Do you struggle with digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, constipation or any other unpleasant side effect after eating certain foods? Well, I do and I’m coming clean about it!
Even after all these years practicing Intuitive Eating, it’s hard to come to terms with foods that no longer serve me. There’s almost like a mourning period. I’ve recently admitted to myself that red meat and onions don’t agree with me (alone or separate). I’m okay with poultry and fish, but red meat, doesn’t digest well in my body. When I’m honest about this, I believe that I’ve known this for some time, but because I was a vegetarian for nearly four years, and for the last year denied myself animal protein because I was hoping my cravings for them would subside (which they never did), I felt that denying myself red meat was depriving myself again. That didn’t feel good to me at all!
Coming to terms with foods that don’t agree with our bodies isn’t easy. I know many people who have food sensitivities (which is not the same as food allergies) or just experience discomfort but still cannot give them up because it kicks them into “deprivation mode”.
I want to be clear that food deprivation is never the answer. When we’re depriving ourselves of foods because of their calorie, fat or carb content (aka afraid of weight gain) we will fall victim to that diet/binge cycle and that never has a good outcome! However, minimizing or eliminating foods that no longer make our bodies feel good (regardless of their macro content) seems to make sense when we do this in a self-compassionate manner. In fact, when we view it through the self-compassion lens instead of the deprivation lens, it doesn’t seem as scary, right? Since I began thinking about it in these terms, I now feel this is a form of SELF-CARE and not food deprivation.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because I know that eating red meat and onions doesn’t agree with my tummy, that doesn’t always mean that I’m never going to eat them again. I’m not striving for perfection, but I am striving to feel good as often as possible without going to extremes. So, yes, I will limit these foods because I prefer to feel good and not have the uncomfortable burping, bloating and gas all day long. But, if I do choose to eat them, I will not beat myself up about it either. Remember, one of the best things about practicing Intuitive Eating is that it allows us to be flexible and kind to ourselves around food. Also, just because we have unconditional permission to eat all foods, that doesn’t mean that all foods will feel good in our bodies. Learning to distinguish which foods feel good in our bodies and which foods don’t is part of the “tuning in” process.
I also want to add that sometimes taking a good probiotic or digestive enzyme helps with digestive issues. I’ve also found that sometimes food combinations need to also be considered. So, in your quest to getting to know your body better, consider these things before completely eliminating foods from your diet.
If you’re struggling with certain foods because they don’t make your body feel good, I hope you’ll consider what I’ve written here so you can find a solution that works best for your body.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re new to Intuitive Eating, it’s not uncommon to have some digestive issues and/or other physical challenges because you’re likely eating foods that you haven’t eaten in some time. If that is your case, be patient and continue be mindful if a particular food(s) seems to be consistently causing you difficulty. Or, if you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, always discuss these types of issues with your practitioners before minimizing or eliminating foods as it may impact your recovery.
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A common misconception that people often have when they hear about Intuitive Eating is that intuitive eaters don’t need to take nutrition into account. When I hear people saying this kind of thing, it always sends a chill up my spine because it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one of the principles of Intuitive Eating is to “honor your health with gentle nutrition”. This is how the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD describe principle 10:
“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what we eat consistently over time that matters — progress not perfection is what counts.”
I really like this explanation, but I want to add something to it that has really helped me to understand this principle even more. To me, gentle nutrition also includes not going to extremes with our food. So, for example, going to an extreme to me would be to never eat any food that contains refined sugar like cookies, cakes or any other dessert. Or, to insist on maintaining a gluten-free diet simply because you read that living a gluten-free lifestyle is “better” for your health. I literally cringe when I hear people speaking in such black and white terms.
People that try to maintain lifestyles as described aren’t usually able to maintain them for the long-term because they are restrictive. Since I know first-hand the dangers of being restrictive with my food, I never recommend restricting any foods in our diets unless we have a food sensitivity or food allergy that could cause us harm.
Just because Intuitive Eating gives us the freedom to eat any food that makes us feel good (no bloating, lethargy, stomach upset, etc.) when we are physically hungry (or sometimes just because we want a particular food), this doesn’t mean that we are expected to ignore the benefits of basic nutrition. So, for example, when people ask me what I’d recommend eating, in addition to advising them to eat foods that make their bodies feel good, I also suggest that they strive to eat lots of fresh, whole foods (including whole grains), lots of fruits and vegetables (organic whenever possible), quality animal protein (grass fed whenever possible), healthy fats, and carbohydrates in a way that feels good for their bodies.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a delicious dessert on occasion or when we just want it for the fun of it! It simply means that we don’t get hung up on it worry and ourselves sick for days.
So, yes, nutrition is absolutely a part of the Intuitive Eating equation, but the key is that it’s ‘gentle’ and not ‘forced’ or intended for us to feel guilty or morally inept just because we’re not eating ‘perfectly’ all the time. It’s about balance and learning to listen to what our bodies need without judgement.
I will add that this is the last principle in the Intuitive Eating book for a reason. When any of us begin our Intuitive Eating journey, gentle nutrition isn’t always forefront in our minds. One of the reasons for this is because we need to make up for all the time (And, in my case it was years!) of food deprivation. So, in the beginning, many will eat the foods that they’d been restricting for a long time simply because they can now. While this isn’t always the case, our bodies and minds eventually do settle in and start to believe that we mean business this time and aren’t going to pull the plug on this whole ‘unconditional permission to eat’ concept. Once that trust is regained, most generally do begin to desire more nutritious foods as opposed to more highly processed or sugar-laden foods. This is part of the process and needs to happen. My own personal experience has shown me that this stage is only temporary. The important thing to remember is that we need to allow this to happen organically without trying to control the outcome by restricting again.
Support is often encouraged when starting a new adventure, and that includes starting an Intuitive Eating journey. It can be unsettling and even intimidating to be boundary-less with food especially after years of rigid dieting. I nearly gave up many times when first starting out in my Intuitive Eating journey because I was so uncomfortable. I didn’t want to give up so I found a professional who could help me, and I’m so glad that I did! Getting that support was vital to my success and helped me to enjoy the process so much more and also significantly reduced my worrying. If given the opportunity, practicing Intuitive Eating can change your life. I know it changed mine and I’m so thankful that I stuck with it because my life is so much better now than it ever was when I was dieting.
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My son and I were having lunch at a local cafe today and we both ordered the grilled cheese on multi-grain bread. The meal was delicious but what caught my eye as I was paying for our meal was the name of the sandwich. It’s called the “Go Your Own Way”. I thought to myself, this about sums up my relationship with diet and nutrition.
I will tell you that in my circle of wellness coaches, having a grilled cheese sandwich is a no-no. Dairy, gluten…oh my! (more…)
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