Of the many things that just made sense when I found my way to fat acceptance and Health at Every Size, intuitive eating was at the top of the list. Of course my body knows better than a million nutritionists what it needs. Of course I should eat what my body calls me to eat. Looking back, it flabbergasts me that I had to be told to do it; I guess that’s why it’s called “intuitive.”
But as it turns out, intuitive eating is harder than it looks.
Getting to know my cravings has been an education: identifying the particular taste that’s making my mouth water, deconstructing a general desire for a Chipotle Burrito Bowl into a specific craving for the acids – tomatoes, lime juice – that give it its flavor. I don’t know whether I’ve ever had an eating disorder – I’ve never been disagnosed with one – but I’ve certainly been weird about food all my life, and although I do a lot of cooking I haven’t spent much time actually tasting it.
But understanding and following my cravings is only a part – the fun, decadent part – of what intuitive eating is about. It’s not an excuse to ignore the good meals I’ve cooked in favor of a “craving” for fast food. It’s not an open invitation to stop at Dairy Queen every day on the way home from work. With the freedom to eat what my body asks for comes the responsibility to be honest with myself, and that’s the hard part. On a superficial level? I want ice cream every damn day. Hell, I’ll eat it for every meal. (I mean, it’s practically yogurt, right? And yogurt is totally a breakfast food.) But if I look closely at myself I have to admit that I’m still pretty muddled about what I want to eat. The signals I’m getting about Peanut Buster Parfaits are less an accurate reflection of what my body needs right now and more an emotional release after years of telling myself that I can’t have them.
So, having given myself a few months of what I’m calling “Stage 1 Intuitive Eating” – giving in to my cravings without examining them too closely – I’m ready to take it more seriously. I’m not going to start restricting the foods I eat, or forcing myself to eat things I’m not interested in eating. I am going to continue to eat what I crave – I’m just going to take more care to be sure that I’m really craving what I think I’m craving.