A life altering way of eating and taking care of yourself
When I first dove into the nutrition/health realm about 4 years ago, I would spend hours of my time trying to be “healthy.” Hours at the gym, hours cooking the same monotonous “clean” meals, hours of my day revolving around food and exercise. And everything was black and white. If I stuck to my “meal plan/macros” and did the exact workout I wrote down on my piece of paper, I would be a better person and so high on life. If I ate too many carbohydrates and went over my calories for the day, I had absolutely blown it. If I could describe my behaviors in one world, it would be rigid.
Being “healthy” became a moral issue rather than a way to take care of myself. This lifestyle I was living became unrealistic and draining, and something had to give. My mental health suffered and I began developing an unhealthy relationship with food. When I couldn’t stick to these unrealistic expectations I set for myself, I would throw in the towel and overeat foods that were forbidden. This created a vicious cycle of overeating and restricting, as dieting tends to do. I share this story because I see many of my close friends, peers, and strangers on the internet going down a similar dark path.
I came across the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch about 3 years ago. The first time I read it, the message didn’t fully register. It wasn’t until I dug it out within the last year and read it cover to back that I realized my behaviors were the opposite of “healthy”. Intuitive eating is about listening to your hunger and fullness cues, trusting your body, and honoring your cravings. It made so much sense. If you are eating when you are hungry and consuming foods you enjoy regularly, you will stop when you are full. If no foods are off limits, your “forbidden foods” will no longer feel so desired. Being intuitive is about letting go of “food rules”, allowing yourself to engage in exercise because you want to, and living a more fulfilling life.
If you are anything like how I used to be and think in terms of black and white, you may think intuitive eating sounds like a “free for all.” NO vegetables, eat all the donuts, give me all the chick-fil-a kind of deal. It’s quite the opposite- the more these “forbidden foods” are available to you, the less desirable they become. My body actually craves vegetables. And I don’t feel like I want to eat 5 donuts all the time.
I can’t cover the entire book in one blog post (I wish I could it’s so amazing!), but important to note is the concept of “gentle nutrition”. Gentle nutrition is the opposite of being rigid while still taking care of your body with nutritious foods. It basically discusses why fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein are good to include in your diet. If you were to eat donuts all day and nothing else, you would feel like crap and never have a bowel movement (excuse my dietitian talk, bathroom talk is life for us). You could pair that donut with an egg/veggie scramble and go on with your day, not thinking another second about that darn donut.
All this aside, I have an important message for you. It’s okay to enjoy eating vegetables and to prepare food to eat during the week. If you like to exercise at the gym or ride off into the sunset on your bicycle- please do that! But you may ask yourself this vital question: Do I want to look back on my life with all memories tied to trying to be “healthy”? Or do I want to grab an ice-cream cone from Sparkys with a dear friend. How will you choose to spend your hours?
If you are interested, you can find a link to intuitive eating below. This is not a sponsored post-I fullheartedly practice intuitive eating and wish there would have been training in my dietetic course work on this concept. It’s so important. Furthermore, if you are struggling with your relationship with food please reach out to an intuitive eating dietitian.