Intuitive Eating – My First (failed) Attempt
Eat only when hungry.
For me, this statement seemed logical from the beginning. But what seems logical to us does not necessarily mean that we will follow it. We are creatures of habit. When I first started working with intuitive eating in 2006 and read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, I was relieved. Finally, someone wrote about the experiences I had made and provided plausible explanations of why diets don’t work in the long run and often are the starting point for entering a vicious circle. I read the book throughout the weekend. Great, I thought. Now I finally get it. But as it turned out after only one week, I hadn’t understood anything at all. As soon as the working week began, my usual routine was back: suppressing my hunger with coffee all day long, no real breaks, no exercise and in the evening quickly available food to satisfy my hunger and to switch off. Ok, that was Monday.
Tuesday, next try.
At least I took some time to make a quick salad for lunch and ate it while I continued working. I ate far too quickly and without any attention. My body thanked me with a stomachache, and I decided that lunch was not for me because I was getting tired.
Wednesday, next try.
Maybe breakfast will help after all. Although I wasn’t really hungry because I had eaten too late in the evening, I had a fruit salad with yogurt and muesli. I didn’t like it because I wasn’t really hungry. So I concluded, breakfast wasn’t right either.
Thursday, next try.
Somehow, I had the impression that my trousers fit tighter, and I felt that I had eaten too much the days before. So best not to eat again during the day. Coffee also fills you up. In the evening I had a cooking date anyway. There was bread and olives while cooking, pasta with shrimps and for dessert mousse au chocolat and quite a lot of white wine. Damn it! So, the pants will probably fit even tighter tomorrow, I thought while falling asleep.
Friday, next try.
Of course, I was exhausted and didn’t feel very fit because of the heavy dinner. Coffee was my salvation and since a colleague was celebrating her birthday, a piece of cake would go with it. One does not want to be rude. Caffeine and sugar are a dangerous mixture. They push you really well, even if the body is screaming for rest. Okay, tonight I’m going to the gym, was my next thought. I skipped the gym because a friend of mine wanted to go out with me. While I was getting ready, I quickly swallowed two sandwiches with cheese, because the alcohol needed a base that the piece of cake and three coffees couldn’t provide.
Saturday, I review my success.
A bit hungover I look at the book that is still lying next to my bed.
My first thought, intuitive eating does not work for me. With all this stress, how can I manage to continuously listen to my body? I am simply not hungry during the day. It’s too stressful for me.
As I look back on this week today, I immediately realize that I hadn’t understood a thing. I had not even started listening to my body. Not only did I overhear feelings of hunger and satiety, but also the desire to rest and exercise.
I was not even aware of how unhealthy this lifestyle was. In your late 20s, you can easily put up with a week like that. I had not understood that I had already developed a way of life that completely ignored important signals from my body. Suppressing my hunger with coffee during the day was just a habit that helped. Instead of reading the book again and reflecting on it, I decided that intuitive eating could not be the solution for me. There had to be something simpler and faster. A classic fallacy. Instead, I continued my already established lifestyle. I didn’t listen to my body, which cried out for exercise and relaxation, continued to eat late at night, and too much. This resulted in poor sleep and being consistently under pressure. If you have read my story, you will not be surprised that this had an impact on my health and also on my weight.
But I am not alone with this lifestyle. Many people in my environment do not treat themselves much better. A friend of mine has been suffering from back pain for years but family and job do not allow her time to deal with her health. The problem is simply pushed aside.
The week I have described is probably known by many people. Although we believe to lead a self-determined life, we are far too often driven by external influences. We eat lunch because it’s lunchtime. We eat breakfast because somebody once said that it is the most important meal of the day. And because we want to relax in the evening, we enjoy dinner with our friends or family.
It would be extremely unsocial if we didn’t go to lunch with our colleagues and if we just went along and didn’t eat anything, strange questions would come up. If everyone in the family wanted to eat at different times, it would not only be exhausting but also a source of conflict.
Our everyday life is determined much more by external factors than we want to admit. We live a life full of habits and rarely question them, as we are hardly aware of them. If you want to know how I invested a small fortune in coffee “To Go”, I recommend my article on The power of habit. I am often envied for the freedom I am supposed to have as a self-employed person. Many people wish to break free from the classical structures in our society. Topics such as work-life balance, sabbaticals, or complete exit are more popular today than ever before. Especially the younger generation questions much of what we show them but forms other habits which might even be worse.
For me, intuitive eating therefore also means breaking away from our habits and our current consumer behavior. My failed attempt has shown that this is not easy. I myself am still on the way and would like to invite you to accompany me. There are many different approaches to the topic of intuitive eating. My approach is only one of many. It is based on my very own experience, which I would like to share with you. Be curious and look around. Think about what makes sense for you. Try and see, if you too can learn to listen better to your body and needs again with gradual changes in your habits. Get support from your friends and take part in the 6 Week Challenge.
Before you start, please read my summary of intuitive eating here.