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The Stages of Intuitive Eating, Part 1

Learning how to trust that your body knows best.

The beginning stages of intuitive eating often require us to hold opposite experiences as truth at the same time. We can feel relieved and excited to have found something that finally feels right, new, and sane. We can also feel confused, alone and as if we are stumbling down an overgrown path with little information about what is to come.

Becoming trusting of and intuitive about your body’s signals and wisdom is a tall order when your body has been the place you have directed blame and self-hatred. Often, in order to get all that feels out-of-control back in line, the mind wants to make Intuitive Eating into the new Plan. Plans generally have to be done ‘just so’ and they are largely outcome (or weight loss) focused. When we are navigating the beginning stages of intuitive eating, the dieting mind/inner critic is always lurking, waiting for an “in”.

This challenge calls for a firm belief (that comes from you) about really and truly being done with dieting. This often involves reminding yourself over and over again of all the reasons you came to intuitive eating that don’t have to do with weight loss. What have you given up in pursuit of the thin ideal – joy, flexibility, spontaneity, friendships, a sense of self worth? Why are you truly seeking change for yourself right now?

The early stages of intuitive eating also call for you to investigate permission and pleasure with food. This can be truly scary if you have spent time trying to do food “right” (i.e. restricting) and then over-indulging in a flurry of self-blame and hatred (i.e. overeating or binging). People assume that “overeating” is about pleasure and indulgence. If we look a little bit deeper, we often find it is not. If you have used food to numb difficult emotions, then you have numbed ALL your emotions. You don’t get to be selective about this. Learning to heal your relationship with food to become an intuitive eater means learning to feel joy and pleasure again too.

Intuitive eating invites you to eat what you want. Even you if you have judgments about the food that you want. You then want to couple that desire with permission to eat and enjoy your food so you can actually have the eating experience instead of being distracted by shame and self-hatred every time you eat. It is here that you begin to connect with an internal voice that has been waiting to be allowed choice. This choice involves becoming more honest with yourself about whether or not you truly like the food you choose, and if you are really hungry for it and satisfied by it.

We will continue to explore how intuitive eating unfolds in real lives in future posts. In the meantime, tell us, what are the real reasons (other than weight loss) that brought you to intuitive eating?