favorite foods impact their health, whether it’s a positive or a negative reaction. Once you have a good grasp on this, you might find yourself naturally going for the foods that have what your body needs and avoiding the ones that don’t support your overall wellbeing. Next, we will look at a few things that you can do to help you find freedom from food.

The first is to practice mindful eating. Don’t sit in front of the TV or scroll on your phone while eating. These are distractions that take away from your dining experience and often lead to overeating. If you can remove distractions and focus on your food, it will be much more freeing. Think about these questions: what does it taste like? What does it look like? Do you notice your portion size (especially if eating out)? As you are eating ask yourself, am I chewing my food or inhaling it quickly to move on to the next thing? Do I feel full? Am I still eating just to finish what is on my plate? Will having dessert derail my health goals? Eating mindfully can change your relationship with food as your brain really learns to recognize signals of being full.

fit woman cooking

The second thing you can do to find freedom from food is to know your triggers and weaknesses. What things trigger you to eat uncontrollably? Does stress make you eat when you’re not hungry? Do you find yourself emotionally eating and turning to sugar and sweets? What foods are hard for you to pass up at a party or gathering? Really understanding this and how your body works when these triggers and weaknesses are present can help you make better choices when presented with them. If you find yourself stressed out or emotional, is there something you can turn to besides eating? Go for a walk, read a book, call a friend, any of these will allow you time to process your emotions without involving food. If you’re going to a party and you know there are specific things you can’t resist, eat something before you go so you aren’t hungry when you arrive. Then if you do get hungry while you are there you can go for the foods that make you feel your best. If it’s a potluck style gathering and you are asked to bring something, find an option that won’t make you feel guilty for eating later.

The third thing you can do is to make sure that you are eating fiber, getting enough protein, and avoid foods with a high glycemic index. Many of us get fiber from vegetables and eating those first always helps with overeating or indulging. Fiber helps you feel full and satisfied longer. Similarly, protein can help you feel full and reduce snacking. Protein is known to reduce a hormone, called ghrelin, that stimulates hunger. Finally, foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugar spikes. Once it spikes it usually then falls very quickly, and this roller coaster can cause your body to crave more sugar which often leads to overindulging.

There are a lot of other things that you can do to find freedom from food, but we feel that these are some of the most important ways to build a good relationship with your nutrition. Notice we didn’t say build a “relationship with food.” Yes, this is essentially what you are doing but freedom from food comes with having the knowledge of how food fuels your body.

IN CONLUSION

Here, we explored the idea of finding freedom from food: intuitive eating. Meal planning does not have to be so overwhelming. It is important to understand how caloric intake and macronutrient consumption play into your health. Once you have a good grasp on this subject, you will find yourself leaning toward the foods that fuel your body. When this happens, it is amazing to feel freedom from stressing about trying to figure out what to eat. Intuitive eating allows you to listen to the cues from your body. It is all about finding a balance where you know what your body needs and how to fuel it without so much work.

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2019-07-25T02:39:06-04:00