Some mornings I wake up and drink coffee, workout, and still don’t feel hungry. I’ll eat my first meal at noon. Other mornings I wake up famished and prepare a breakfast of avocado, toast, runny eggs and greens. This type of eating, coined ‘intuitive eating,’ is currently a full-blown trend. Everyone from Health to The Atlantic has become fixated with this ‘non-diet diet’ that “teaches you how to get in touch with your body cues like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction while learning to trust your body around food again.” But is this type of eating truly revelatory, especially if I was eating this way without realizing?
For most modern folks, yes. If you’re like me, you were brought up to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, always and forever. Whether you were hungry or not, you showed up to the table and cleaned your plate. Nothing went to waste, especially as kids.
Most American women go through a handful- if not a full garland string- of diets throughout their lifetime. Dieting has taught us to be meticulously aware of everything that enters our mouths, including its carb and calorie content. But there is a problem with placing So. Much. Emphasis. On. Food.
It creates an obsession, a ‘can’t have it so I crave the hell out of it’ attitude towards ‘naughty’ foods instead of an appreciation for healthful foods that provide the energy for life and a genuine joy for sprinkled in treats.
Considering I’m a model, the fact that I have a healthy relationship to food may come as a surprise, though there are many more healthy models than the stereotype accounts for. Modeling, however, can test your mental health to its very limits. Food is part of my job in the way it only can be when your career depends on your outward appearance- your skin, your hair, and the number of inches around your hips, chest, and waist. It took me some time to realize that listening to my body was the strongest way to ensure I looked and felt my best, but once I got there, I promised to feed and care for myself in ways that served me first. Everything else would come second.
Of course there are times when I overindulge, but to be honest, those days are few and far between. I don’t feel the need to overeat nor really want to because nothing food-wise is off limits to me, ever. Once I lifted any self-imposed restrictions that I thought I needed to put on myself because I was a model, my cravings, for sugar especially, subsided. Now, if I want something sweet at night, I reach for dried mango or frozen grapes. But sometimes, and this is important, it’s a cookie or ice cream. I eat it, love it, and move on. Beyond that, I don’t give it any power.
Intuitive eating is about eliminating restrictions and leveling the playing field for all food. It comes down to basic psychology as well. We want what we can’t have and making things ‘illegal’ only pushes them underground, strengthening illicit behavior and feelings like shame and guilt. Intuitive eating means unearthing those feelings and laying everything out on the table. It means listening to your body in the most intimate of ways and, on a broader scale, accepting your humanness for its strengths and its flaws.
Listening to my body is a practice I’ve been honing for some time now. I’m always ready for bodily cues that reveal if a muscle is tight, if my vagina feels balanced, if my stomach tells me I’m hungry, if that twinge in my head means I’m dehydrated. Knowing my body in general is extremely important to me and is crucial if you’re interested in intuitive eating. When you start to think of your body as the precious vehicle that it is, a shift begins.
When it comes to intuitive eating, feeding yourself is key. Not waiting until your starving will help you make sure that something healthful is on the other end of that hunger. Intuitive eating will also strengthen your internal cues that tell you when you’re actually satiated so you don’t have to rely on your emotions or extreme fullness to tell you when you’re done eating.
Let That Ish Go
Once at a job they served pizza for lunch (always a happy moment for me!). I had two slices while one of the fashion employees was debating over a third even though it was 2 pm and she had been running around since early morning. She lamented over that third slice (I don’t say this to call her out. This emotional response to food is so common and nothing to be ashamed of). I said, “Have one more if you’re hungry.” She responded with an, “Easy for you to say,” a typical response I can’t blame anybody for, but I stand by my belief. If you want that third slice, have it. Three slices of pizza isn’t so much! Enjoy it, savor the flavor and nourishment and let that shit go. Let it move through your body and come out on the other end so you can keep moving and grooving through life.
Tension, blockage, holding onto things and feelings, especially feelings about food: all of this shows up somewhere in our bodies if we don’t release it. They reveal themselves through stress, elimination problems, weight gain and other myriad of issues within the body.
Intuitive eating is about relinquishing obsessive thoughts, so I recommend starting there if you want to change your relationship with food and quit yo-yoing. Intermittent fasting can be a good test to see how your intuitive eating is carrying along. Sometimes, in a more spiritual sense, it’s good to feel hungry. It’s good to realize you don’t have to drop everything and have a big meal because you feel a hunger pain. It can guide you into a deeper understanding of the inner workings of your system and hone your responses to cues that let you know how you’re feeling and especially when you’re hungry.
What About Intermittent Fasting?
You may notice how eating my first meal at noon also sounds a lot like intermittent fasting, another trend on the diet scene thats actually thousands of years old. Intermittent fasting is a cycling through of periods of eating and fasting to lose weight, improve health, and engage in spiritual practices. Because I’m the farthest thing from a doctor, I can only comment on my personal view of eating and fasting and do not offer any advice in an official capacity. I only wish to share my perspective to help shed light on your own.
In general I will say this: don’t fast unless it truly feels right. Depriving yourself of food when you’re not in the appropriate head space can make you fixate on food and leave you feeling ravenous instead of empowered. These patterns can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food that can actually cause you to overindulge and keep you from maintaining a steady body weight and losing weight if weight loss is your goal.
Really, intuitive eating is a mentality, not an action (or inaction). It’s about honoring yourself, listening to yourself, and serving your body. It’s about saying; “I can eat anything in this world that I desire.” It’s not an excuse to eat 47 donuts, but it’s about eating that one deliciously plump donut, loving and enjoying it, and consuming something more nourishing later on. If weight loss is your goal, I promise you’ll find yourself losing little by little over time and actually keeping it off.
Intuitive eating may not be new- in fact we all ate intuitively as children- but it’s gaining traction as the only diet ‘fad’ I can get behind. It’s about waking up in the morning and going with the way your belly feels instead of following numbers on a scale, package, or clock. Intuitive eating is simply eating, the way it was always meant to be.