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Feelings and Food: My Struggles With Intuitive Eating

Goodmorning friends, 

I’m currently sitting at a McDonalds having an early morning breakfast and (decaf) coffee. I have an appointment with a dietician across the street, so I’m just having some sit down time before going in. 

This dietician. I saw her for the first time about a month ago. 

It wasn’t really something out of my choosing, but rather a request from the nurse I’ve been seeing. 

To be honest I hadn’t had any plans to start seeing a dietician again. I’d become very complacent with my eating. No gains, no losses, no urge for change. 

But when the nurse requested I see the dietician that works in the same network, I just didn’t have the desire – or energy –  to fight it.  Kind of apathetically I just said, “sure.” 

I was a bit wary of going because I didn’t have anything specific I wanted to say. So I had no idea how the meeting was going to go. 

Like I had guessed, it was pretty awkward. Her and I both knew there wasn’t anything she could tell me that I didn’t already know. She was stumped. 

It was kind of sad, I guess. It’s clear that I am a puzzle. A lot of what I struggle with is very confusing. I don’t know how anyone can really help me. Which is… a pretty hopeless feeling.

But. 

She did bring up this one notion. 

Its what you and I and anyone who even remotely enters the healthy living blog world has now read about, time and time again.

She talked about intuitive eating.

intuitive eating

Now believe me. I know about intuitive eating. I could probably tell you about it like it was my thesis. But for some reason, for SOME reason, having her talk about it…. which then lead me to list off all the rules and routines and rigidities that I still live under…. ignited some weird new spark in me. 

Well not really a spark. More like a sad, heavy cloud of realization.

But still, a thought that maybe… maybe this was time for change. 

Speaking your routines and rules out loud really makes you see them in clear light. When they’ve become so engrained in you, you hardly notice them anymore. They’ve just become subconscious. They are how you stay safe. But all the while I’ve known that these rules drive me crazy and that I so badly wish I could live without them.  So badly. 

Though I’ve known about intuitive eating for years, I don’t think I’ve ever fully given it a shot. 

She talks the talk but does she walk the walk…

The dietician and I talked about how I don’t really feel hunger. Or if I do I’ve become programmed to ignoring it in lieu  of concepts. We discovered that I live off concepts. I eat off concepts. Times, amounts and types of food are more actualized by cognitive rules and diligences rather than intuitive or physical desires. 

So having become more aware of this, I’ve been working really hard to beat it. 

intuitive eating

Over the past month I’ve been working hard to listen to my body… not my mind. When my mind is feeling guilty for eating x at x time, I’ve been literally stopping and asking, yeah, but how do I FEEL?”

If my mind feels guilty for eating something, but I’m able to notice that my body feels satisfied and stable, and that – outside my mind – my demeanor is actually really pleasant and I’m treating people with kindness and compassion, then I know my choice was the right one. 

Or the opposite. If I’ve eaten what I thought should have been a meal and my stomach feels full, but I notice that something in my mind is not yet satisfied or that something in my body is still hungry, then I eat something else. (This actually has been happening a lot and its very frustrating and confusing. This article about fullness vs satisfaction came at a very good time). 

intuitive eating

As a result? Yeah. I’ve been eating more. I’ve been eating at new times. I’ve been breaking my “rules.” I’ve been eating a lot of cake. I feel pretty soft around the middle and though I get blind weighed, I know I’ve gained weight. I could care less about the body image though. Honestly. I don’t care. What I care about is how all of it makes me feel

It makes me feel very sad.

intuitive eating

Feeling a little broken

I put out posts like yesterday, and a part of me feels like a fraud. I love food photography and celebrating food helps me appreciate the good things we put into our bodies, but behind the bright pictures and seeming celebration of delicious eats, I’ve actually been having a really hard time. 

Since beginning this little “change,” I’ve noticed a huge rise in depression. I’m used to high and low swings, but it’s been a while since I’ve had such a constant overlying sadness last for so long. Its a heavy cloud that’s been enveloping me every day. 

I don’t know yet know why – though my years of therapy have been getting me closer to understanding it –  but the letting go of the rules and routines means letting go of all the ways I numb out the feelings that are lying underneath everything. Whenever I “let go,” this is what I’m always left with. These “rules” are the ways I keep it away. I make myself anxious – literally – by focusing on numbers and plans and routines, so as to keep myself in a distracted state. I’m more used to anxiety, as a matter of fact, because it is part of the numbing to deal with what’s hiding underneath.

So when I let all my rules go, it’s like I’m left without my shell, and instead, I’m left with the real work. 

The real work is that I have a depression that exists for reasons far unrelated from food and body image. Those have simply just become the ways I make it go away.

intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is often spoken about in relation to happiness and new found freedom. I wish I could feel that, too. I wish the letting go and delicious acts of self care actually made me feel happy. 

