Intuitive Eating is gaining more and more popularity and recognition in the world of nutrition. With more awareness comes more questions and curiosity. Part 4 of this Q&A series addresses more intuitive eating questions about the different types of hunger, how to continue to be successful in your intuitive eating journey, and where exercise fits in with intuitive eating. Check out my answers and tips below!

Intuitive Eating Questions 4

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this Q&A series, I addressed topics such as how to deal with cravings, where nutrition fits in intuitive eating, how to stop feeling guilty and so much more. The questions keep coming, which I love! So here is part 4 of the Intuitive Eating Q&A series. If you’ve got other questions please comment below and I’ll include them in an upcoming blog post.

When I find myself wanting a treat in the absence of feelings of biological hunger, how should I respond?

Simple answer: if you feel like you want to eat a certain food, then you should go ahead and eat it. But be intentional with it – intentionally make the choice to eat it and eat it mindfully, noting the taste and how you feel. Tuning in before, during, and after a meal helps makes mind-body connections with food. A common mistake by people just starting intuitive eating is that they feel they should only eat when they have biological signs of hunger. The idea of hunger is multifaceted. There are many reasons we eat including

  1. Taste Hunger- wanting to eat because the food sounds good or it fits the occasions (i.e. birthday cake at a party)
  2. Practical Hunger – eating when you may not be physically hungry, but you won’t have access to food later, so you eat to avoid ravenous hunger and feelings of irritability later on
  3. Emotional hunger – using food as coping mechanisms for uncomfortable feelings (sadness, loneliness, boredom). Emotional eating is okay to do, but it’s important that it’s not your only coping mechanism.

Eating the foods your craving is a big part of making peace with food – you have to give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. And for a while that may mean you’re eating them when you’re not hungry. But eventually, as your body learns to trust that you can have them whenever, you will start to find that you’ll crave them less. One other note: I don’t like using the word “treat” to categorize foods, because by value of using that word we’re saying that it’s something we shouldn’t have that often, which makes it more appealing, which makes us want it more AND can make us feel guilty when we “treat” ourselves.

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I’ve been practicing intuitive eating for a bit now and have allowed myself to eat whatever I want, but I still find myself having diet-like thoughts that lead to guilt — I feel like I have come so far, how can I ensure I continue to move in the right direction?

The most important thing to note about intuitive eating is that it is a process. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and there is no end point. The main thing to remember when diet-like thoughts start creeping up is to approach the thought with curiosity rather than judgment. Instead of running away from this unsettling/uncomfortable feeling, try to reflect and explore ton it some more. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s going on this week that may be triggering these thoughts to be more present?
  • Is anything happening that is making you crave a certain food more than usual?

It’s important to recognize that the reason there is this associated guilt with eating these foods is all due to ideas put in our head by diet culture. Dieting provides external rules about when we can or cannot eat food and it makes us feel like if we don’t follow these rules then we will go crazy and binge or have to make up for what we ate by exercising or restricting foods.

It can sometimes help to reflect back on the past few weeks and note the progress that you have made (I do this with all my clients because it’s super helpful!). Employ some self-compassion here – this is a tough process but with time it becomes easier. The more you practice the principles of intuitive eating the more you will be able to tune into your body every time you eat and eventually, you’ll get to a place where your body will know and trust that you have access to that food and the feeling of always needing to eat the trigger food will get less and less frequent.

I have always associated exercise with the need to lose weight. I feel like if I begin to workout again I will fall back into the diet mentality — is there anyway to apply the principles of intuitive eating to exercise?

With a simple change in mindset, exercise can definitely become a part of your intuitive eating journey. In fact, it’s built into intuitive eating as one of the original principles. Exercise often brings about feelings of anxiety because it is associated with failed attempts at dieting and weight loss. Instead of focusing on external factors like calories burned or weight loss, focus on exercise as a means to take care of yourself. Some things to think about regarding exercise:

Does the exercise…
  • Improve your overall energy level?
  • Promote better sleeping habits?
  • Help you cope with emotions/stress?
  • Provide a sense of well-being?

Make sure that whatever kind of exercise you choose to do, that you enjoy it! Pick a type of exercise that makes your body feel good, rather than viewing it as a punishment for something you ate. Remove the “all or nothing” mentality and remember that all movement is good for the body and you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reap the health benefits of exercise. Instead seek out realistic ways to provide regular and joyful movement to your daily life. If you aren’t sure what type of exercise you like, start experimenting with different classes, studios, gyms, instructors, or online videos.

Check out the other posts in the Q&A series:

Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 1
Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 2
Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 3

Do you still have other questions about intuitive eating? Share below!


Are you interested in learning more about intuitive eating?

We work with clients virtually throughout the US, helping people who are frustrated with dieting change their relationship with food and say goodbye to diets once and for all. You can learn more about our intuitive eating nutrition coaching programs to see how you can find balance and develop long-term lifestyle habits, no diets required.