If you’ve been dieting for a long time and have been unsuccessful (like 98% of those who diet,) then you may have heard the term, “intuitive eating,” floating around.
Maybe you’ve heard about it from a friend who’s tried it, or maybe you’ve seen someone post about it on social media. While intuitive eating is gaining in popularity, there are still quite a few myths about it.
I get a lot of women questioning me about intuitive eating since starting my own intuitive eating journey a few months ago. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve definitely noticed a change in my posts from dieting and weight loss advice, to low carb eating, to what I write about now, intuitive eating.
If you’re new here, let me give you a quick synopsis of what intuitive eating is: the practice of listening to one’s own body signals when making decisions about food, rather than taking direction from an external source (like a traditional diet.)
But the problem I see time and time again is that many people still don’t fully understand what intuitive eating REALLY is. There are a lot of myths about intuitive eating, and today, I want to clear those up for you.
MYTH #1: I have to gain weight to be a successful intuitive eater.
Most women I chat with are extremely afraid to start intuitive eating because they are afraid they will gain weight. Believe me, I totally understand this fear. I had the exact same fear. I thought that if I became an intuitive eater, I had to gain weight in order to be successful.
I’ve seen many stories out there of women who dieted for years, started intuitive eating, and then gained a bunch of weight.
True, this may happen. But the key word here is, MAY.
Every body is different.
But I can tell you with certainty that three things will happen when you start intuitive eating:
- You may gain weight.
- You may lose weight.
- Your weight may stay the same.
For me, my weight has pretty much stayed the same since becoming an intuitive eater.
I actually started gaining weight BEFORE I became an intuitive eater because my hormones could no longer support the restriction and over exercising. It wasn’t up to me whether I gained I lost weight, my body just knew what it needed to survive.
If you’ve been restricting a long time, you may find your body needs to gain weight in order to find balance again. If you’ve been an emotional eater for a long time, you may find weight loss becomes effortless when you start to tune in to your body.
What your weight does isn’t a measure of how “successful” you are. I personally find intuitive eating to be a lifelong journey. A journey where I’m always learning about myself, therefore, there is no end goal, unlike a diet where the ONLY goal is to lose weight. My goal is to be in tune with myself more, trust my body, and not worry about what happens to my weight.
MYTH #2: Intuitive Eating is a hunger and fullness diet.
One of the most common issues I see when people try intuitive eating is they turn it into the “hunger and fullness diet.”
There are two principles of intuitive eating that lead to this myth:
- Honour your hunger.
- Respect your fullness.
These two principles are very important for becoming an intuitive eater. However, many people ONLY follow these two principles and call themselves “intuitive eaters.”
“I’ll only eat when my stomach starts growling.” OR “I’ll stop eating when I’ve reached 80% fullness.”
While it’s wonderful to listen to our bodies cues about hunger and fullness, there are times when we are going to eat when we aren’t that hungry and there are going to be times when we eat beyond fullness.
I know for myself, sometimes I’ll get asked to go out for lunch or dinner at a specific time, and I’m not always hungry at that time, but I order a full meal anyway and enjoy it because I want to enjoy the company of the person I’m with. Another example is when we have a large dinner and my kids want to make s’mores that evening. Even if I’m full from dinner, sometimes I’ll still enjoy s’mores with the family.
There are so many more principles that go into intuitive eating, it’s not JUST about hunger and fullness.
MYTH #3: I have to indulge every craving when eating intuitively.
I believe one of the top misconceptions about intuitive eating is that you have to indulge every craving.
For many, this is scary. They feel that they will just eat junk food all the time and will never crave healthy foods anymore. And for some, this may be the case in the beginning.
For those people who have been restricting food for a really long time, they may end up enjoying some foods they have told themselves were off limits.
Take me for example. For years I denied myself licorice. I couldn’t even have it in the house for fear that I would binge on it. It became a feared food. But when I allowed myself to buy some and told myself that I could eat it whenever I wanted, that fear went away. And guess what? I have no desire to binge on that food anymore because I’ve taken it’s power away.
When we tell ourselves a food is off limits, what happens? We crave that food more!! Think about a child. If you tell a child they can’t play with a certain toy, what do they want to do? PLAY WITH THAT TOY!! It’s the same for us. When we put rules and restrictions on food, we want that food. But when we take away the rules, we don’t think about that food as much and it becomes, well, just another food.
This may not happen right away for you. But my guess is, even if you binge on a whole box of Oreos at first, you won’t want those Oreos for every single meal.
This doesn’t mean I never enjoy foods or never crave certain foods anymore. I still honour my cravings and I aim to be satiated after each meal. Sometimes that means I want something sweet, sometimes that doesn’t. The difference is, I don’t feel a need to binge on those foods because I know that I can have them whenever I want.
MYTH #4: Nutrition doesn’t matter.
Another top myth of intuitive eating is that we don’t need to eat healthy.
Many people think that we throw nutrition out the window when we become an intuitive eater. We think that if we’re only going to eat what we crave, then will will ignore healthy foods and just eat the fun ones.
But in fact, intuitive eating does involve nutrition. The difference is, there are no rules around it.
For example, the rule, “you should eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day” becomes, “I try to eat as many fruits and vegetables per day because it makes me feel good in my body, but if I don’t eat 10 servings, that’s okay!”
Eating nutritious food is still something intuitive eaters do. If I were to sit and eat Oreos all day, my body wouldn’t feel very good. But when I fill my body with nutrients, it feels pretty good.
This doesn’t mean however, that I ONLY eat nutritious food. There is still a place for foods that may not contain any nutritional value.
For me, intuitive eating is all about balance. I aim to eat nutritionally dense food because it makes my body feel good, but I also include fun foods that contain no nutritional value, because these foods satisfy me in ways that fruits and vegetables can’t.
MYTH #5: I can’t exercise like I want to when eating intuitively.
I have to admit, one of my biggest joys in the morning is getting up to do my workout!
I’ve been exercising in the early mornings for the past ten years. It’s something I really look forward to, and I thought I would have to give it up or turn to gentle yoga when I became an intuitive eater.
But the truth is, exercise is definitely part of intuitive eating!
When I was dieting, the main focus of my exercise was to lose weight or burn a certain amount of calories. It was never about exercising for the enjoyment of it. I would push myself until I couldn’t push anymore. I would be completely bagged after a workout session because I would push my body past it’s limits.
Since turning to intuitive eating, I’ve come to view exercise very differently. Now, rather than exercising to reach goals or trying to burn more calories, I pursue exercise that excites me, that brings me joy. For me, that’s weight lifting.
I’ve always hated cardio, but I would force myself to do it because the fitness industry told me I should. But now, I don’t do cardio. The only “cardio effect” I get is from lifting heavy weights, and it’s something I truly enjoy. I used to lift weights before, but it was always for the wrong reasons: burning more fat, building more muscle, looking toned. Now, I do it because I love it and because it’s great for my bones and my brain.
Intuitive exercise isn’t just about doing gentle yoga or walking. For some of us, that may be the only option, and that’s totally fine! I love my daily walks. Any kind of movement that brings joy is part of intuitive exercise.
I hope that reading through these myths has helped give you a better understanding of intuitive eating. I feel it’s important to clear up these intuitive eating myths because I truly believe intuitive eating has changed my life, and not JUST my relationship with food. It’s helped bring more balance to ALL areas of my life, and I want you to experience that same freedom!
If you want to learn more about my story and how I found food freedom, grab my FREE guide:
Are there any myths about intuitive eating you would like me to clear up? Leave a comment below, I would love to chat with you 🙂