Many clients have dieted and binged for so long that they can’t believe they could really eat “normally.” I don’t care how long you’ve had dysregulated eating; you can learn to eat according to appetite. In order to do this, you need to be ready for all the journey entails. Readiness doesn’t come in one fell swoop but grows gradually over time.
Why is readiness important? If you’re not at the point where you really want to eat intuitively, you won’t be able to sustain motivation for the process this entails. Too many clients approach intuitive eating as they would a diet: I’ll do this for a while, and I’ll lose weight. That kind of thinking is antithetical to becoming a “normal” eater. It won’t work.
Intuitive eating is nothing like a weight-loss diet which you feel rah rah about and do until you shed the pounds you want. It is far more complex than simply eating fewer calories or carbs. It involves an entire transformation how you relate to food and the meaning it has in your life. Unlike a diet, it requires mental, physical and emotional shifts that need to be learned as you go along. You learn only through your missteps.
Moreover, learning to eat “normally” is about the need to choose between a weight-loss or an eating focus. You can’t learn to eat intuitively while measuring success by the scale. And this is where readiness comes in: If you insist on focusing on losing weight, you will fail at “normal” eating, so first you must accept that you may not lose weight right away or as much as you’d like. That is a fact that you will need to internalize. It doesn’t mean that you don’t desire to lose weight. You can both wish to do so and accept that it won’t happen right away but is likely to occur down the road.
Finally, learning intuitive eating is nothing like a diet. You will sometimes do well around food and sometimes not. It’s a process, not a time-limited event. You may be enormously frustrated much of the time, feel you’re failing, wish to return to dieting, and believe you’ll never learn what you need to in order to have a positive relationship with food and your body. However, you’ll also have joyous times when you feel better about your body, in charge of your eating, and enormously proud of yourself.
Changing your attitudes about food and your body can be a long, difficult process. If you’re not ready for that fact, then you’d do well to spend time practicing patience, frustration tolerance and delaying gratification before embarking on your “normal” eating journey. It took me several years of dedicated, hard, ongoing work to eat “normally” and improve my relationship with food and my body. All the components are learnable. The only way you can fail at becoming a “normal” eater is if you stop trying.