3 Intuitive Eating Myths
Intuitive Eating has gained a whole lot of popularity in recent years - which means there’s 1000s of people out there who have broken free from diets and are learning to feel better with food. I love to see that!
But it also means there’s a lot of cowboys out there peddling the Intuitive Eating message or co-opting the language, who either just don’t really know what Intuitive Eating is or they’re trying to turn the anti-diet framework into a… diet.
Shocked, but not shocked!
With the rising popularity, it makes a lot of sense that Intuitive Eating has been victim to it’s fair share of myths. And in this article, me, an Intuitive Eating nutritionist, is going to outline 3 of the biggest myths I hear about Intuitive Eating and lay all the truth out just for you!
Lucky duck. Let’s get started…
Myth #1. Intuitive Eating is something you can wake up and do.
This one might confuse you! The word “intuitive” kind of suggests that it’s all about not thinking, going with the flow, not really taking too much into account, right? Well Intuitive Eating isn’t really like that. But it also kind of is.
I often see Youtube videos titled “What I eat in a day: Intuitive eating edition” which is basically where people eat what they feel like and “listen to their body.”
You might be thinking - “that’s exactly what I thought Intuitive Eating was!”
But here’s the thing: The majority of people aren’t Intuitive Eaters anymore. They’ve been living in diet culture, they’ve been dieting for years, they’ve been told what they should and shouldn’t eat, and they have thoughts that have been fed to them about bodies, weight, and food.
Which means, waking up one day and “being” an Intuitive Eater for the day isn’t really possible. You might wake up in the morning and you just feel super connected to your body and you just know you NEED to eat a certain thing.
But being an Intuitive Eater is the longer game. It is “eating what you want in the moment” but it’s really more dynamic that just what you feel like eating right now.
For example, one of my favourite foods of all time is a pizza crunch, which I would happily eat every night and not get bored of (if you’re not au fait with Glasgow delicacies - it’s deep fried pizza) but if I ate that every single night for dinner it’s probably not going to feel great in my body.
It might seen a bit strange that you can’t just “do” Intuitive Eating for a day. I guess you could, but it’s not going to be in line with the scientific framework of unlearning and learning essentially how to eat again.
Remember, Intuitive Eating isn’t something you pick up when you feel like it, it’s a process of breaking down your relationship to food and healing it.
Myth #2. It’s literally eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
That sounds like a really normal way to eat!
I don’t know many Intuitive Eaters (aka people with a good relationship to food) who don’t eat when they’re not hungry, or don’t eat past feeling full.
A big part of normal eating is actually eating when you're not hungry & eating when you’re full! Who would have known?!
There’s so many reasons you might eat when you’re not hungry, such as:
Food just tastes good - people with a healthy relationship to food have permission to eat whenever they like, not just when they’re hungry.
You might need to eat before going out to work, going into a meeting, or going to the cinema. This is “practical hunger” and it’s a big part of taking care of yourself. It’s that forward thinking part of Intuitive Eating that means your really looking out for your future needs.
A food you never get the chance to eat is available, and you just need to have it. You might keep it and eat when you’re hungry, but it’s also ok to eat when you’re not hungry.
Here’s another kicker: So many people just don’t know when they’re hungry and full. This might sound so basic, and you might be thinking I’m wrong. But here me out…
Most people can tell when they’re ready-eat-eat hungry, as in rumbling stomach, feeling sleepy, a bit grumpy, they need to eat within the next 30-minutes. But people who are really in tune with their bodies (something we call high interoceptive awareness) are able to tell when they’re subtly hungry.
Myth #3. Intuitive Eating is a 10 step plan.
This is a really common one! The “10 step plan” refers to the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating (read more about them here.)
I often meet people who tell me “I can’t do Intuitive Eating, I tried, but I got to the end of the book and I don’t feel any different.”
First of all, it’s great you’ve read the Intuitive Eating book!
But, it takes more than just reading the book to heal your relationship to food.
If you could do that, we wouldn’t have 70% of women with disordered eating…
Intuitive Eating isn’t a race; there’s no certificate at the end. Like some of us do with mini training courses, video game levels, and online quizzes, there’s no “I completed it” badge for finishing the Intuitive Eating book.
Your Intuitive Eating journey is different from all the past diets you’ve been on because it’s not really as praised as going on a new diet. It’s also different because the average diet lasts about a week, and Intuitive Eating is something you keep with you forever.
Intuitive Eating isn’t a short course you complete and never refer back to again. I like to describe Intuitive Eating as a dynamic supportive practice that goes with you throughout your life (sounds pretty abstract, I know) - just like your self-care practice, your sense of wellbeing, and your mental health - your relationship to food also ebs and flows depending on what’s going on in your life. And Intuitive Eating is like the light house light that offers you safety.
Intuitive Eating will only “work” for you, if you work for it too.
Did any of these surprise you? Are there any other Intuitive Eating myths you would like me to speak to?