In the last few posts, I’ve done my best to explain to you firstly why you should stop dieting, and secondly how you might start that process by following the intuitive eating principles. This time I want to talk to you on a really persoanl level about the things that have helped me actually use the tools I’ve talked about previously.
When I started attempting to eat intuitively, I found it, and if I’m being honest, still find it a real mind fuck. I have spent my entire life over thinking or ignoring my body and the cues it gave me that it needed to be nourished. It felt like wing walking at every meal. Letting go of the rules was liberating for sure, but it was also terrifying.
If you’re anything like me, with a history of disordered eating/eating disorders, you’ll be up to the eyeballs in rules and numbers. How many calories are in a serving of chicken breast or how many carbs in a cookie, not to mention an exhaustive list of foods you can or can’t eat. By the time I’d realised how severe my restrictive eating disorder was, I didn’t eat anything except vegetables and some meat. So I already understand the anguish you’re likely going through. And realistically, even if you did want to do everything I’ve suggested, you’re already painfully aware that the chances are you’ll never forget how many calories are in a tin of tuna. Now I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who say ‘if I can do it anyone can’, firstly because I absolutely am not recovered, nor am I ‘getting it right’ necessarily, but secondly because I think it diminishes the struggle you’re going through on a personal level. But I do believe that this freedom is possible. I do believe I see glimpses of it regularly, increasing in frequency as I ‘work the steps’ so to speak. So if you are going to do this, I beg you to do it wholeheartedly, without judgment or questioning.
There are many valuable tips, but here are just a few, when used in conjunction with the intuitive eating priciples from the last post, they should help you find your feet as you take your first baby steps into intuitive eating and hopefully body positivity!
• Be KIND to yourself. This is key. If you’re coming from years of dieting or disordered eating/eating disorders, you won’t get this down in a couple of weeks. I spent months not quite getting it right, ending up binging and having to resist the urge to restrict myself the next day. This should stretch beyond food, be kind in all aspects of your life. Exercise, food, work, parenting. I still get it wrong. But, I am always working for a better space for me and my body to live in harmoniously and for that reason, I AWAYS show true compassion to myself and I implore you to do the same.
• Throw away your scales. They DO NOT serve you. Especially in the first six to twelve months of this journey. Knowing what you weigh will only feed into all the disordered thinking you’ve been stuck in for however long, rejecting diet culture and fat phobia includes not focusing on what you weigh. Not only that but for many people knowing their weight only sets them up to binge. See a ‘good’ number and you want to restrict further in order to lose more weight. See a ‘bad’ number and you want to restrict in order to lose the weight you think you have gained. These numbers mean nothing and until you’ve settled into eating intuitively, they will only harm your progress.
• Trust your body. Truly, your body is amazing. It knows far better than your ‘rational’ mind what you need. If it’s asking for something, give it to yourself. If you’re hungry, eat. If you want to run, run. If you’re full, stop. If you’re thirsty, drink. I often catch my self thinking ‘I can’t need a wee again already’, this might seem like a silly example but it works perfectly for this. Why would just judge that your body is telling you to visit the toilet? I don’t decide how quickly my kidneys filter the fluid I injest. So apply the same logic to hunger.
• Learn what thirst feels like. I am a big drinker. But as with most of the cues my body gives me, it took me ages to learn the difference between hunger and thirst. Now, what I am not suggesting here is that bullshit ‘always drink a pint of water before you eat anything’ crap. In the last few years I’ve absolutely used water as a means of filling my self up and in turn avoiding nourishing my body as it was clearly requesting. This is simply another step in your mindful journey.
• Educate your self. One of the biggest tools I’ve used in my recovery is my access to knowlelage. Now there is some privilage here, but the chances are, if you’re reading this, you have access to the same kinds of privilage as myself in this area. So google. Learn about body positivity. Learn about fat activism. Read everything Everyday Feminism has to say on the politics of your body. Understand fat phobia. Check out blogs like Jes Baker, Thoughts Caught In My Fro, Alice And Peanut Butter, Choose Life Warrior, Body Posi Panda just to get you started. There is a welth of education out there, you just need to tap into it, and I can assure you this kind of thing speeds up the politcal side of your recovery – for me that absolutely kept me IN recovery during moments I wanted to quit. Also, it’s worth saying here, whilst it’s absolutely not your place to educate other people, don’t be afraid to do so if you feel able. COnsider sharing your story, getting the word out that diets aren’t the answer only strengthens the movement!
• Fill your home with food. Seriously, the first thing I did when I stopped dieting was a fucking huge food shop. I filled my home with ALL THE FOODS I WANTED! I especially filled up my stock of chocolate and biscuts. The moment I craved those things, I had them. I also craved fish fingers and baked beans, so I stocked up on those too. This isn’t a test, but it will help you prove to your self that you have, and in fact always had, the ability to have as much or as little as you wanted of a food. It will help you prove to your self that in fact it was the restricting and binging that triggered those out of control feelings and in actual fact it has fuck all to do with your ‘sefl control’.
