Are you stuck in a cycle of feeling like you just eat too-damn-much ‘junk food’?
Whether it’s that sneaky-quiet trip to the pantry once the kids are in bed (how can they hear foil rustling from their bedroom?). Or the choc-bar load-up sesh at “that” time of the month.
I say this all the time, and I’m gonna say it again – you’re not alone.
Every night, all over the world, there are gals playing a sad-ass game of “trying not to eat this or that food.”
And most nights it fails for a number of very good reasons. Starting with this:
No I am not kidding you.
Intuitive eating is kinda like eating in the mirror.
As in, just imagine, that you have to direct your body by watching it’s movements in the mirror.
EVERYTHING is back to front.
And that includes your hunger and fullness and loading up on play foods (because in the intuitive eating world there are no “junk foods”, only “play foods”, hooray!).
And the most common reason that people find themselves loading up on sweets, candy, chips and other play foods, is that they simply aren’t eating enough during the day and they’re hungry.
I get it, eating to “comfortable fullness” feels like a dangerous past-time after a lifetime of dieting. But trust me, trying to cheat your body by never eating to comfortable fullness is not the secret to success.
Instead you’re training your body and mind that there is never quite enough food around. And so it’s constantly on the lookout for something high energy (i.e. laden with fat or sugar or both) to boost your energy intake and finally get rid of that lurking hunger.
Do yourself a favour – honour your hunger AND your fullness. Then see if those cravings for play foods start to reduce a bit.
Okay people without a uterus, you can skip right ahead to #3.
But for all the rest of you who have a monthly cycle, let’s talk about all those monthly changes.
You’ve noticed the obvious ones, the bleed, the bloating, the pain, the pimples, the irritability, mood swings and all the other delightful things that come with a monthly cycle.
But did you know that food cravings are actually a well-known symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) too?
Studies have found that women eat MORE during their luteal phase. The luteal phase is the phase between when you ovulate (when your ovaries release an egg) and before your period starts.
And the foods we crave for are carbs, fats and sweets. Which is why chocolate (which ticks all the boxes for carbs, sweets and fats), is so popular among premenstrual women.
I personally don’t think you need a fix for this. It is, what it is. And by relaxing and becoming more in-tune with your body and your monthly cycle, you’re going to recognise it as part of your monthly cycle, rather than a sign that you’re pathologically out-of-control and need help. Phew.
Yep, the more you restrict it, the more you crave it. Intuitive Eating 101.
I know it’s hard to let go of those old habits – feeling like eating play foods is a sin – but this is the path to food freedom.
And you do want to be free of food controlling your life right?
So at some stage, you need to stop dipping your toes in the water and just jump in.
Ditch the labels on food – there are no good or bad foods.
Foods sit on a spectrum from more nutritious to less nutritious. There is no black and white cutoff point at which foods move from being ‘good’ to ‘bad’.
All foods can be part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s about what you eat over months and months, not just your choices at one meal or on one day.
So give yourself freedom to eat ANY food you feel like eating when you’re hungry.
Of course you might be sitting there saying, “But Jennifer I do eat play foods at every meal on every day… that’s the problem. Sigh.”
Which brings me to #4
Okaaay… say what?!
Well, if you’re not giving yourself true permission to eat all those play foods and treat foods, and you’re actually feeling BAD for eating them, or that you shouldn’t be eating as MANY of them… then you are still mentally restricting them.
And any time we restrict a food what happens?
We crave it more. Intuitive eating 101.
So the solution is to give yourself TRUE permission to eat these freely.
Try really being in the moment with yourself and the play food as you eat it.
Chew it or savour it slowly, so you can really experience the flavour.
Are you enjoying the taste?
Notice if your enjoyment starts to decline the more you eat of it.
And notice what emotions you feel as you eat it.
Don’t judge yourself, just let it be a learning experience.
Ask me how I know about this one?
I felt like it took me forever to get through the “kid in the candy store” stage of intuitive eating.
Almost all of us have been through this stage as we’ve learnt to eat intuitively, after dieting.
You’re so damn excited to be able to eat what you want, that you just make the most of it. Eating piles of play foods and enjoying every minute of it.
But like anything, it will wear off.
Eventually, if you stay in the moment as you eat the food, you start to notice that it doesn’t taste as good as you thought it did.
For me, it was the realisation that I really don’t like eating any old candy. I have really specific ones I love – spearmint flavoured! Yum!
And after trying every flavour of cake, muffin, cupcake and slice in the greater Auckland region, I’ve realised that I don’t enjoy that many of them.
For a girl who used to ALWAYS order sweets at a cafe, I now find myself doing weird stuff like ordering a cheese scone. What the actual heck?!
Just trust in the journey from dieting to intuitive eating.
And if you’re still wondering what else might affect how much you eat, check out these 11 surprising reasons why you eat too much.