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WIAW #6: Not Much of an Intuitive Eater

True confession: I’m really not much of an intuitive eater. And I’m (mostly) okay with that.

For a while, I beat myself up about it. I would curse myself for feeling “fuller” than I was “supposed to.” I would hyper-analyze when to take the last bite, and I would stare sadly at my uneaten portion when I was “full,” wanting more.

After a while, I realized that the way I felt after I ate–stuffed and bloated after only a few bites–was not normal. It was not my body’s “true” response to fullness–it was my IBS. I felt like I’d way over-eaten, but I knew, intellectually, that that explanation wasn’t rational. I was eating half, maybe even a third, as much as I had been on my meal plan, much less than people around me like my family and co-workers. And I was still having obsessive thoughts about food.

I don’t think it’s usually productive to compare what you eat with what other people eat, but when you have a history of anorexia and you recognize that you’re consistently eating much less than everyone else, it’s a flag. If you’re having obsessive thoughts about food, that’s a big fat flag.

So May of last year, I started the low-FODMAP diet and started what I call “semi-intuitive” eating, not counting calories or adhering to any rules, but eating according to what I knew was about average for me.

I adopted a new mantra, which actually, ironically, I found in the pages of the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch:

Unconditional permissionI still never force myself to eat if I truly don’t want to. For instance, I’m quite bloated from my IBS right now, and it’s likely I’ll choose not to eat a treat before bed like I so often do. And, if I’m not that hungry, I’m totally okay with, for example, doing a healthy snack-sized portion in place of lunch.

But I also remind myself that it’s okay to eat a regular sized lunch, even if I’m not that hungry. I almost always finish my plate, rather than stopping at some arbitrary point of deciding that I’m “full enough.” (Except if it’s a really big plate of food, like at restaurants.) And if I say ‘no’ to dessert, it’s because I truly don’t feel like eating the thing, not because I’m “not actually hungry.”

Still today, I remind myself of my unconditional permission mantra and follow my semi-intuitive eating plan, especially as I continue to deal with IBS symptoms. Here’s my not very intuitive Tuesday eats for today’s What I Ate Wednesday!WHAT-I-ATE-WEDNESDAY-NEW-BUTTON-PEAS-AND-CRAYONSWoke up this morning not that hungry. My usual breakfast of cereal and a banana seemed too heavy, so I went with a couple of clementines–a less filling option. I still like to get fruit in my breakfast somehow.DSCN0949 (2)At about 10:30, I started feeling kind of weird. Couldn’t tell if it was hunger or just more bloating–(intuitive eating is really difficult with IBS)–but I decided to go ahead and eat one of the snacks I had packed. Good choice: after finishing the grapes, I realized I was still hungry and grabbed a slice of cheese to round off my snack (cheese not pictured).DSCN0951I thought I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch for a while, but by noon, I could tell it was time to eat. I ate what I had–the leftovers from my delicious red pepper chickpea stew.DSCN0952That left me quite uncomfortable and bloated (probably all of the fiber), until 3:00 pm, when bang! I was quite hungry again. Grabbed a banana and a few peanuts from my office before heading to class.DSCN0950That class is three hours long, meaning that I usually don’t get home until around 7:30 or even 8:00. By that point, I’ve almost always lost my appetite. But I don’t figure it’s wise to skip supper, and frankly, I don’t want to skip supper (unconditional permission!), plus I had some shrimp in the fridge that was still good but wouldn’t be for long. Made a quick shrimp stir fry with broccoli, red pepper, sesame seed, sesame oil and soy sauce, which I ate over jasmine rice.DSCN0953Now I’m quite uncomfortable, but also sort of hungry. IBS can be so confusing. In fact, I’m considering grabbing a few bites of chocolate before bed. : P

How easy is it for you to eat intuitively?

Do you usually finish your plate?

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15 comments

  1. Emily says:

    You know what Joyce? I think I struggle with some IBS symptoms too, because I do get full and bloated, but it’s not actually because I ate too much. I’ve realized that because I get hungry a little while later. O_o God made our bodies in such intricate ways. I am SO thankful that He cares for them. Because of Jesus, Em

    1. Joyce says:

      Intuitive eating is wonderful, but I think it’s really healthy to be able to recognize when our intuitive eating signals “don’t make sense.”

  2. I seriously saw that dinner and my eyes got wide – I’m headed to the store today now to make that! It looks SO delicious.

    1. Joyce says:

      Cool! Hope you enjoy–it was super-easy to make!

  3. You know, what your describing sounds EXACTLY like intuitive eating to me. Intuitive eating in my eyes is all about making your relationship with food comfortable for *you and following how you feel. So if you have to adjust that to accommodate your IBS, that’s still intuitive of you 🙂 I don’t like to self promote on others’ posts, but I’ve got two posts about easy intuitive eating acronyms that I think you’d really benefit from. I reread them when I need to remember to give myself unconditional permission to eat. All the best XO

    1. Joyce says:

      Hi Cayanne,
      Thanks for the encouraging words. I’ll definite check out your posts!

  4. Kate says:

    Yes, I totally get this! I cannot trust my hunger levels because I’m usually 3 (or more) days backed up. Sorry if that’s TMI. I get real when it comes to my IBS.
    Luckily I love food a lot, so I don’t have to do much forcing most days. I hope that one day my issues will be resolved and I will be able to work towards more intuitive eating.
    Best of luck… to both of us!

    1. Joyce says:

      Maybe TMI for some, but not for me. I have the exact same problem. Yes–good luck to you getting this crazy thing figured out.

  5. Ellie says:

    Sometimes I eat when it’s time, like if I’m sent on break at work. Other times I get a hunger pang and can’t eat yet so I wait. Usually I stick to regular intervals, but if things get interrupted, that’s just kind of the way it is. I love that you snack on peanuts <3 <3 my favorite nut!

    1. Joyce says:

      That seems like a smart way to go! I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite nut.

  6. Cora says:

    I agree with cayenne. This IS intuitive eating. Whoever started the notion that intuitive eating has specific rules… That just goes against the whole concept doesn’t it? You are listening to your hunger when it happens, and also listening to your discomfort. You are way more I tune than me. My metabolism is pretty hurt unfortunately and I don’t really get hunger.. But this should be changing soon as I start to implement a meal plan again. Well done Joyce – you are very wise.

    1. Joyce says:

      You are wise, too, to recognize that your body still needs time to recover and return to those intuitive eating signals. Best of luck!

  7. Stephanie says:

    I can so relate to eating supper too late to the point where you just want to skip out on it entirely! I never have skipped out on it, but I’ve definitely felt that way.
    Your lunch looks incredibly delicious!
    I usually finish my plate, I definitely have a hard time not eating what is in front of me haha.

    1. Joyce says:

      I had a friend who used to call finishing your plate a “happy plate.” I was like, “My plates are almost always happy!”

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