But they don’t. They make me feel very sad. 

How letting go of rules leaves you with the real work. #depression #eatingdisorder #recovery Click To Tweet

intuitive eating

…even my most favorite of things

The positive is, by working to eat more intuitively, I am a lot more stable. I’m not anxious. I’ve been deeply empathetic and caring toward others. All the things I think I am at my core, but which sometimes get robbed when eating disorder anxieties take over. 

intuitive eating

Found on my coffeeshop bulletin board.

But I’m sad. 

I’m seeing a new therapist. Today, actually. My other therapist is so wonderful but it is too hard for me to get ongoing sessions with her because of where she is located. So I am working on this and hoping to get help. Its funny. I’ve tried meal plans and other models before, but maybe it is learning how to live intuitively that is actually going to be the work that needs to be done.  Which isn’t surprising considering how hard it is feeling. As they say, the things that are hardest and probably what are most important… right?

I have more I’d like to say on intuitive eating and my current experience, but for now, thank you for listening. 

The surprising struggles of Intuitive Eating. #depression #recovery Click To Tweet

Tell me,

Has intuitive eating ever felt difficult to you? I kind of wanted to put this out there so that people know the “freedom” of IE is not always a “freeing” thing for some people. If you feel like this letting go and treating your body with kindness – by trying to listen to what it actually wants – makes you feel raw or sad, please know that you aren’t alone. 

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. Susie @ Suzlyfe | 15th Jun 17

    Cheering for you and cheering you on, so hard. I’ve definitely been there, and there are times when I still am, whether because I’ve programmed my body or my mind. But I can tell you that it gets better. You can trust yourself, even if you are scared to. Because that is what it is about: can you trust yourself, and not the world standard? Can you be yourself, and not a role that you are portraying?
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Speedwork Drills, Adaptation, and Perspective (Marathon Training)My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      I think that’s the hardest part about it all. I don’t know… how?… to trust myself? Like, I’m often not sure if what I want is actually what I want or what voice is actually speaking. Sometimes I just have zero IDEA what I want. Blegh. That’s the hardest part.

  2. Jamie@TheMomGene | 15th Jun 17

    Oh Cora. Bravery is often sad. I think it’s a weight on your shoulders that is hard to bare but EPICALLY strengthening for your soul. In the end it will make you the YOU that you feel is your most honest self. I like/love rules and routines too in all of life. It took kids to finally make me loosen them for all our sakes.

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Why is that? Why is bravery so hard and sad? I know this is strengthening for the soul, but damn, I just wish I could be there already…

  3. dee | 15th Jun 17

    Wow. This was great Cora. This is what progress looks like-it doesn’t always feel good. I can relate to the sadness under it all. We can hear over and over again how our behaviors numb us but it never meant anything to me really until I had to walk through the fire and feel it-then I actually “got it”. Holding a special place in my heart for you. I really appreciate you sharing all of this-it makes me feel connected to you and it helps me on this journey too.

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Dee I absolutely love and appreciate when you comment. You always share words of wisdom, empathy and support that I need. I know this is progress. But man, why does progress have to feel so backwards?!?

  4. Lana | 15th Jun 17

    Maybe part of the depression you are feeling is grief… grieving the loss of rules and boundaries that were part of you for so long. When I had to let go part of me was fighting it because I couldn’t accept that I would conciously do something that would be causing me harm.. and that feeling would keep me stuck with the rules and behaviours. But then when I finally managed to look at myself with compassion – I wasn’t knowingly hurting myself, just doing what I thought was best – I was able to let go of the rules, because I have new information now and I now know a better way to take care of myself, and it’s ok to change course and change your mind.
    This is a tough journey… but we are strong creatures 🙂

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Thank you Lana. This is really beautiful support. I know I’ve worked with my therapist on the idea of saying, “Its okay. I know you were just trying to protect me, but I don’t need you any more. I have new ways to get through this. I’ve got this.” etc. In this way we don’t hate on ourselves for our past actions, all the while compassionately moving on to our new ways of coping. I actually haven’t been using this frame of thought lately so thank you so much of the reminder.

