How to let go of restrictive eating in a culture that is obsessed with dieting.
One of the most popular questions Elyse got asked during her live cooking classes last spring was “how do I eat more intuitively?”. People want to know how much to eat, how frequently, what to eat, how to listen to cravings, etc....The person who can best answer those questions is you! And that is where intuitive eating comes in.
What is intuitive eating?
It is an approach to eating that focuses on listening to what your body needs rather than following a certain diet or rules so that you can have a better relationship with food. When you eat intuitively, you feel more in tune with your hunger and fullness signals, allowing you to eat based on what your body feels rather than what time it is or following food rules. If it’s 9pm and you feel super hungry but you’ve already had your dinner, the intuitive way to eat is to have a small snack before bed (Elyse's go-to bedtime snack is whole milk yogurt with Ginger Molasses Granola).
It’s also all about eating what you crave and what satisfies you. If you love bread and butter or tortilla chips and hummus as a snack and it makes you feel nourished and happy, then that is healthy for you. Intuitive eating allows you to eat what you crave when you want to eat it without feeling guilty about it.
Eating in this way is a journey that you have to trust. It takes a lot of mental work to get to a place where you can let go of dieting and restrictive ways of eating (since dieting is a big part of our culture). It’s challenging for all of us and all we can do is try our best. We will often make mistakes and maybe eat too much of something that doesn’t make us feel good (ice cream, been there!), but remember it happens to all of us and all you can do is show up differently next time.
Tips for eating more intuitively
Ditch the diets.
Many people follow diets in hopes that it will make them healthier or lose weight. You may start constructing an inner dialogue of food or diet rules, like “no eating after 7pm” or “no refined sugar or carbs” or “no more desserts after dinner”, etc... The problem with these rules and having this dieting mentality is that they are restrictive, can be super stressful, and create an unhealthy relationship with food. If you're eating in a way that causes you stress, even if it seems super “healthy”, it’s not healthy for you.
Read more about Elyse's thoughts on dieting here.
Eat slowly and mindfully.
By eating slowly, chewing your food fully, noticing the textures and flavors in your food, feeling grateful for the farmers that grew your food, etc... you will become more in tune with appetite signals and will feel more satisfied with your meals. If this sounds like too much to think about while eating, just try doing it for the first 5 minutes of eating and see how you feel. Chewing your food and slowing down is also better for digestion and nutrient-absorption, hence why we named our books, "Eat Slow." :)
Eat what you crave.
If you’re eating things you actually want to eat and that feel both nourishing and indulgent, you’ll feel a lot more satisfied and less likely to grab a snack afterwards. Oftentimes culture and media tells us certain foods are bad and others are good, but this is just an unnecessary and stressful way to think about food. What’s healthy for you may not be healthy for another person. A bland "healthy" dinner will leave you craving chocolate and snacks the rest of the evening.
Eat until you feel full and satisfied.
I was raised to always finish my plate, which has stuck with me throughout my life and makes intuitive eating challenging at times! Ditch that mentality and instead, when you start to feel full, take a break from eating. It can take up to 30 minutes for your brain to register that you’re actually full. This is why eating slowly can make a big difference in noticing appetite cues.
Call out your inner negative dialogue.
If you notice those thoughts popping into your head about labeling foods or restrictive food rules, remind yourself that they are deep in your psyche and largely caused by the billion dollar diet industry, marketing, and media.
Respect your body.
Diet culture often tells us we need to change the way our bodies look in order to be happy with it. Instead of trying to change your body, focus on changing how you feel about your body and loving and respecting it for what it is. If you honor your body's hunger signals and cravings, you’ll nourish it from the inside out!
Run Fast. Eat Slow. Recipes for those relentless sweet and salty cravings...
A lot of times our bodies crave something sweet, salty, carb, crunchy, fatty, etc...so it’s great to have satisfying snacks on hand when the "hangry" cravings hit! Here’s a list of our favorites:
Check out our 7-Day Spring/Summer Meal Plan for more meal and snack inspo.
RFES = Run Fast. Eat Slow.
RFCFES = Run Fast. Cook Fast Eat Slow.
Ginger Molasses Granola with whole milk yogurt (RFES, p. 54)
Superhero Muffins (RFCFES. P. 60-63)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chips Cookies (RFCFES, p. 207)
Chocolate Matcha Energy Balls (RFCFES, p. 213)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (RFCFES, p. 210)
Minute Mug Cake (RFCFES. p. 214)
Anti-Inflammatory Chocolate “Milk” (RFCFES, p. 236)
DIY Energy Balls (recipe here) and How To Video @ElyseKopecky
Iron-Rich No-Bake Granola Bars (recipe here womensrunning.com)
Savory Pretzel Granola (RFCFES, p. 191)
Nori Popcorn (RFCFES, p. 198)
Maple Turmeric Nuts (RFCFES, p. 200)
26.2 Trail Mix (RFES, p. 62)
Garlicky Guac with tortilla chips (RFCFES, p. 177)
Presto Pesto on toast (RFCFES, p. 172)
Don't Get Beet Hummus with tortilla chips (RFES, p. 73)
Get ready for lots more breakfast and sweet and salty snack recipes in Rise & Run (Available to pre-order now. Launching October 5th)!
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Bend, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Join Natalie's Cooking Club for weekly menus, grocery lists, videos, and meal prep tips!