Intuitive eating is a way to eat for people who have become confused from various dietary ideologies. It’s a way to realign with your body’s hunger signals and cravings. It’s also kind of abstract. There are many reasons to not eating intuitively, such as having a damaged metabolism, or if you’re an alcoholic and you think your intuition is telling you to drink more gin. No. It’s not. In those cases, following some kind of method in addition to developing your intuition will prove fruitful. Let’s clear up some confusion and cover 5 myths about intuitive eating.
1. Intuitive eating ≠ eating whatever you want
Your intuition is a sensor. It picks up on signals in your environment, and within your body and mind. Eating whatever you want isn’t the same as being aware of what signals are coming to your body about what you need to eat. For example, I thought once that I only wanted to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds on the raw food diet years ago. But that’s not what my body needed and what it actually craved. It’s what I told myself I wanted and convinced myself that’s all I wanted.
2. Your intuition doesn’t crave particular foods
A friend asked me “what if my intuition craves a donut?” My answer was that his intuition wasn’t craving a donut. His intuition was telling him that he needs something from the donut. A donut is a dense source of calories. Under periods of caloric restriction, it is normal to crave foods like this to raise our metabolisms again.
My friend’s memories and experiences guided his intuition to choose the donut as the best option for providing what it is that he needed. Decoding what the body truly needs is where intuitive eating becomes a science of sorts, an elegant n of 1 experiment where you discover what your body truly needs.
The craving itself results from a complex interaction of hormonal hunger signals, memories, neural architecture, the microbiome, stress, nutrient deficiencies, and more. Our intuition helps be aware of what it is that we want, but it does not discriminate between McDonald’s and the healthier burger options. It’s up to you to figure out why your intuition chose that food and how you can go about it in the healthiest way.
3. Intuitive eating isn’t a diet
The dietholic (person addicted to dieting) loves the idea of novelty. A new diet book sounds like a fascinating way to achieve optimal weight. Novelty allures most of us, which is why making something seem novel is a great way to recycle information that is already known.
But intuitive eating is not another diet to go on. It’s the completely opposite in that there is no diet. Intuitive eating is about understanding what your body needs and then giving it just that. There are no forbidden foods on the intuitive eating list. Which brings me to the next point.
4. You can eat intuitively while also being health conscious
The idea of not restricting at all is not sustainable for long term health. Being ignorant of the dangers of overly processed foods with toxic chemicals in them will most certainly lead to sub-par health. The problem is that most people think of the dangers of processed foods and aspire to be extremists. They can’t fathom the idea of eating something that isn’t “clean.” Doing the opposite, and not restricting anything at all is equally extreme.
Rigidity, whether it involves restricting many foods or restricting absolutely nothing at all, can quickly become a trap. The individual who loves to follow food rules will start applying this new rule of not restricting anything. Temporarily, it’s an excellent way of rewiring your mind to stop fearing foods and accepting your body as well as accepting new foods. But long term, it’s probably not a good idea to not restrict overly processed foods that are designed to create more cravings while containing little nutrition.
What I’ve realized over the years is that the body is insanely complex in its ways of storing, eliminating, digesting, and metabolizing nutrients. Thus, understanding exactly what happens to our body when we ingest a small amount of “chemicals” in a processed food is impossible, and most fears people have about food are not warranted. Almond milk compared to cow’s milk, or gluten-free bread versus wheat bread…different people respond to those foods differently. Thus, avoiding a food at all costs just because you heard it was bad for you is not intuitive by any means. Thus, you can make more sustainable and well-sourced food options while using your intuition. You don’t have to attempt not restricting anything and put low-quality food in your body!
5. Intuitive eating will take you to your ideal weight
There is a belief that eventually if you eat intuitively without restriction you will reach an ideal weight for your body. The fact is it’s quite complex. We all have a body weight set point that is set in our hypothalamus. Based on the type of foods in our environment we can get below or above that set point.
Our intuitive cravings will depend upon what it’s exposed to. So if you live like a hunter-gatherer and walk 10-15 miles a day, your body weight will be lower than if you eat intuitively but live in a modern environment.
The goal of intuitive eating is health, not weight loss, as it’s not a diet, and the point is to free yourself from restrictive and disordered eating. Certainly for many, if not most, eating normally, without rules and restrictions, and whenever you feel the urge to, can bring your body to its set point. You will be able to maintain that weight, but it may not always be the weight that you want.
This is the case for me. I’m 20 lbs heavier than I want to be. Because of my history of restrictive eating, my metabolism is unable to shed off this weight despite attempting intermittent fasting and moderate caloric restriction. The best path for me right now is to focus on restoring my metabolism by not skipping meals.
I highly recommend intuitive eating as one tool to achieve optimal health. It’s not the only tool, but it’s a great start for those who are accustomed to logical eating (most people interested in nutrition). These rules are antithetical to our humanity because they are counter to the way we evolved eating. I go into more detail on how to eat intuitively in my eight-page guide, which you can download for free by signing up for my newsletter in the box below this post.
Let’s make this a movement!