I’ve spent the last couple of years reading a wide variety of books on women’s health and fertility, holistic approaches to wellness, and the connection between mental health and hormones. But one of my recent favorite books is titled Intuitive Eating by nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Simply put, intuitive eating is a way of eating that teaches you how to follow your body’s hunger and fullness signals, which brings you to a greater awareness and increased self-respect for your body. No counting carbs or calories. No monitoring your weight. No diets. It sounds so simple and clear, right? Like, duh.
Months before I even heard about or purchased the book, I was already trying to follow my own approach to intuitive eating–and for the most part, it was working. I stopped stepping on the scale. I ate when I was hungry, and refused food when I was full. I also gave in to cravings every once in a while–and this is the part that tripped me up the most. I often felt terribly guilty for eating a single fry. If I ate a whole burger, you bet I would obsessively think about–and regret–that burger for days. Even though my relationship with food was certainly progressing for the better, I still dealt with body dysmorphia relapses: periods of time when I refused to go out because I was convinced I was too ugly to be seen in public.
Intuitive Eating really is a breath of fresh air. There are no hard rules, but instead 10 principles, and each one of them make perfect, logical sense. Some of the principles certainly resonated with me more than others. The section about challenging my inner food police and critic hit home pretty hard, as did the principle to respect my body and its own unique characteristics. By the time I was done reading the entire book (which, while not boring, is lengthy and I invested a good amount of time in not only reading it, but fully understanding the principles) I felt like I had a great set of tools to help move me forward on my journey of health and well-being.
My relationship with food, my body, and my health has changed tremendously just within the past few months. I am no longer afraid of food. I love food. I’ve been taking serious pleasure in cafe con leche on weekends. Greek yogurt sprinkled with granola and topped with strawberries and mandarins has become my go-to breakfast on most weekday mornings. I recently had the most delicious seaweed salad and spring rolls on the rooftop of a Thai restaurant. Food has become the most wonderful, functional art, engaging all of my senses.
Reading Intuitive Eating in conjunction with Moody Bitches (Dr. Julie Holland) and Taking Charge of Your Fertility (Toni Weschler, MPH) especially helped me understand just how much damage I was doing to my body by restricting and starving it out. I dove deep into the different phases of the menstrual cycle and learned that I need to nourish myself each day of the month to be at my best and healthiest. This means brisks jogs during the follicular and ovulatory phases paired with eye-catching salads and light proteins. The luteal phase is a time for me to pause and ask my body what it craves most. This is the time of the month when I need salmon, hard-boiled egg salad paired with chardonnay, pasta, pilates, and definitely, definitely acupuncture. Menstruating calls for quiet. Coffee and writing, meditation. Rare steaks and red wine.
This isn’t to say that ever since reading Intuitive Eating, I haven’t had my hiccups. No one and no lifestyle is perfect. I’m definitely curvier now than I was when I was sick, and while some days I love it, other days I still struggle. But I can’t deny that I have more energy than before. I smile and laugh more, I’m less critical of both myself and others. When I nourish my body, I nourish my mind, heart, and soul.