• Actually eat. Now I know this will sound silly because of course while you’re following the intuitive eating priciples, you will be eating when youre hungry and deciding when your body wants you to stop. But for a good while at the begining, I would look at portions of food and decide that was enough, deniying my body anything more than what I THOUGHT was it should have. Using your logical brain wont serve you here. You actually need to eat. Whatever you want. As much as you want of it. As often as you need it.
• THIS IS NOT THE HUNGRY FULL DIET! Okay, so the intuitive eating priciples talk a lot about eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. And those things are important. But this is NOT the ‘only eat when you’re hungry and must stop when you’re full’ diet. Sometimes I eat because I am going out and I won’t have time to get anything later. Sometimes I eat because I’m with friends and we decide we want cake with our tea. Sometimes I don’t stop when I’m full because it tastes amazing. Life happens. This isn’t another diet. If there is birthday cake in the office and you want a slice, you don’t have to wait until you’re hungry to eat it!
• Delete all your diet related apps. Don’t calorie count anything, add up points or spend time worrying about your macros. I know this will take an age to stop but the sooner you start trying, the better. I have started taking food out of boxes so that I can no longer see calories ‘per serving’, now all my chocolates and breakfast foods are in jars so I can eat them freely without accidently seeing numbers that I might find triggering. I also buy brands that I didn’t buy previously and going to different coffee shops so that I’m not recalling old memories of calorie counts.
• Be spontanious and don’t worry about it. I used to carry an apple or boiled eggs everywhere I went because usually there wasn’t anything I ‘could’ eat when I left the house. It truly sucked all the joy out of being ‘in’ life with my friends and family. When we were out late and people suggested picking up dinner, when family wanted to meet up at a pub for lunch instead of coming to ours, I was filled with fear. Now, I pick from whatever options I have and I don’t spend time worrying about it before or freaking out about it after. This has taken TIME and KINDNESS to become proficient at, it will be the same for you too. These moments often bring the most fear, but also the most joy. They are truly ‘life happening’ and I love to be part of them. Honestly, I often still panic, still feel the fear and anxiety, but being more mindful, trusting my body and my hunger/full cues etc all help to make these moments more managable. I find that like with many things in life, the more I do this, the more it feels safe and comfortable. So I suggest you stop avoiding those things as quickly as possible!
• Only move your body if it feels really fucking awesome. It is still difficult for me not to feel like any exersice is simply a punishment for eating food, and I know many of you will feel the same. While I’ve been working on my recovery, I’ve deliberatly stopped doing almost any type of cardio. I live for pilaties. I have no idea how many calories it burns, it doesn’t make me sweat and I ONLY do it because I truly love it. The guilt associated with sitting down, with doing ‘nothing’, with not working out can be almost crippeling. But push through that. Trust me. The balance here is absolutely key. If you really love to run, then run, but learn to be just as intuitive in moving your body as you are becoming in other aspects of your life.
• Purge ALL social media. It’s so impoartant to keep the space around you clear of triggering bullshit. Get rid of people who post their diets on facebook, their work outs on Instagram or re-tweet Glamour magazine on Twitter. If your friend won’t respect your wishes to not talk about foods constantly or if your around people who body shame you, you are well within your rights to remove them from your life. This isn’t simple, but be explicit with people, tell them what you’re bounderies are and if they don’t respect them, fuck well sack them off.
• There is no pressure to get it ‘right’ or be ‘perfect’. There are no rules! This is the most liberating (and terrifying) part! When you don’t have to worry about getting it right, there is no pressure! Let it go! Use your new skills, listen to what it is you truly want and have it. Stop judging food. Let go of all the shit you’ve cataloged in your head about what is safe and what isn’t. It’s lies. Just as you’ve trained your self to believe it, you’re capable of training your self to believe something different.
• Talk to people. Part of the intuitive eating is learning how to manage fluctuations in emtions without it having an enormous impact on your eating. When my cat died, I made a batch of my favourate cookies and I ate every last one. I knew what I was doing. It’s exactly what I wanted to do and I didn’t regret it after. I ate them when I was hungry for them and I didn’t binge because I was absolutely in cotrol and stopped when I didn’t want any more. This is okay and absolutely normal. This isn’t something I do often because my cat only dies once. On a day to day basis, I have learnt to use my friends, my social media, my blog, my music collection, ability to move around and a host of other mechinisms to avoid using food. I know the feeling that no one cares, that youre alone or that your feelings are small in comparison, but I promise you there are people already in your life who want to listen if you would just give them the chance.
• Live for joy. Whatever it is you love, your life is more than a fucking diet. It’s more than your dress size. It’s more than the number on a scale. When you die, people won’t write your weight on your headstone. They won’t talk about how well you stuck to weight watchers. They won’t praise how you never ate cake. They’ll want to talk about the joy you made and shared. So get out of your own head and make some fucking awesome memories!!
All these things took time to settle into. I am still working on most of them. It truly is a daily commitment to my self, to my mental wellbeing, to recovery and to my political beliefs. I binged for months into my recovery because I was still restricting mentally, as well as refusing to take note of my hunger. Don’t feel like you need to get these down in a short space of time, the only thing you truly need to learn quickly is kindness, compassion and forgiveness.