  5. Emily Swanson | 15th Jun 17

    So with you on every part of the difficulty of this journey. God made our bodies to know what they need so wondrously. I think the fall in the garden definitely probably affected our bodies, but it is incredible how our bodies know when they need to be fed and when they don’t need food. I felt so ashamed for a long time about ignoring those signals and I still struggle with holding myself to a vague calorie goal in my head. I don’t go to bed hungry now, but I still have a hard time eating over a calorie goal if I’m still hungry. However Jesus is making me more than a conqueror! Praying for you Cora, because I know that God can heal. I know that Jesus is a great healer and the Savior! <3 <3 Praying for comfort and strength for you.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…How Social Media Influencers Can Influence Eating Disorder RecoveryMy Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Thank you, Emily. Gah the hardest part of this part of the journey is just not being able to read – or not trusting? – our bodies to know what they need when they need it. At this point I don’t even know if it is more of a physical hunger que issue or more of a mental block, but I’m just having SO much trouble feeling confident in my decisions to eat what I’m eating when I’m eating it. I think because my mind is still SO engrained in making decisions based on certain things/rules, these thoughts still creep in – totally subconsciously – so that they mess with what I think my body is telling me. Does that make sense? Ugh. There’s just a lot of confusion and guilt and mistakes going on.

  6. Emily Swanson | 15th Jun 17

    I’m so so thankful that you are bravely stepping out too and pursuing intuitive eating even though it’s hard, because it is a worthwhile battle.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…How Social Media Influencers Can Influence Eating Disorder RecoveryMy Profile

  7. danielle | 15th Jun 17

    you’re amazing. that’s all i have to say…
    no i’ll expand on that. you know you will get through whatever ‘this’ is, and i think that might be sad in a way. at least it was for me. i had my ED for over 2 decades that letting it go was sad. it served a purpose after all, it was a part of me. good or bad it was. transitioning from a caterpillar to a butterfly is beautiful on the outside but the whole change is intense. this time in life is change. huge changes for us both. it’s scary and sad and beautiful.
    nothing lasts forever, which for me has been a source of comfort. i’m trying to look forward to whatever is up front but still enjoy this time now.
    what am i trying to say?
    it’s ok to be sad. it’s absolutely ok to have a beautiful lovely life and do lovely things and still be sad. life is painful sometimes. there is pain and suffering we can’t control…
    but life can be suddenly short and then what? i think it’s time to really hug this life and baby step our way into the sadness that has its own beauty within. i’m looking forward to the day where we can both look up from our coffees and cakes and say wow, i’m happy. this is a beautiful life.
    i have those moments so just know that it’s possible. i want those moments more and wish they were a lot more, but at least know that even after 20+ years of EDs it’s possible to have them.
    cheers to you and a beautiful life!

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      I’m emailing you <3

  8. Audrey | 15th Jun 17

    I really struggle with intuitive eating, especially on vacation. I’m vegetarian, and when I’m somewhere without a car or money for a taxi (a year too young to rent a car), I’m dependent on the walkable options. It’s hard to eat intuitively when the only options sound like crap. Going home after feeling like crap isn’t fun either 🙁 If you can’t tell, I’m on a work vacation and miss real food.

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Ugh that adds another layer of difficulty. We simply can’t be perfectly intuitive when there are external factors outside our control. But I think part of the work is being compassionate to realize these things are out of our control and we can do the best we can but it just will NOT be perfect. Sending you peace and – hopefully some good veggie options – your way!!

  9. Ellie Pell | 15th Jun 17

    I feel for you Cora. All I have to say is ALLOW yourself to ENJOY it. ENJOY the fullness. ENJOY the food. And then let it go. Thinking is the thief of joy.
    Ellie Pell recently posted…Men Who “Get It”My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      I’m trying girl. I’m trying.

  10. Lauren | 15th Jun 17

    Thanks for being so open and honest – with yourself and with us especially. I’ve been working on this too this past week. Every time I question what/when/why/how much I eat, I remind myself of what I’d say to someone else going through the same mess – and the advice is always a lot more supportive than what I am telling myself in the moment! It’s a struggle, and an uncomfortable one too, but it’s a true test of how much I want to say goodbye to this pain and embark on a happier and healthier me. And lately, it’s a test I’m getting better and better at passing. I’m wishing you lots of success too in your fight Cora.

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Oh Lauren – thank you. This is a good reminder. The whole “what would you say to a friend going through the same thing” has always been a hard one for me. I’m extremely empathetic to those around me but for some reason I just can’t make those same words have resonance when I turn them on myself. But, you’ve reminded me to try it again. And maybe keep trying it.

      Yes – it is so uncomfortable. So uncomfortable trying to learn what you want when you want it and then dealing with the “mistakes.” I’ve been having a lot, a lot of those, and I’m trying to figure out which voice is it that actually thinks its a mistake. Was I really not listening to my body? Or is my ED brain just making me feel guilty? It’s all so messy. So so messy. Thank you for your bravery and strength. <3

  11. Evangeline | 16th Jun 17

    First, thank you for your honesty. Many people dive into intuitive eating and rave about how wonderful they feel and how awesome their life has become. I don’t think they’re always sharing the whole story. Second, I think I can speak for most of your readers and assure you that we do not ever, ever think of you as a fraud. So even if you feel like it, just remember it’s not true 🙂 I’d love to talk to you more about this. I’ve been experimenting with IE too, and it’s not always the uncomplicated, freeing practice that it’s supposed to be. I might shoot you an email. Hugs <3
    Evangeline recently posted…A New Look + 5 Step Banana Muffins (vegan + gluten free)My Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      That’s a sad part about it: realizing that for me – us – some people – it is actually not the freeing happy experience that some do (apparently) experience. It’s been really hard. It’s been so messy. Really freaking messy. So many “mistakes.” So much questioning. So much guilt but not knowing which voice is speaking.

