It’s totally normal for what you eat to look different every single day. Maybe some days you eat a lot more plant-based foods. Maybe you eat more greens like salads or smoothies. Or, maybe some days you feel like salmon and brown rice or Brussel sprouts. You may have days that are more carb-y with a lot less freshness and color. Guess what? That’s okay, too. My point is that it’s okay to listen to your body and indulge cravings. There will be days that are more balanced and days that aren’t. But you can still honor your health, hormones, and cravings without following a strict diet.
Restricting foods or giving up what you love isn’t balanced or intuitive eating
Giving up foods you love isn’t balanced eating. It’s a diet. To find food freedom, you need to stop “should-ing” yourself and what you eat. Will you have days where you are eating all the carbs? Days when you eat all the vegetables? Maybe so. Life can just be that way. Eating can be that way.
Some people get really worried when they think: OMG my plate wasn’t half veggies or OMG I haven’t even had a vegetable today. That’s all right. Let’s take the “shoulds” out of eating. Allow yourself flexibility and continue to listen to your body. Eating some of what you crave when you crave it can help you feel physically and emotionally satisfied instead of deprived. And when we’re not feeling deprived, we tend to make choices from a better place.
I recently held a training in my Facebook group, Ditching Diets Together, on how intuitive eating doesn’t look the same every single day. Many times, we turn to external things like meal plans, batch cooking, or diet trends that tell us what, when, and how to eat. It seems like it makes life simpler, but it ignores what our bodies are telling us they need. It just doesn’t work when we are trying to honor our cravings and become more intuitive with our eating habits.
Punishing yourself today for what you ate yesterday isn’t a healthy food mindset
In sessions with clients, I’ll hear them say they’ve “been good” or had a “more nutritious day” after indulging. But here’s the thing: don’t punish your body for enjoying food. Don’t make it a goal to eat lighter or skip carbs today just because you had more carbs yesterday.
Don’t feel guilt or shame on days you eat more dense foods or feel like you have to make up for it after. That’s not listening to or supporting your body and what it needs. And it’s not how to find food freedom.
Finding food freedom is about what happens naturally. It’s about how your body feels and tuning in to its signals. We’re so programmed to ignore the types and quantities of foods our body needs and craves that finding what’s natural can seem overwhelming and intimidating. (I get asked about finding food freedom all of the time. For answers to the most frequently asked questions, ones here.
Finding food freedom means honoring health, hormones, and cravings
Yes, tuning in to your natural cues means you’ll be hungrier some days and less hungry on others. We don’t eat the same things and the same portions every day, and we aren’t designed to. Eating the same things every day doesn’t give your body the variety of nutrients it needs to function optimally, satisfy cravings, and have healthy hormones. Eating completely balanced 100% of the time isn’t eating for real life. It’s dieting.
Diets treat us like we are robots. They tell us we need to eat this prescribed meal plan every day in subscribed amounts. Without taking into account how we feel, our activity, or what today or yesterday was actually like.
Some days we just need more food. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you and eat. I get this question a lot: I had XYZ for breakfast, and I was still hungry. So I ate more… but I know I shouldn’t have or shouldn’t have needed anything more.
And my response is always: Says who?
Listen to your body and question your inner critic when you need to
If you find that inner voice speaking up that you shouldn’t eat something or don’t need any more food, I hope you’ll ask that question. Says who? Your body will naturally ebb and flow in how much food it needs. And who knows what it needs better than you?
This is finding food freedom: going with the flow of what your body needs, so you can support it better. To become an UN-dieter and really ditch the diet mentality, this is something we have to realize. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get the hang of it right away. It is going to be different every day because you are different every day: your mindset, your cravings, your hormones and cycle, your activity, your feelings, and so much more.
One piece of advice that’s so important is: don’t try to distract yourself and wait until you think that you should eat. Hey, it’s understandable to feel confused if you are hungry so soon after you ate a meal or just craving a certain food. But let’s take a few things into account first:
- Did you have an unusually high activity level yesterday?
- Did you eat less yesterday than you usually do?
- How big was your last meal? Was it really a meal or more like a snack?
- Maybe you can give yourself a little grace. It’s okay to be hungrier than you usually are.
- Did you work out early and maybe not have enough right after because you didn’t feel super hungry?
- Is there anything medically that is going on or could your cravings be premenstrual or from hormones?
Pausing to ask yourself questions like these can help silence your inner critic and the shoulds that we’ve learned from diet culture. They help you understand where your hunger or desire to eat is coming from. This lets you connect with what your body really needs and what will really satisfy you. Without guilt and shame.
Honoring hunger cues and cravings are good for your emotions, hormones, and health
Honoring your hunger and cravings can be hard and confusing, but I encourage you to get curious instead of restricting and beating yourself up. Eating and honoring your hunger cues is really no different than recognizing that you have to empty your bladder and take a bathroom break. Sometimes days, you just have to go more often. These are both biological cues, but we don’t guilt ourselves when we have to go to the bathroom.
Every time you have a craving or a hunger cue and you honor that, you are building trust with your body and you are learning to take care of yourself. Think hormones are contributing to your cravings? They might be. Your cells might need glucose. Your body might need more fats than what you’ve been eating. Allow yourself the freedom to have what you feel you need.
If you feel like you struggle with cravings and you are unsure why you are experiencing them, I have a cheat sheet available for you right here! It will help you get clarity and perspective on ways you can start to take care of your body if you are experiencing cravings.
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- Diets and weight loss, and why I don’t prescribe them - December 23, 2020
- How to honor health, hormones, *and* cravings - July 29, 2020