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Did that title catch your eye, or what? It’s not like most of the other titles around this blog, but there’s a reason for that... This post was inspired by a Facebook Live video titled: “Intuitive Eating for Moms is Kinda Bulls**t.”
I want to respond to that video today, and explain a few things. First, I bet many people are wondering: “What IS Intuitive Eating anyway?” And secondly, once you have an idea of what it is, we’ll discuss HOW to start eating intuitively.
The video was created by Jessie Mundell, someone I totally respect and admire, and so when I saw the title, I was nervous. I certainly don’t think Intuitive Eating for moms is bulls**t, but I also usually agree with Jessie’s views on things (she’s a smart cookie after all). So I was curious.
Curious, and nervous.
Was the video going to go against all the things I promote in my own work?
If I disagreed with the video, would I actually want to engage in a debate on the topic?
Were we really that dissimilar in our coaching styles (in which case I totally stink at reading people)?
But I clicked it, hoping that I’d still respect her awesomeness after seeing what she had to say.
And it turns out, we’re both right (phew!). BUT, the video made me realize that perhaps there is some confusion out there about what Intuitive Eating actually IS.
The reason she was calling BS on it for moms was because moms usually can’t enjoy their food in peace and quiet, or eat slowly and mindfully all the time, or chew each bite of food 100 times.
And she’s totally right on that! When you’re a mom, especially of very young kids, “peace and quiet” and actually having time to yourself can be a real rarity!
But that’s not the main goal of Intuitive Eating anyway.
So yes, moms tend to lack time and quietness, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still strive to eat intuitively. The first step though, is clarifying what that actually means.
It’s not some buzzword that you see floating around without an actual definition. And it also isn’t eating with pure 100% focus on each individual bite as you chew it into oblivion while gazing across a serene lakeside view in total zen and peace. Thank goodness, cuz ain’t nobody got time for that!
Intuitive Eating was originally written as a book by two Nutrition experts: Evelyn Tribole, and Elyse Resch. There have been a few editions now, and they also recently came out with a workbook that looks pretty awesome.
Intuitive eating is broken down into 10 principles. You can read the overview from the Intuitive Eating authors on their website here, but I will paraphrase them below.
“Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.”
No, I don’t think they are. It’s absolutely true that moms tend to have less free time, often have rambunctious kids running around making meals less peaceful, and also have demanding schedules and difficulty getting a dedicated mealtime in. That’s just the messy reality of LIFE!
But these principles are guidelines, not rules. (You all know I’m not a fan of rules!) So if we need to modify these a bit to make them more realistic for moms, we can do that!
There were two objections to Intuitive Eating in the video I spoke about:
1 - Meals for moms are often interrupted or chaotic… We can’t eat slow, or chew slowly. It’s loud and not relaxing, and sometimes not enjoyable.
2 - Sometimes we have to eat before we’re hungry or we won’t get a chance later.
Let’s discuss these in terms of how we can still incorporate Intuitive Eating around them.
The first objection above speaks to the eating experience (principle 6), and yeah, the eating experience with rambunctious kiddos running amok leaves something to be desired! But pleasure in eating can happen even if the meal is quick and hurried.
Even if the first bite is the only one you truly get to enjoy, that’s okay! Not every meal can be a culinary masterpiece that excites our tastebuds, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy it. Let yourself enjoy that bite, and then deal with whatever kid-craziness you need to.
Life gets hectic with young kids, but there is beauty in the chaos. They’re only this little (and crazy) once, so take it with a grain of salt and enjoy the parts you CAN enjoy. I don’t adore every meal I eat, but I do make an effort to cook meals that I know I like. That way, even if dinnertime is a bit nutty, I know that at least the food tastes good.
This other objection deals with not always being able to let our hunger guide our eating (principle 2). Sometimes we’re not quite hungry yet, but we know that we won’t get another chance for several hours. Would it be better to wait for hunger and then endure it for hours before we get a chance to eat something? No!
Demanding schedules are part of life. Using your hunger as a guide when you can is a great idea. But reality tends to involve schedules that require us to eat in certain timeframes. Whether you’re a mom whose kids are taking up your whole morning, or you’re a CEO stuck in board meetings all day, most of us have certain times of the day where we have to eat or we won’t get another opportunity for a long while. In those cases, eating to fuel that long stretch before you’re able to eat again is called setting the rest of your day up for success.
