I recently did a Q&A in my Instagram stories about the biggest hurdles to starting an Intuitive Eating practice, and I got a response that stopped me in my tracks.
“I don’t trust myself to do it.”
This is important. Because I think a lot of us feel this way when we first hear about Intuitive Eating. And I think a lot of us also feel ashamed about feeling that way. But, to paraphrase Brené Brown, shame can't withstand the light. So let's shine some light on this, shall we?
Let me be perfectly clear: It’s not your fault that you don’t think you can be trusted to eat without rules. We’ve all been conditioned to believe exactly that by years and years of diet culture. That belief has been ingrained in us by doctors, fitness professionals, celebrities, and even our friends and family. Diet talk reinforces this belief. Weight loss recommendations reinforce this belief. Compliments or commentary on body size reinforce this belief. Public health policy that pathologizes larger bodies reinforces this belief. Before and after photos reinforce this belief. Even nutrition labels reinforce this belief. There’s no end to the ways that our culture indoctrinates us into believing that our bodies and our eating habits need to be controlled and regulated.
It’s also not your fault that you believe that your only possible eating modes are binge or restrict. A lifetime of dieting has kept you swinging from one extreme to the other. When you’ve never experienced a middle ground, it’s hard to believe a middle ground actually exists. And breaking free from that restrict/binge pendulum swing is no easy feat. It takes work. And time.
Social media influencers and experts (myself included) often show us what Intuitive Eating looks like at Chapter 20, but we all start at Chapter 1. When we look online, we see more successes than struggles. We see people living in that mythical middle ground instead of swinging on that pendulum. But every intuitive eater you follow went through the hard and messy part, too. That lack of transparency is also part of why you believe you can’t be trusted.
Here’s the absolute truth: You can eat intuitively. We were all born with that ability, and we can all reconnect with it. AND...When you stop restricting, you will feel out of control around some foods for a while. You will eat more than you think you should. You will eat to the point of discomfort. You will feel compelled to restrict again. And then you will stop restricting and feel out of control again. And so forth. That’s what the early stages of an Intuitive Eating practice often look like. You’re not doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean you can’t be trusted. It doesn’t mean it’s not working. It means you’re healing.
Healing from diet culture is messy. It’s not linear. It’s not simple. It’s not quick. It’s back and forth, and up and down, and side-to-side, and around in circles. It’s hard. And it’s possible. And it’s worth it.
Having said all of that, here are 3 practical steps to cultivating self-trust in the early stages of Intuitive Eating:
Reinforce Your Trustworthiness. Remind yourself of all the ways that you trust yourself already! We all have areas of our lives where we trust ourselves to know what to do. Recognizing these things and leaning into them can help us to find our intuition in other areas. So take note of all the ways that you’ve already proven yourself to be trustworthy. If you can trust yourself with your job, your kids, or your relationships, why not with food?
Redefine Success & Failure. Diet culture and perfectionism have seriously warped our beliefs about success and failure. Now’s a great time to start unpacking those beliefs. Are you still equating a larger body with failure? Are you still equating a smaller body with success? Are you still clinging to an all or nothing mentality? Leave those diet culture definitions behind and consider what messy progress might look like.
Sit With the Discomfort. Contrary to what the “cult of positivity” likes to tell us, negative feelings serve a purpose. They’re feedback. They give us information that we miss out on if we're constantly trying to avoid or deny discomfort. Acknowledging those feelings without guilt, shame, or pushback allows us to approach them with curiosity. Are you uncomfortable with how much you're eating? Instead of restricting to avoid the discomfort, ask yourself why it's making you uncomfortable. Is it physical discomfort? Emotional discomfort? Both? Tune into what your negative feelings are telling you about what you need.
Listen: None of this is easy. But it’s easier with help. A huge part of my job as a coach is letting my clients know that what they’re experiencing is normal. That they’re not alone. That they’re right where they’re supposed to be. That it gets better. That they can trust themselves to navigate the ups and downs.
You can do this. But you don’t have to do it alone. If you want some support, click here to apply for 1:1 Intuitive Eating coaching & we can get started together.