Eating Disorder Recovery-The Internet & Intuitive Eating
I remember seeing the word ‘intuitive’ on Instagram. I was deep in my eating disorder and had the impression, like probably most of you do as well, that intuitive eating meant only eating clean and eating somewhat little food. It meant drinking more smoothies than sharing actual meals. It meant that every single meal I ate had to consist of vegetables somehow or somewhere. It meant that I ‘naturally’ shouldn’t crave chocolate or sweets or sugar EVER. And suffice it to say, it meant adopting a new form of my eating disorder--my ‘intuitive’ one.
Intuition means your natural inclination towards something, think of it as your ‘gut feeling,’ your natural pull towards a specific choice, event, person, etc. For example, your intuition may tell you not to trust someone, maybe to take a nap because you’re feeling more tired than normal and those signals lead you to understanding that your body needs a bit more rest. Maybe your intuition tells you that you really wanna go for a run today because you feel well-rested or to stop mid-workout if your muscles are feeling tight and not comfortably moving that day.
Intuition has become somewhat of a trigger word on social media and the intuition I want to talk about is the one that deals with food, or in my case and in many women’s cases, the lack thereof. Have you ever dieted? Have you ever cut out certain foods, food groups, times when you could eat, drinks you could drink? Have you ever under-eaten and then under-eaten more? Have you ever told yourself NO to sweets or chocolate or anything with a bit of sugar? Have you ever not eaten bread for months? Have you ever restricted, tracked and manipulated your calories, weight and more?
I have and it throws off your intuition.
“Intuitive eating” is a dangerous phrase for this very reason. You don’t know how to do it. I didn’t! When I first began recovery from anorexia, I thought that ‘intuitive eating’ meant only drinking smoothies and eating oatmeal… and where in the world would I get a crazy idea as such? Maybe from the million+ Instagrammers, vloggers, YouTubers and bloggers that preach “intuitive eating” while they somehow only EVER crave mangoes.
I’m not trying to shun them whatsoever! I’m rather trying to bring attention to the dangers of chasing ‘intuitive eating’ because the phrase and meaning isn’t really intuitive at all. It’s become synonymous with veganism, paleo, ‘clean eating,’ ‘naturally dieting,’ ‘fruitarianism,’ only eating when ‘I’m hungry,’ which is somehow only once a day.
You see, intuitive eating has become a trigger for an orthorexic eating disorder in my opinion *because once again this is only my opinion and experience* but for me, I thought that I should ‘naturally’ only eat 1500 calories of pure fruit and green juice and that my body should ‘naturally’ never crave chips or salt or sugar or pizza *My body loves pizza by the way.* I thought I should ‘naturally’ always, ALWAYS eat ‘clean’ and ‘whole-food, plant-based’ and ‘low-fat’ and sometimes ‘no sugar’ that this should be natural…
I love sugar.
I love salt.
My body loves sugar and salt.
All the time? No, but true intuition should NEVER be an ‘all or nothing’ thing because think of intuition in any other area of our lives.
What if we went ‘all or nothing’ with our sleep or our workouts or our self-development or friendships or careers? What if we followed an ‘all or nothing,’ restricted intuition in any of those areas? How would that pan out for us?
Intuition means balance. It means our natural balance. It means the freedom to choose, but having freedom to choose means you have to have choices to choose between! If you’re telling yourself that you ‘naturally’ never eat anything processed, I would seriously question that. Maybe you like to eat something ‘more organic or natural or fewer ingredients.’ That’s fine! But, you can’t tell me that every single day of your life you never crave a slice of bread.
I want you to be aware of what I had to learn the hard way, that your ‘intuitive eating plan’ is most likely another restrictive form of your eating disorder and now that you’re aware of it, that means you can change it because the thing with intuition and food is balance, remember? And everyone's’ balance looks different, but no one’s balance is 18 bananas a day and that’s it.
Challenge your intuition.’ You have lost it and messed with it and manipulated it for a very long time and it’s going to take a bit of practice and patience to rekindle that relationship between yourself and true natural eating, but the best thing you can do is release ALL rules, expectations, fears, restrictions around food and release the belief that your ‘natural’ eating state through or after recovery is another form of your eating disorder.
Because for me, mine had become that. I thought that I should ‘naturally’ skip breakfast and only drink celery juice because that’s what hippies, intuitive eating people did online. I thought that I should never crave a burrito ‘naturally.’ That if I was craving it, I should ignore that hunger and make a kale salad. This is what I thought to be intuitive.
See the problem? Intuition is free. I wasn’t free.
So, challenge your freedom. If you crave sugar, EAT SOMETHING WITH SUGAR IN IT! You don’t have to eat ten cookies unless you want ten. You don’t have to eat one unless you want one. The point of this is coming out of a restrictive and regimented diet is going to be chaotic and confusing at first, but the more you honor your hunger, honor your true intuition and honor your freedom with food, the shorter amount of time your intuition needs to constantly challenge you back.
The more I ate what I was TRULY craving, the less I craved sweets all the time or sugar all the time or whatever all the time and the more my body naturally fell into a sustainable rhythm with food again. Where I now can eat a salad with crackers or chips on the side. I can go to the gym and come home and enjoy a cookie. I can make a smoothie, but add almond butter to it. I can embrace my balance, which is true intuition.
Because I’m just going to say it, I don’t crave celery juice rarely ever, so my intuition tells me, Em, you don’t have to drink that to be well.
And that my sweet girls, is intuitive eating and living, moving and feeling. Empowering yourself to make choices for you & your diet & your amazing body & your well-being.
Nourishment is all encompassing, restrictions are not.
Focus on nourishment and leave the celery behind. *unless it’s what you’re TRULY craving ;)*