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How to Intuitively eat after counting calories

Intuitive eating saved me like counting calories never would have. It saved me from the diets that gave me false promises, it saved me from the yo-yo weight fluctuations, but most of all it saved me from the restrictive and disordered eating habits I had adopted through the years. I struggled with Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge eating which were all catalyzed by the first diet I ever went on where I counted every calorie that went into my mouth. I’m not saying counting calories is “bad” I actually teach my clients how to healfully track their food so they can transition to intuitive eating. Why? Tracking macros is a very useful tool and a great way for us to learn what is in the foods we eat. Knowledge is POWER after all!

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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!

How Diets lead to eating disorders

In short, restriction leads to disordered eating, which leads to full-blown eating disorders where you’re terrified of food and attach so much worth to your appearance. Any diet that has ever existed has some kind of restriction, whether that’s low carb, low calorie, low fat, or any other one you can think of. The common denominator is always restriction.

On top of that, most diets label foods as “good” or “bad” leading one to an “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to eating or treating yourself. I remember I used to be so scared of myself when I was around cake or leftover treats because I would just eat it until there was none left to obsess over. Such a sad way to view food.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a healthy amount of weight I feel like diets put you on a path to self-destruction and yo-yo cycling. Did you know that about 95% of diets fail after 1 year? This means people gain the weight back (or more) within one year of losing it. I believe it’s because diets don’t set you up for long-term success or tools to use to “have your cake and eat it too” which is the secret no one tells you. Intuitive eating is the way of eating that allows all foods in whatever amount you want, puts less pressure on your weight and how you look, and focuses on how the food you eat makes you FEEL. That’s what anyone ever wants anyway, right? To feel good and happy.

It’s not myfitnesspals fault you’re like this…

In the midst of my disordered eating habits, I looked EVERYWHERE for someone or something to blame for my behavior (how mature).

  • It was my boss and the stress that caused me to binge today
  • Counting calories is why I have an ED
  • If only I had the willpower
  • I stressed out so it ok to eat my feelings
  • WHY DO I KEEP COOKIES IN THE HOUSE
  • I’m such a failure, I’ll try again tomorrow so let’s EAT!

You get it. I had everything else to blame but me even though I was the one who was engaging in those behaviors that kept me stuck.

Fast forward through years of recovering my relationship with food and I can confidently tell you that counting calories was not my issue – I made it one – but it wasn’t why I did what I did.

Tracking my macros is a tool that I have used post-eating disorder days as a way to healthfully achieve my physique goals. Counting calories is not disordered unless you have the compulsiveness of someone who has an eating disorder. If you can intuitively eat some days and not have to track every morsel that goes into your mouth – you are A-ok to use it as a tool. However, tracking is not needed to reach your goals but it can speed things up and is a great way to learn!

If you need to track every day and not eat anything off-plan or “bad” for you, you need to re-evaluate your relationship with food before you continue on this path.

Friendly reminder: you deserve to get help no matter what your body looks like

How to use calorie trackers correctly

In a few words, Keep your feelings out of it. The emotional attachment we have to the foods we eat or the number of calories we see at the end of the day will break us. You will feel guilty if you think seeing a red number at the top of your screen and perpetuate your unhealthy relationship with food.

You need to keep it subjective, the number are data points. Same with the scale (I personally do not like the scale and do not use it with clients or myself).

Use counting calories and macros as a way to improve but don’t take it personally if you mess up because you will mess up. Unless you’re a robot which you might be depending on what year you’re reading this lol.

Don’t be so black and white live in the grey area.

What does it mean to “Intuitively eat”?

Intuitive eating means something different to everyone. For myself, it’s eating mindfully and having that nutritional information but not attaching my self-worth to the fact that I ate a cookie because I wanted one. All foods fit and are not morally wrong to have. However, I also value my health so I do make choices based on that moral as well.

It could mean something different for you like having complete freedom from nutrition labels. It depends on your background and what you value.

Intuitive eating #1: Honour your hunger

Honouring your hunger does not mean waiting until your stomach is grumbling and empty to eat. In fact, you might find you overeat until you are uncomfortable when you get to that stage. Sometimes it happens when you can’t eat for a long shift at work and that is okay, that is life. I also get busy and forget to eat, which is something I don’t like to do but I’m working on.

Below is a hunger fullness scale I like to use for myself when determining if I need to eat or not. I usually hover between 5-6 this is where I feel energetic, satisfied, and amazing.

intuitive eating and counting calories can both benefit from listening to your body!

Intuitive eating #2: Honour your fullness

Just like listening to your hunger cues, one must also respect their fullness level. If you are a boredom eater or emotional eater this will help tune you into your body’s fullness cue and help you realize eating is not the answer to your issues. I like the 80% full rule. It takes a lot of time to recognize when you are 80% full but be patient and forgiving to yourself, you will get there☺

I (and I think you too) were programmed to think we have to finish our plates because there are starving children in Africa. While there definitely is and I do as much as I can to help them as I am well aware I am very privileged. However, eating food to put me past fullness is not going to help them…

I have learned that it is okay to leave food on my plate and save things for later when I am hungry for it. It’s not wasteful.

Intuitive eating#3: Honour your cravings

Have you ever tried to fight off a craving or eat something healthier just to go eat what you crave anyway? Yeah, me too. The mental restriction you put on yourself is also dieting even if you don’t think you are. This leads to the “all or nothing” mindset again, even if you eat enough food you can still end up binging on foods you restrict because it’s “bad”. I’ll let you in on a secret, food doesn’t have morals. There is no good or bad it’s just food. Some are more nutritionally dense than others but at the end of the day, food is food. You eat it for fuel and sometimes for pleasure which is 100% ok to do. 

There was this voice inside my head, I call it the food police, and it was always there when I went to a party or a night out. It told me I had a limit to stay in. It told me I shouldn’t have pie at Christmas dinner because I would go over my calorie goal. Do you have one too? Please don’t listen to it.

you can enjoy pancakes while counting calories or intuitive eating! there is no rule on how to intuitively eat
How to eat intuitively also includes “treat” foods as well as “healthy” foods. Of course, health is subjective!

How I transitioned from counting calories to intuitive eating

I went from obsessively counting calories to healing my relationship with food by counting calories, Then intuitive eating. This was no walk in the park. It took me 9 years to get to the point I am now. That doesn’t mean it should take you that long (it won’t if you get help).

The biggest factor was healing my relationship with my body and food. Changing my inner dialogue with how I thought about food was the ticket out of restriction and obsession. If you change your mind, you can change your life.

I can’t tell you exactly how to intuitively eat without knowing your past. However, If you resonate with my story I can tell you that you need to look inward and realize you have all the power to change your behaviors and thought patterns. I did it after almost a decade of disordered behaviors so that means you can too missy!

If you need help along the journey I am taking on clients who are ready to make some lifelong changes so if that’s is you – click here to apply!

thank you for reading! I hope this post helped you in some way <3

until next time xx
-Hailee

Here is another resource on how to eat intuitively by the goddess herself, Abbey Sharp!

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2 Comments

  1. “honor your fullness’ and ‘honor your cravings’ – this is perfectly stated! Great advice in this article. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I really appreciate the great advice in the post. Intuitive eating is something I’ve been striving to do for a couple months. It feels so much better than dieting or restricting. Great tips!

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