Today I have my friend Kelly back on the blog to discuss a topic that I have been wanting to talk about for a while. Meal Planning vs Intuitive Eating, is a topic that is incredibly nuanced and complex. I thought it would be great to invite Kelly here to talk about it.
Meal Planning Vs Intuitive Eating – Which is Right For You?
Gone are the days where people went to a nutritionist just to find out what to eat. Nowadays, HOW to eat seems to be just as important. Should you eat small meals or large? Stop after a certain time, or follow your hunger? Stick to a meal plan, or eat intuitively?
The questions can seem overwhelming, and often there is no one right answer. When it comes to the meal planning vs. intuitive eating debate, there needs to be a middle ground. But let’s start at the beginning, and make sure we’re all on the same page.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a fancy way of saying “listen to your body”. If you’re eating intuitively, you’re choosing foods that are right for you in the moment, eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full. Basically, it’s how we ate as small children, before external messaging messed up our relationship with our intuition. By practicing intuitive eating, we learn to return to a place where there’s no all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine, diet-infused thinking.
What are the pitfalls of Intuitive Eating?
Now, while intuitive eating is quite possibly the most natural way of eating, we live in a very unnatural world. It’s not possible to eat intuitively all the time. Sometimes, finances get in the way, and we have to learn to live off of rice, beans, and toast, regardless of what our bodies are asking for. Sometimes, we’re traveling, and the foods available to us are slim. On long stretches of highway, the options can be Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, or starve.
Even in our normal, day-to-day life, it can be hard to eat intuitively. For people with families to feed, it’s virtually impossible to create different meals that are what each family member intuitively wants to eat in that moment. Often, meals are planned in advance, and the foods you intuitively want just weren’t on this week’s shopping trip.
Finding a balance
So what is a person to do? How can you learn to eat intuitively within a more structured framework? While it may take a while to find a balance that’s right for you, here are three steps you can take now to start moving towards intuitive eating.
1. Let go of “should”
Yes, your plate “should” have a lot of vegetables on it. But maybe tonight you’re feeling pasta more than the sauce. Instead of forcing yourself to eat vegetables that you don’t want right now, honor your want for pasta. Just because you’re eating intuitively doesn’t mean you’ll be eating all pasta and no vegetables for the rest of your life. Your body will tell you when it needs a vegetable, and you can intuitively choose it then.
2. Honor your body’s needs as soon as you can
While it may not be possible to eat dhal on a whim late on a Tuesday night, there’s no reason you can’t plan to make a stop at your favourite Indian restaurant Wednesday. Chances are, if your body was asking for lentils one night, there will still be something it needs from those lentils the next night. But, if you’re not feeling the dhal on Wednesday, return to your regularly scheduled meal plan instead.
3. Let yourself snack
For whatever reason, a lot of people seem to think that a person’s need to snack ends with childhood. Not so! Even adults can enjoy a snack. Snacking is a great way to satisfy your intuitive wants and needs within a meal plan. If you’re craving something sweet, but savory is on the menu for tonight, grab a cookie at the local cafe on your way home. Some days you may not need a snack. Some days you’ll need multiple snacks. Your body’s needs change from day to day. Intuitive eating will help you understand and meet those needs, before your body’s whispered requests become a scream.
If you’re struggling to find a balance, or having a hard time transitioning into intuitive eating, you’re not alone. The longer you’ve spent engaging in diet culture and/or disordered eating, the harder it will be to hear your body’s messaging. It just takes time, and work. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out. This is a battle you can win.
Thank you again, Kelly! You can read Kelly’s past blog posts; Emotional Eating, Everything Your Health Class Didn’t Teach You About Eating Disorders and All Food Is Good Food.
After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly Boaz turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. Kelly is a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist (CNP), specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. She is also a writer and speaker (TEDx, TDSB), raising eating disorder awareness, and helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can find out more about Kelly, or get in touch via her website, kellyboaz.com.