The Greatest Lessons Learned from a Restrictive Dieter to an Intuitive Eater.

After years of restrictive dieting, I have finally found a nice balance and way to fuel my body without following a structured diet, trying to control everything I consumed, and ultimately living in “diet hell”. I simply just listen to my intuitive cues.

Let me first preface this by saying, it took me a LONG time to get to this place. After years stuck in a vicious cycle, I became determined to find a way to break free. It took a lot of commitment and patience, but once I made the decision that I was DONE fighting food, I was able to make lasting changes.

Our bodies will tell us what we need, when we are hungry and when we are full. We were born with this natural instinct. Unfortunately, with all of the yo-yo dieting and the desperate pursuit to obtain the “perfect” body, we seem to have become disconnected from ourselves and our intuition.

You can read a lot more about my story in my previous blog post (My Recovery Journey: Healing My Relationship with Food and My Body). After all of my physical and emotional struggles, I finally began slowing down, to connect and listen to my body, instead of FIGHT it. Through this journey, I have learned some amazing lessons.

How Intuitive Eating changed me…

I am no longer stuck in the binge-restrict cycle, because I fuel my body properly. Restriction leads to binging and binging leads to restriction. End of story. You must break the cycle. Eat adequately and don’t try to compensate when you overeat.

Food doesn’t consume my mind. When following a diet, you’re constantly planning and thinking about food and what you can or can’t eat. Once I stopped tracking and controlling, food began to have less and less power and was no longer on my mind constantly.

I listen to, instead of ignore my intuition. I am no longer fighting my bodies natural cues. If you are following a rigid meal plan, more than likely you aren’t listening to your hunger and fullness cues. If I was still hungry after a meal, I would try to distract myself until the next one. God forbid I had a little snack to feed the hunger! I ignored my cues, ultimately ignoring my intuition.

I can be more flexibile without rules. Without having rules, I can’t mess up my diet by eating something that wasn’t on my strict meal plan. If I eat a piece of chocolate after dinner, because I wanted it, I don’t have to beat myself up, because it wasn’t tracked. One piece of chocolate used to cause an all-out-binge in the past, because I felt like I “messed up my diet”. Now, because I don’t have a diet to mess up on, I can eat the chocolate and move on.

My focus has switched from what I can’t have, to what I get to have. You know the saying, “you want what you can’t have”, well this is so true when you have a dieter’s mentality. The more you tell yourself you can’t eat bread, the more you crave the bread! Now that I can eat bread whenever I want, without restrictive rules set in place, I don’t really crave it.

I enjoy life more! I don’t have anxiety around food like I used to. I can randomly go out for ice cream with my family, without worrying about ruining my diet. I am also engaging in hobbies that bring me joy, now that I have free space to just be, no longer planning my meals meticulously on food tracking apps.

My body naturally falls at it’s happy weight. It might take a little bit of time, depending on how long you’ve been dieting, but if you listen to your natural hunger and fullness cues, your body will naturally fall to a set point weight.

I feel better! I have more energy, I sleep better, my migraines are gone, and I’m an all around happier person. Restricting and binging led to extreme swings in my mood, low energy, isolation, depression and anxiety, but now that I’m consistently fueling my body, I am no longer experiencing those sugar highs, crashes and dips in my mood. I wake up feeling vibrant and healthy instead of bloated, lethargic and sad.

I am pulled towards food that make me feel good. Your body naturally thrives off whole nutritious food, and in time when you are fueling your body properly, the less you’ll get cravings for junk.

I love and accept my body. I am no longer trying to change my body. Eating intuitively gives you a sense of peace, because you know you are listening to your body and fueling it consistently. I trust that my body is going to reflect how I fuel it, so there is no need to worry about losing weight or gaining weight.

Important things to mention:

It takes TIME and a whole lot of PATIENCE to find a happy balance. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort.

Don’t feel guilty if you eat past your fullness! I eat past my fullness from time to time, but I don’t worry about it or try to compensate in any way. In fact, if I eat a bigger meal than normal, I naturally will eat less in my next meal. Don’t beat yourself up and trust your body.

It might take time for your body to fall to its set point weight, especially if you’ve been dieting or restricting for long periods of time. Often times, your hunger and fullness cues will be thrown off, especially if you have a history of binge or emotional eating. My advice would be to eat consistently at the same times each day, so that you can get your body on a regular scheduled eating pattern. In time, once your body gets used to being fed consistently, you can then adjust your portions, based on your cues and eat more intuitively with less structure.

Less nutrients equals more cravings. So, even though you can choose foods you want to eat in the moment, make sure you’re getting enough nutrients. I always load up on veggies first before anything else!

-If you’re still having intense cravings for sugar or fatty foods, try to substitute healthier choices, like fruit, avocado, nuts & seeds. Many times, food cravings are a signal from your body that you might be nutritionally deficient in some way.

Ultimately, once I stopped thinking so much about food and controlling everything I ate, the easier it was to transition into intuitive eating.

The greatest lesson I have learned through this long journey is that, it really wasn’t about the FOOD after all. It was about coming home to myself. Connecting with myself, listening to my intuition and start LIVING more in joy.

I never thought I could break free from the “dieting hell” I was in. But, trust me when I say, if I can do it, so can you.


XO Stephanie

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