In the world of eating disorders recovery, “Intuitive Eating” is the latest craze. I’m not knocking it, but I have my issues with it.
I teach people in the beginning stages of recovery that there is a continuum of compulsive eating (characterized by dieting, bingeing, purging, starving, over-exercising) and at the other end of that is intuitive eating (characterized by eating when you’re hungry; stopping when you’re full; having balance, moderation, and variety.)
To get from that point to the goal of intuitive eating, there must be a practice of mechanical eating. If people could just intuitively eat, they would not have an eating disorder! This stage may last a long time. During this stage, you are training your brain to re-connect with your body—to communicate effectively, because the eating disorder has halted that communication.
So I was thinking about this concept in relation to my own recovery, in which I have been for some 20 years. I eat intuitively, meaning that I do not follow a strict food plan, nor do I have to meet with a dietitian, nor do I starve or binge or purge. I honor my hunger signals and cravings.
However, to maintain my health and wellbeing, and not jeopardize my recovery, I mainly eat mechanically! For me, this means eating three meals a day and a couple of snacks. However, I’m not militant about it. If I’ve exercised or moved more on a certain day and find myself hungrier than usual, then I’m going to break out of routine and eat something different! Maybe I’m craving chocolate. Cravings are usually there for a reason. In the beginning of recovery, it’s nearly impossible to “safely” or “comfortably” consume chocolate. (again, if one could do that, one would not have an eating disorder.)
Everybody’s body is different, and everyone’s nutritional needs vary. Honoring those differences is key to recovery. I teach and preach and practice that one person’s recovery may not “look like” someone else’s recovery. The important thing to ensure is that there is freedom, joy, pleasure, and health in the food choices made every day.
Susan Dean Landry, LPC