Intuitive Eating: Why Something That Sounds So Simple Can Be Quite Difficult

Written By: Amy Smith (Counseling Intern)

March is National Nutrition Month! Nutrition and food fuel our bodies and, while eating seems simple and pleasurable for some people, it can be difficult, complex, and often times scary for someone struggling with an eating disorder. Part of the recovery process is learning to eat intuitively based on natural hunger signals instead of relying on the rules of the eating disorder. This means getting reconnected with our body and tuning into what sounds satisfying in the moment. For many who struggle with disordered eating this can be a daunting challenge as eating disorders create detachment between body and mind.  

We are bombarded with messages from so many different sources including media, social circles, and advertisements that tell us what we should and should not eat. Foods acquire a label of “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”. What we eat becomes less and less about energizing our body so we can be engaged in the world and more about our worth as a person. We begin to lose faith in our body’s ability to sense what we need. We ignore the intuition of what would satisfy our body. We become fearful of our body’s wants and desires and try to shut them out altogether. We say to ourselves, “How can I trust my body? It’s craving a piece of chocolate cake and I just read an article about how terrible it is for you! I have no willpower!” And, eventually we might get to the point of saying, “I can’t believe I ate that piece of chocolate cake; I am a terrible person.”

The truth is our bodies are incredible machines, each one different, unique, and special in its own way. Intuitive eating is about learning to trust our inner wisdom that we were each born with.  The more we can block out the food myths that society conveys and find a way to honor what our body is telling us, the closer we become to eating intuitively. This action leads us to freedom from worries about food and what that means about us as a person.  However, this is easier said than done for many people, not just those that struggle with eating disorders.  How can we ignore the onslaught of messages that say we must police what we eat and, instead, listen to our inner voice? It requires a leap of faith.

Intuitive eating and recovery from an eating disorder in general can feel like jumping off of a cliff. On the top of the cliff you are safe, but afraid and miserable. The eating disorder is familiar and provides a false sense of security that, if you follow the rules, you will feel worthy. “Just stay; who knows what will happen if you jump?” the eating disorder says. Turning to your inner voice, wisdom, and natural body signals can also feel as scary as jumping off that cliff. You may have to jump off that cliff day after day, but it will eventually get easier. And soon enough, you’ll begin to feel that inspiring parachute open up as you glide through the air and see the beauty that surrounds you and the wonderful beauty inside of you. You will land with your feet on the ground and with a renewed sense of self-worth. Your worth lies within your inner wisdom, your very own special and incredible voice.