Intuitive Eating Does Not Work for Everyone
To be honest this post has been a long time coming. I've had this on my mind for so long but I've been so busy with grad school and working that I haven't had the time to put all my thoughts down on paper (screen?) and I wanted this post to really get across the points I want to make.
On Instagram, there is a lot of "this is the right way to do this" or "the healthiest way to _____ is ____." I want to touch on what I've seen rising as the new "right" thing. Intuitive eating.
It's extremely important to remember that health looks different on every single person, and with that in mind, to remember that even intuitive eating does not work for everyone.
Take someone coming out of an eating disorder. For this person, it is impossible to rely on hunger cues to tell them when to eat because those hunger cues DO NOT even exist. The hormones and neurotransmitters that control this innate basic need are out of whack and basically not working. If someone coming out of an eating disorder were to try to rely on hunger cues after eating in a disordered manner for so long, they simply would not be able to do it. Recovery requires retraining yourself to eat because you DON'T know anymore, and if you don't know how to do something, you can't do it. Plain as that.
For people like this, sometimes meal plans and/ or macros/ exchanges are the best way to go. I talk about it all the time how numbers were and are a huge trigger for me, and how I will never be able to safely count anything in my diet, so when I was in recovery I was given a meal plan. A few actually. One that showed what a girl my age/ size/ activity level would typically need to maintain (which blew my mind) and one that showed how much I would need to gain. This is the one I followed for months. And to be honest, sometimes I go back to those meal plans because I know they can keep me on track with my eating when my hunger cues are not present and my anxiety takes control. This does not make me any weaker or more inferior than anyone who eats 100% intuitively, because this is what works for me.
Aside from eating disorders, it's not always plausible to honor hunger and fullness. What about work and class schedules? Maybe I really want a bagel for breakfast but I prepped overnight oats. Oats it is. NOT HONORING MY CRAVINGS WHAT?????
What about access to food and food insecurity? Intuitive eating is a privilege that some people don't have, so it can't be preached as the be-all end-all. Some people have 5 dollars a day to dedicate to food, and when they might really want some fresh veggies and fruits, they know that a few items off the dollar menu are going to keep them full for much longer. This issue is one that is much too often overlooked in the Instagram community that's full of privilege and access to food.
Food insecurity is something that is really always at the forefront of my mind. I'm a giant advocate for reducing food waste, and so sometimes, even when I'm not hungry but have a peach that's going to be bad by tomorrow, I'll eat it anyways. And damn right I'm going to clear my plate every time.
There are approx 1385032986504398604398432 factors that go into food decisions. These include things like religion, time, income, culture, mood, taste, social situations, environment, schedule, access, etc etc etc etc etc. We can't always eat intuitively. In a dream world, yes, but how often do dream world plans actually play out?
Through this post I'm not trying to bring down anyone who eats 100% intuitively. Power to you if you can. But I'm instead trying to spread awareness that it's not a bad thing and you're not a failure if you can't eat that way. Every single person in this world is a complete individual and food habits should (and do!) reflect that.