And I think that falls pretty well in line with the principles of honoring your health and respecting your body!
In an ideal world, you’d usually get hungry at the times you need to eat. And to an extent, it’s possible to reverse engineer that a bit. But life doesn’t tend to follow the “ideal” situation, so we do our best to ride the waves and keep the overarching goal of honoring our health (principle 10) in mind.
I want to give the video props for having some seriously great recommendations in it, which actually are totally in line with Intuitive Eating.
Jessie mentions two things that I really love, and which, coincidentally enough, I frequently use with my own clients as well:
1) “It’s just food”
2) “How will this make me feel?”
Those two statements are basically all of Intuitive Eating boiled down into its most basic tenets!
She talks about how we should eat for comfort (by not overeating, because we don’t have time to feel like crap after meals), pleasure (by enjoying our food as much as possible and not stressing about calories and macros), and fuel (making sure we have enough energy to keep up with our hectic days).
Yup, this all fits within Intuitive Eating! This is honoring our fullness, rejecting a diet mentality, shutting up the food police, and honoring our health, all wrapped up in a nice little package. So while the title of this post probably sounded like I was going to bash her video, in the end, I’m actually all for it! (I just still don’t like the title.)
Now that we’ve cleared some things up and realized we’re actually on the same page, it’s time to talk about how you can start to incorporate this idea of Intuitive Eating into your life, especially if you’re new to it, and especially if you’re a busy mom who doesn’t get to eat a meal in peace very often!
Below are 5 core basics of Intuitive Eating that can help you understand the general idea, both in regular blog form and as a spiffy infographic you can pin:
1 - Stop dieting
This is the most important step, because you can’t eat intuitively if you’re still focused on dieting, weight loss, or good/bad foods. I’ve got a few posts that can help you (Escape the Diet Cycle, You Don’t Need A Freaking Detox, How to Eat Healthy Without Dieting)
2 - Call a truce with your body
We often spend a ton of time and energy disliking our bodies, but that makes caring for ourselves so much harder. (When was the last time you took care of someone you didn’t like?) You are worthy of love, admiration, and respect right now, no matter what your body looks like. You are worthy because you are human. The shape or size of your body has absolutely nothing to do with it. Start to call a truce with your body, and maybe even start to become friends with it. You’re on the same side, after all! (Learn to love the person in the mirror, Open Letter about Body Image)
3 - Remember that food is just food
Some days we have grilled chicken, veggies, and sweet potatoes, other days we have boxed mac-n-cheese. It’s all just food. The first meal doesn’t make you “good” and the second doesn’t make you “bad.” They’re just different ways of feeding yourself. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy. It will all be okay! (Myth of good/bad foods, If no bad foods, why manage sweets)
4 - Use how you feel as a guide, as often as you can
Your body is smarter than you may be giving it credit for. Start to tune in and listen to what it has to say. It will tell you when it’s hungry and when it’s full. It will tell you what makes it feel good, and what doesn’t. If you have to eat before you’re hungry due to time-restraints, go for it! Just stop before you become uncomfortable. When it comes to choosing foods, keep how it makes you feel in mind. If you feel physically ill after eating ice cream, perhaps there is something else that would make you feel well that you can choose instead. (Don’t have to fear hunger)
5 - Focus on your health
Eating ice cream for every meal just because you can (and have permission to) doesn’t support your health. There is no need to be strict about your food choices, but you can eat in a healthful way simply by keeping your health as a factor in your decision-making. It’s also much more enjoyable to focus on things that make you feel good instead of focusing on weight or size. Focusing on your health includes your mental health too, so remember that emotional eating is a bandaid on a bullet hole, and try to find other ways of handling those tough emotions. (Forget reducing sweets, try adding joy)
Remember that we’re never chasing perfection. Life is messy, and unpredictable, and chaotic, and wonderful. Keep your health and your self-compassion as guiding forces, and you’ll be well on your way to eating in a way that keeps you feeling great while you handle this thing called life!