      Please do email. Maybe we can wade through some of the questions and confusion together <3

  12. Lyss | 16th Jun 17

    I’m cheering you on girl. Soon you will not feel sad because of intuitive eating- I know it. But it’s all a process. You aren’t a fraud for feeling like this. You are being authentic with us which I admire SO much. Keep it up and embrace the discomfort because soon things will get easier- I promise!!
    Lyss recently posted…Friday FavoritesMy Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Thanks Lyss. I know you’ve been through this, so I do trust your words.

  13. Casey the College Celiac | 18th Jun 17

    Sending so much love your way. I definitely have some issues with intuitive eating. I have a very finicky stomach and it does not like certain foods or certain food combinations or amounts. But sometimes I crave it…and it’s hard walking that fine line between eating what I want and what my body does best with.
    Casey the College Celiac recently posted…I Must Eat Gluten Free. I Choose to Eat HealthyMy Profile

    • Cora | 18th Jun 17

      Gah having those kind of external – health – issues layered ontop is just a whole other element. You must have had (and continue to have) many experiences of discomfort and learning the hard way, eh? One more reason you are a force.

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  15. tara | 21st Jun 17

    today is the first day i have read your blog. your honesty is humbling. you are describing a lot of how i am currently feeling. nice to feel not alone !

  16. Kaylee | 24th Jun 17

    Oh, Cora. Thank you for sharing your recent struggles and showing up like you do. I know those apathetic feelings of going along with what you’re told. At the encouragement of others, I’m in the process of finding a new dietitian (my old own is on maternity leave). The whole idea of starting over with someone who doesn’t know me is frustrating.

    And as usual, you and I are on the same page at the moment. My primary issues aren’t around body image but rather my control. I am extremely rigid not just when it comes to eating but in all aspects of my life. I don’t know how to be flexible. I don’t know how to challenge THOSE aspects of myself. Whereas for my ED, there are more tangible ways to combat it (i.e. following the meal plan, increasing caloric content, etc), the shifts I need to make outside of eating are less clear. I have a tendency to hold back and control my emotions too, avoiding certain feelings. You’re exactly right on the emotions. That because of numbing for so long, when we start to let go of the control even in eating our storm of emotions will return too. But remember that you are also opening up to feeling even more joyful than before. The lowest of lows and highest of highs. Hope that gives you some hope.

    Regarding IE, it’s the ultimate goal for me but yes the thought of having my body and mind and soul so synced up like that is terrifying. How does one even begin to trust oneself like that?!! (I obviously have trust issues as well…) One of the dieticians I met with this week talked about the first step to intuitive eating as conscious eating: we consciously eat intuitively or consciously eat your meal plan.
    Kaylee recently posted…Week in Review: An Attitude of GratitudeMy Profile

  17. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 26th Jun 17

    I can only imagine how difficult intuitive eating is for someone with an eating disorder. How do you trust your mind and body when you’ve been training it to do the opposite for years?
    I have no basis for this, but I think you should set out to break your rules, maybe one a week. For example, if you can only eat once before 11:30, then eat twice all week before 11:30. My thought is you break the rules for a bit, one a time, so as not to overwhelm yourself and then you’ll see how maybe life is still good with the broken rules.

    I’m sorry you’re sad, and I think the sadness is part of the process. You have to deal with it and process it, without reverting to the eating disorder.

    I’m rooting for you, and I know you’re amazing.
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets recently posted…Week in Review: Farm Tours, Kiddie Parks and Eats (#89)My Profile

  18. meg | 27th Jun 17

    What a powerful post. I love reading about other’s journey with intuitive eating. Man, I can sympathize with yours so much. I’ve been on my own journey with intuitive eating for about 4 years now. It was such a long process- with many highs and lows. Previously for many years of my life, I had ate according to my ED. Learning to let that go and learning too be real with myself and feel and the feels was hard. Food (or the lack of), was no longer there to comfort me in the way I wanted. It was no longer there to numb the feels. I just remember a friend telling me- it gets better, promise. I’m under the perception that things often get worse before they get better when it comes to the intuitive eating journey. thank you for being so open and real with your story- glad I stubbled across you blog today.

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