There are so many different strategies used when it comes to dieting. I am sure you’ve heard people talk endlessly about calorie counting, macro counting, portion size control, etc. You’ve probably even used one of these tools to reach a health and fitness goal yourself. But maybe you’re reaching a point where you feel this way of eating isn’t sustainable in the long run. It’s common to feel stressed or scared to try and eat “normal” again after following strict diet rules. If you can’t imagine eating intuitively without rules, you must first learn to reconnect with food in a healthy way. So, let’s discuss a step by step plan to help you slowly move into a more intuitive eating approach.
Respect your body
The problem with counting macros is you become so invested in reaching your daily macro goals that you forget to even acknowledge your body’s natural cues. The first step to intuitive eating is to honor your hunger and fullness cues. Allow yourself to feel hungry so when it is time for your next meal, you learn to really enjoy your food and feel satisfied. Honoring your hunger is different from overriding your hunger. Being hungry does not mean you must use willpower to ignore it. If you feel hungry, great. That’s a natural biological signal. The moment you are aware of your hunger, prepare a nourishing meal for yourself. It’s just as important to do the opposite; know when to stop eating. When you continue to eat past satiated hunger, you create distrust with your body. You don’t have to force yourself to drink a protein shake after a meal to reach your protein intake. It’s unnecessary. Focus on eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Paying attention to your body’s signals, teaches you to re-establish self-trust.
Add in intuitive days
Maybe you’re not ready to completely stop counting your macros, but you want to get there. Start small. You’ll make more progress focusing on smaller goals than trying to change your eating habits, cold turkey. Pick one day of the week where you can commit to not tracking your macros and only using your intuition to eat. For example, maybe you pick Sundays because you don’t have as much to do those days, so you feel confident in being able to focus on eating with intuition. You can track as much as you want the rest of the week, but once Sunday hits, you’re only using your intuition. Perhaps in the beginning you still choose to eat the same meals but without measurements. That’s okay. The more you do this, the more you will trust yourself to make good food choices. Ask yourself, “What will make me feel full and nourished?”. You’re teaching yourself to not see food as good or bad, but as what will make you feel good. Once you really learn to respect your body and what it needs, you will naturally start choosing foods that support your overall health.
Stop Eating to Diet
It’s impossible to eat intuitively if you always have a “diet mentality.” Intuitive eating is not about trying to reach specific weight gain/loss goals. It’s an approach to help you better understand your own body’s needs, and to strengthen your relationship with food. When you practice an intuitive eating approach, it’s never about moralizing food as good or bad. It’s about trusting yourself to make healthy choices that are not only optimal for your overall health, but enjoyable. So, lose the diet mentality and trust yourself! Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
An intuitive eating approach is a constant practice. If you try to eat intuitively and you don’t feel good about it, it’s not the end of the world to go back to counting macronutrients. Intuitive eating is the goal, but like any goal, it takes awareness and repetition. Perhaps you need a little more time counting macros to better understand portion control, or to better build well-balanced meals. It’s perfectly fine to use macro counting as a tool for success, but eventually you’ll have to remove the training wheels and trust that you have the knowledge and control to do it on your own.