I have the privilege of presenting to you one of my dear friends, Kate, author of the blog Small Step Upwards. She is a true inspiration to me for her honesty, her writing, and her journey through the dark world of eating disorders.
I was so excited for her to share with you her experience working on “intuitive eating”, or the act of listening to your body. This is also something that I’ve been working on, too, for the last couple of years. I now realize intellectually that our bodies are very smart, and can let us know what we need and what we want.
But without further adieu –
If you would’ve told me back in May that I’d one day be an intuitive eater, I would’ve looked at you with absurdity on the mind. For over a decade of my life, I’ve spent my days consumed by my eating disorder. Years and years of counting calories and refusing food, and what does it amount to? A lot of wasted time and energy, chasing a sense of perfection I’d never achieve.
Tired of my life revolving around my irrational food rules, I entered an eating disorder treatment facility for the umpteenth time. I didn’t have much hope, after having been through many other programs, but was willing to give Oliver-Pyatt Centers a shot.
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, I was introduced to a new concept: Intuitive Eating. Honoring my body’s wants and needs seemed so foreign to me. I’d followed meal plans for so long that I wasn’t sure how to give my body what it truly needed, rather than what I decided was “allowable”. At first, the idea of intuitive eating was so overwhelming; eating what I want, when I wanted, had been forbidden long ago. But, the more I learned about intuitive eating, the more comfortable I was with the idea.
Intuitive eating is not just eating what you want, when you want. It’s listening to your body’s hunger cues and honoring them; but also, eating when you know you need to eat. That was an important factor for me. We don’t always get hungry (ex. when sick), and this especially applied during the early stages of recovery for me. I wasn’t getting my normal, but I still needed to honor my body and feed it.
“What I’ve learned is that when I honor what my body wants, I don’t want it as often as I do when I deprive myself of it.”
Eating what I wanted was quite scary to me. What I’ve learned is that when I honor what my body wants, I don’t want it as often as I do when I deprive myself of it. If I want a cookie, I’m going to have a cookie. In the past, neglecting my body’s wants led to binge eating. But now, if I respect my cravings, I find that I am quickly satiated and don’t fear overeating.
In intuitive eating, I’ve had to retrain my patterns of thinking. All foods are acceptable. This hasn’t always been the case. I have a long history of separating foods into “good” and “bad”. But now, food is food. The less off limits a food is, the less power it has over me. I don’t want to spend my life dictated by my food rules. It’s no way to live.
It’s a work in progress. I am constantly learning and I do this by listening to my body. I make mistakes, I go too long without eating, or I deprive myself of a certain food. But, it’s all an opportunity to grow from. There is no end goal to intuitive eating — it’s a lifelong process. It can be challenging and frustrating, but it sure as hell beats following a meal plan or counting calories.