Intuitive Eating: 5 Things I've Learned

Happy happy happy Monday! I hope your weekends were full of fun and laughs and Superbowl treats. I'm easing back into a more regular blogging schedule as my internship schedule permits and I've been cooking up this post for a while because it's one of those topics that gets my brain tangled and takes time. We all know that I'm a big big cheerleader of intuitive eating. I've loved striving for food freedom in my life and I love encouraging others to do the same. I know that my health as a whole (mind, body, AND soul) is better for the lack of restrictions. I like picking out what I want to eat, when I want to eat it. But on the other hand, I'm an unpaid intern with a budget and zero time. I can't wing it for every meal, because my wallet will suffer. But if I don't want what I packed for lunch, does my commitment to intuition suffer?

I have really struggled with the idea of combining intuitive eating with what I really really want to eat with what I know I should eat based on my degree in nutrition. Frankly, right now my life is crazy and my meal planning consists of choosing one lunch and one dinner to make tons of and eat FIVE times during the week (it's a lot of commitment for a Sunday). But how does that fit in with my desire to listen to myself and be adaptive? This has been on my brain for months while I try to work it out, and I don't think I'll ever truly arrive at a conclusion - but here's five things I've learned that make sense to me.

There's all kinds of intuition.

Trusting my gut gets confusing when it's conflicting with my head and my heart. How do I handle when my stomach wants one thing that's out of my budget and handing over the cash would make me feel guilty? It's okay to acknowledge that sometimes you'll be torn in two directions and have to make a choice that doesn't 100% satisfy you. Just acknowledging that this situation will happen is helpful. Make choices based on what's best for you overall, or what will cause you the least distress, then move on because food shouldn't take over your life.

Gratification doesn't always have to be instant.

Sometimes I pack a lunch and the clock hits 12 and I get to the break room and my food does. not. sound. good. But what's a girl to do, rather than eat it anyway? There's no food options at my rotation and I can't leave, so yes - I eat it anyway. But I take some time to think about what did sound good, what my body wanted, and how I could satisfy that need in the future, whether it's for dinner that day or on the weekend. Unfortunately, getting everything I want when I want it is not always plausible, so I work with myself to plan ahead and listen when I have the resources to be flexible. Thankfully, there is one thing I know that helps solve this problem to some degree...

Having options is everything.

Really and truly. I'm gone for long periods during the day (10+ hours) and I'm usually stuck in a classroom or office without being able to leave for more or different food. Throwing some extras into my bag has been the perfect solution and allowed me to listen to what my body wants based on having more options available. I'll pack up my lunch but also a yogurt, fruit, nut butter, chocolate, and whatever's on hand so that I can grab it and satisfy a craving on the go without going out of my way.

Be realistic.

Obviously, as a nutrition graduate student, I think about food a lot. It's my job. But I also know that as a grad student, period, I don't have tons of time for 10-ingredient lunches and elaborate snacks. A lot of time I throw nut butter on crackers and call it a side. It works for me, much like my salads of bagged spinach, pre-cut veggies, and a veggie burger on top. Food is fuel and it's an important part of life, but not the only part of life. It's okay to only grant your planning a small amount of time in order to get to what really matters like studying up or going home to see your family.

Learn about yourself.

I used to really really want my lunches to look like other people's lunches, with perfect portions in Tupperware and a meat + grain + veggie combo that worked hard for me and my body all week long. Those containers are beautiful and if you can swing it, more power to ya. But as it turns out, I don't like leftover meat. Chicken doesn't reheat well and I don't tend to want a ton of beef, but here I was packing those into lunches anyway, then taking two bites before pushing it aside. Somehow it took me all of undergrad to realize this pattern, but now I know when I shop that a plant protein like veggie burgers or tofu will keep me happy and stay tasty all week long, and that I'll actually eat it without wasting money.

Aaaaand that's all I got right now. I hope you guys have a good week that's not too busy, and that you get to do something that fills your cup up (figuratively or literally...because sometimes all you can do is get another coffee amirite?)