The very best of what I’ve learned in 1 year.
What I would eat for lunch would be based on what I ate for breakfast. The amount I would eat for dinner would be based on the amount I ate for lunch. I would count calories and the ultimate goal would be to check off the “good eating day” box.
This is NOT a healthy way to feed your body.
When I got tired of it all, I decided to make a change. After hours of reading, documenting, and watching videos, I put my new knowledge into practice. After one year of trial and error, I finally found some balance.
Here are the tips I gathered during this life-changing year, to help you reconnect with your hunger and satiety and master the art of intuitive eating.
On Honoring Your Hunger
1. Eating has nothing to do with numbers.
Eating because you have “leftover” calories, starving yourself because you’ve reached your limit. Sound familiar?
Eating has nothing to do with numbers. Some days your body will need more. Or less. Intuitive eating is about honoring that. How can you arbitrarily determine that your body will need x thousand calories to function properly on a given day?
Daily calorie needs are averages. Nothing more. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps consumed 12,000 calories per day. That’s a lot. But that’s because he needed it.
So let’s drop the numbers. Once and for all. And focus on these other indicators.
2. Restrictions lead to cravings…
… that lead to overeating.
If I skipped breakfast, I could be sure of one thing: I would overeat at lunch or dinner. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Feeling guilty about it is like feeling guilty because you take a deep breath after holding your breath for several minutes. It’s perfectly natural.
If you’re hungry, really hungry, not the “I’m bored, let’s eat” kind, you shouldn’t try to push through that hunger. Drinking water or coffee is not a good way to honor your hunger. You have to honor it with actual food.
But to do that, you have to learn to tell the difference between real hunger and a craving. And balance it with your mealtimes. For example, I sometimes feel like eating something sweet in the afternoon. But after consulting my body, I realize that I’m not really hungry. So, if the craving remains, I recognize that hunger can also be mental, and I honor it by eating a square or two of dark chocolate, or whatever I feel like — like the ice cream I had yesterday. Question your cravings. If they’re real, satisfy them. There’s no point in ignoring them, you’ll create frustration that will inevitably lead you to overeat later on.
Other times, I’ll start to feel hungry when it’s not “time” yet. I may decide to have an early lunch, like at 11:30 a.m., instead of having a snack or being too hungry in the meantime. Because times are arbitrary, right?
Whenever I restrict myself, whether by not feeding my body when I’m hungry or by not honoring some real cravings, I can be sure I’ll overeat or overindulge later.
3. Breakfast can be tricky.
I’m not often hungry when I wake up. I used to eat breakfast out of habit, which only led to mid-morning hunger. But sometimes I would wake up slightly hungry. So there was no daily ritual possible here. I had to find a way to balance that out. And that took time.
When I wake up, I question my hunger. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m not hungry, I grab a cup of black coffee and go read a few pages on my Kindle while sipping it quietly. If I’m hungry when I’m done, I eat breakfast. If I’m not hungry, I start my day and take a break to eat when the need arises. Simple.
The key is to let go of the hours and habits, change your mindset and feed your body when it needs it. So that it doesn’t fail you.
On Respecting Your Satiety
This has been the hardest one, and I still struggle with it sometimes. The reason is simple: eating is one of my greatest pleasures on earth.
4. A few basics…
You’ve probably heard it before. But eating slowly, chewing carefully, and paying attention during meals helps. I used to watch TV shows while eating, but I don’t do that anymore. Doing something other than eating while you are eating leads to being distracted from your sensations, thus overeating. When you focus on tastes and textures and pay attention, you both enjoy your meal more, allowing you to leave the table feeling satisfied, and you can quickly spot the early signs of fullness.
5. Drop the “cheat meal” mentality.
Cheat meals are planned times for overeating, for the simple reason that you restrict yourself the rest of the time.
If you stop restricting yourself, eat what you feel like eating and move on, you don’t need to cheat. Eating becomes more balanced. You indulge more often, but when you do, it’s more reasonable.
If you give up the cheat meal mentality, you give up the once-in-a-lifetime thinking, which means that whenever you have a type of food you like, you don’t need to overindulge because you know you can eat it at any time. It’s like forbidding children to do something: it becomes extremely appealing.
When my father started working in a bakery, he was told he could eat anything he wanted. The first day he ate several croissants and pains au chocolat: it’s hard to resist their lovely smell. The second day, he ate only one pain au chocolat. After that, he didn’t eat any more of them. He knew he could have them at any time. No more temptation.
6. Step out of the “eating moment.”
This one is hard to describe. I discovered it not long ago. When I eat, I go into “food mode”. I’m all about the food, and it’s hard to stop eating when you have so much deliciousness in front of you.
But as soon as I say to myself “end of meal, let’s get out of eating mode”, everything loses its appeal. I don’t know how it works, but it does. When you feel your belly is full enough, just say to yourself “end of meal”. And get on with your day.