My Journey to Intuitive Eating

How I created an intuitive relationship with food

FEATURED ON HOMEPAGE

courtashworth

1/26/2022 4 min read

I have a secret. I used to track my macros. I was obsessed with the app I used to log my foods, the weighing, the measuring, the counting, the late-night math problems to determine what snack would fill in the gaps.

Before learning to track, I tried to eat what I thought was healthy, which back then wound up meaning a lot of salad, low-fat yogurt, brown rice, occasional ambiguous amount of protein. I meant well, but I was depriving myself. Especially as I got more into high intensity, CrossFit style workouts, I physically needed more food.

Once I began understanding that my body thrived off a bit more energy, and that I could specifically calculate how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates are needed, a door opened for me. I began to eat enough to fuel my workouts and activity levels. My body composition responded and I had so much more energy.

But the thing is, tracking my macros also silently served the part of me that craves structure (with my moon in Virgo, I tend towards desiring more control and analysis). I enjoyed the process because it gave me something to obsess over. It gave me a sense of control in my life.

The problem is this isn’t how we’re designed to fuel our bodies. And I would argue this is especially true for females. Our bodies, especially the female body, is an intuitive being. My body knows what it needs, often times better than what my brain thinks it wants or needs.

My body understands its cycle, even when I don’t. My body understands what areas are lacking and will crave certain foods to regulate nutrient levels.

By tracking macros, I was eating more food overall than I had prior. And I initially felt better, simply because of the increase in calories. But that wore off, because my body actually doesn’t have the same caloric or nutrient needs day to day. And in the meantime, I created an obsessive relationship around food.

Consider that food cravings are our bodies messaging to us that something is off. Perhaps our body needs more of a specific nutrient, or perhaps it needs more energy in the form of carbohydrates, sometimes cravings can indicate we need more rest or movement. Constant tracking and planning of meals doesn’t leave room for our bodies to speak to us in this way.

Let me be clear, there is value in logging your food for consolidated periods of time. Logging your food intake and tracking your macros could be a good strategy for the following scenarios:

  • If you are experiencing symptoms (checking what you are putting IN and ON your body is always a recommended first step for investigating any lingering symptoms).

  • if you suspect you are under or over-eating (and especially if you are oblivious to this, but your family, friends, health coach, and/or medical practitioner suggest it as a possibility)

  • Trouble losing weight or gaining muscle

  • Feeling overtrained or burnt out by your workouts or other activities (this was me!)

  • Feeling lost or disconnected from eating, or feeling overwhelmed by diet culture propaganda

All of these are solid reasons to pay more attention and get crystal clear on what you are eating and dial in areas that are off. Understand that our media and culture give us cues to eat less, when in reality many people are likely not eating enough to fuel themselves properly. Tracking your food and looking at the data in comparison to science-based recommendations for your body and activity level can give clarity.

But for me, I found the practice was no longer serving me. Like I’ve said, I tend to become obsessive. Give me a little room for structure, and I will go all in. (I am drug-addict level addicted to structure!)

For example, even when I wasn’t logging my food, I knew in my head what my target numbers are, and I found myself still trying to ‘fit my macros’.

This created a super weird relationship around food for me.

Once I became pregnant, and eventually started breastfeeding, I still had difficulty letting go of what I “should” be eating. And pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones create totally different macro and micro-nutrient needs in our body.

I felt frustrated, disappointment, and obsession over food.

This is when I realized that something had to shift about my relationship to what I was eating. And not just temporarily for breastfeeding; no, I had to make changes that would last. Pregnancy and breastfeeding only highlighted the problem for me; but I know the problem has potential to grow worse when I finish breastfeeding because that is when I will start dumping more pressure on myself to “get my body back” (a topic for another article entirely!)

Maybe you aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding. But maybe you have similar feelings. Maybe you realize that your relationship to food is not working.

There are many ways we can have a poor relationship with food, but I see them as falling under two buckets:

  1. Being too careless about what we’re eating and turning a blind eye to it. Characterized by constant under-eating, binge-eating, or eating too much of the wrong foods and not enough foods that actually fuel you.

  1. Being too strict about what we’re eating and becoming attached to the structure of diet culture. Characterized by excluding entire food groups, constant tracking, obsession.

I have been victim to both of these.

And what I have since learned is that I feel SOOO much better by learning to intuitively eat with a deep appreciation for the quality, general amounts, and nutrient density of my foods.

I see this as a balance between the two types of eaters. Going with the flow and paying attention to what my body is craving or wanting to eat, while also understanding the structure of what my body needs.

I don’t track anymore, and don’t have plans of ever tracking again.

I eat following what my body tells me it wants, with intention about what I know my body needs.

I use a similar method for feeding my daughter. I allow her to make her own choices around food, but I ensure I have options available and offered to her that meet the needs for her growing brain and body.

If you are looking for more balance in your nutrition – to learn to eat intuitively AND intentionally. To understand the needs of your body and also how to approach this in a sustainable way to meet the varying needs of your life, let’s start a conversation.