Intuitive eating often feels pretty UNINTUITIVE to start with it. Which is ironic, to say the least. Trying to reconnect to all those natural body cues you apparently have somewhere in the depth of your stomach… “hello?” (echo, echo), “is there anyone in there?” (echo, echo).
Not to mention the cravings for certain foods, and the lack of cravings for ‘healthy food’!#*!
You wish that you “wanted” to eat ‘healthy food’ more often. You wish that you craved ‘healthy food’. But instead, you end up craving ‘less healthy’ food most of the time, and because you don’t want to restrict yourself and get all “diety”, you end up filling up on that instead eating more nutritious food.
Some days you know it’s just part of the journey. Other days you wonder how long you’ll be in this endless loop of “honouring cravings” and only ever craving play foods?
Well here are 8 things you should know about cravings and honouring your health with gentle nutrition:
1. It’s Normal To Crave Play Foods In The Early Stages of Intuitive Eating
Your body is so relieved to be out of diet-land, that it’s going to make the most of your new motto of “unrestricted access to all foods.” “Welcome to the parrrrtay!” When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. These are the foods you’ve restricted in the past, so it figures that these are the foods you’d want to eat now that there are no rules. It won’t last forever, just roll with it and TRY not to judge yourself. Instead treat your deprived party-palate with some compassion.
2. Don’t Push It, Let It Come
There literally is no point trying to force yourself to favour more nutritious foods sooner than it wants to happen. It could take months, or years, depending on your diet and life history and how long you’ve been restricting. But all that’s going to happen if you push it, is resentment as you effectively are forcing yourself to create new food rules about what you can eat – and that’s just a diet in disguise.
3. What Is Your Intention Behind These Worries About Cravings?
If there is still guilt or shame attached to the way you’re eating, then there is some belief or rule hidden inside that needs to be unpacked. Spend a little time reflecting and see why you are concerned about your lack of cravings and desires for healthy food (bearing in mind that eating healthy food isn’t the make or break of your health).
4. Healthy Eating Isn’t Compulsory For Good Health
Scientists discovered some fascinating facts about healthy eating when they studied people living in the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy. The village had a very low rate of disease, including no coronary artery disease in anyone younger than 55. Determined to find out why, researchers reviewed their diet and lifestyle.
Shockingly, they found that the Rosetans didn’t follow a healthy diet, that many were overweight and didn’t exercise, and that there were smokers everywhere.
Maybe they were just genetic freaks that could survive with bad lifestyle habits?
Apparently not. Researchers studied their relatives (with similar genetics) in other villages and found they had a high rate of disease. So it was something about Roseto that was protecting it’s residents.
Social scientists were called in and found that the community had a unique population that shared and supported each other, much like an extended family. This social structure, and the levels of trust and security among the Rosetans impacted their physical health so powerfully that they were healthier than many other communities, even with their less-than-healthy lifestyles.
5. Stress and Worry Is Likely More Harmful To Your Health
Worrying about not eating “healthy food” is likely more harmful to your health than eating “less healthy food”. In fact American researchers found that when they checked levels of inflammatory molecules in the blood of people who’d ate a nutritious meal, but had a stressful day, they were just as high as the levels of inflammatory molecules among those who had a less healthy meal.
Stress has a very real impact on your wellbeing. So let go of the worries, and know this is only for a season, and not the end of your health as you know it.
6. Move Past Cravings To Consider Physical After-Effects Too
“When you’re eating healthy it actually feels good,” says Evelyn Tribole, the author of Intuitive Eating. And she’s got a point! Eating more nutritious foods often leads to feeling more energised and having a healthier more regular gut.
While intuitive eating guides us to honour our cravings, these aren’t the be-all and end-all. Intuitive eating also guides us to balance those desires (or cravings) against how we physically feel after eating a food.
So someone with irritable bowel syndrome might note that when they eat wheat they get a sore, bloated stomach. On any given day they can make the choice to eat, or not eat wheat bread, depending on whether they want to deal with a sore, bloated stomach.
Similarly, everyday you can decide how you want to feel physically, you could choose the pie and fries for lunch and maybe feel a bit sluggish afterwards, or you could choose a chicken and hummus wrap, with the knowledge that it’ll taste good and you’ll probably feel better afterwards physically. Cravings don’t always don’t priority over your desire to have certain physical after-effects. But you need to come to a place of balance for you that results in no feelings of deprivation or feelings of guilt or shame for the choice you make. It’s your choice and either way is fine.
7. Focus On Adding More Nutritious Foods
Instead of worrying about craving less-than-healthy foods, why not just focus on adding some more nutritious foods into your day? Maybe you decide to opt for the bowl of potato chips for a snack, instead of a piece of fruit. But you can still choose to grate some carrot into your mince for dinner, so you’re getting a bit more vegetables in your life.
Try thinking about adding more nutritious foods in, in a way that you are comfortable with, and that doesn’t feel diety, instead of focusing on trying to stop or wish-away the cravings for play foods.
8. Make Sure Convenience Doesn’t Influence Choices
Sometimes we choose a play food (or less nutritious food), because it’s convenient.
Why peel and chop up a carrot and pull out a bowl of flavoured hummus from the fridge, if you can just grab the packet of potato chips that are in the pantry and start chowing down straight away?
It’s a reasonable question. We humans love convenience. And convenience influences our decisions, especially when we’re tired, or busy or stressed.
If you want to even the playing field for food – try prepping up different types of more nutritious foods. So then when you want a quick snack or meal you can objectively decide what you want based on what you desire, not on how much time it’ll take to get it ready. You’re taking time and effort out of the equation, and putting play foods and more nutritious foods on an equal footing.
P.S. Food prepping might feel like the height of diet-culture. But it doesn’t have to be, when it’s approached in the right way.
Have you got any thoughts or experiences with cravings on your intuitive eating journey? I’d love to hear about them, share away in the comments!