Have You Found Your Inner

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of the goals of making a “lifestyle change” (as opposed to going on a diet) is to develop a healthy relationship with food and eating that feels normal, comfortable, usually enjoyable, and relatively easy to maintain over time.

No elaborate eating rules, no worries about “good” foods and “bad” foods, no guilt feelings or verbal self-abuse for breaking the rules, no getting obsessed with weigh-ins or calorie counting, no restricting your social life so you can avoid people/situations that might make you blow your diet. Just a little common sense, some basic nutritional knowledge, and a willingness to trust your body to make up for your occasional dietary “mistakes” and balance out your calorie and nutrient intake over time to match your needs.

According to this article, this desirable state is called “normal eating,” and it’s something all of us can achieve by simply eating when we’re hungry, eating the things we like, and stopping when we’re satisfied.

But just how realistic is this notion, especially for those of us who struggle with maintaining a healthy weight? Can things really be this simple?

This approach also goes by other names, like mindful eating or intuitive eating. But the basic idea is simple: we’ve all got an innate, evolved appetite regulation system (or, if you prefer, an “inner normal eater”) that is capable of maintaining a balance between energy in and energy out over time, and predisposing us to eat and enjoy the foods we need for good health.

I don’t know about you, but a few years ago, when I weighed almost 400 pounds, this made about as much sense to me as claiming that the two essential food groups are chocolate/peanut butter brownies and beer (oh, wait—I think I did believe that at the time). I felt like I had little or no control over my appetite or my eating, and was probably allergic to vegetables (quite possibly to vitamins in general). For my inner normal eater, “normal” meant about 5000 calories/day worth of mostly junk food.

Since then, I’ve learned that in fact, I really do have something that at least resembles an inner normal eater—maybe a normal-eater-in-training would be more accurate. Trying to cooperate with this healthy part of myself really does make life a lot better and easier, compared to all those years I spent believing that my real self was the problem, not the solution.

But it took a while and a lot of hard work to overcome my problems with emotional eating and negative thinking to find and establish contact with my inner normal eater. The first step, for me, was recognizing that my feelings of being out of control and powerless over food and eating weren’t reality—they were part of a mental and emotional pattern called learned helplessness that I had developed over many years.

Then I had to work hard at dismantling that state of mind and replacing it with a positive and realistic sense of self-efficacy, one decision and one day at a time.

I still struggle with these issues to some extent today, and I can’t say that I’m comfortable with totally trusting my appetite to maintain a healthy weight. Right now, for example, my effort to lose the 30 pounds I regained over the past year isn’t going very well because the combination of new physical limitations and a few medications that affect my metabolism has apparently changed how many calories I need in one direction (down), and my appetite in the other direction. What feels “normal” to me at this point is making the scale go up, not down.

So, I’m also counting calories and watching the scale pretty closely for a while again, until I get a better idea of what it actually takes for me to lose this weight. But this feels normal to me, too. There’s nothing abnormal about using appropriate tools to get and apply the knowledge you need to accomplish your goals, as long as you’re mindfully using the tools and they’re not controlling your feelings or running your life. And there’s nothing to be gained by becoming a fanatic or a perfectionist about mindful or intuitive eating, to the point that you become compulsive about not using tools or adopting reasonable food rules to accomplish your goals.

Or so it seems to me. The key is to trust yourself to be able to do the right thing, for the right reason, and in the right way often enough to accomplish your goals.

What do you think? Do you feel like you have an inner normal eater you can trust?

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I was there a few years ago, for quite awhile, actually. But gained a lot of the weight back after several incredibly tough life events. Am now back on SP and so motivated to get back there! I truly believe in tracking food and exercise, and think for most of us it's important even after getting to goal, if only a few times a week/month (whatever works best for you), just to stay on track. Report
I haven't found it. ;-) Report
1SUNBUMM11
I don't know if I could ever trust myself. I'm tracking food now and counting calories. Something I've never done before. As long as I keep junk food out of the house, I'm ok. One day at a time. Report
CHISTOFISHMAN
This is what people used to call "overcoming gluttony" gluttony being defined as 'the desired to eat more food them is healthy for your body' God made our bodies and knows better how to keep them then we do. So after we have developed good habits and overcome the temptation to sin, it is very reasonable that we can eat what feels right while staying in his love. Also if or when we sin byou over eating we need to seek and accept forgiveness to experience his strength in our weakness. Report
Hehe I bought a book on intuitive eating and read it up until the point where it says "Eat what you love and love what you eat". That was the title 😁😁 Anyhow, When I eat clean and do my endurance cardio four times a week, I'm starving even though I'm bang on the money with calories, sometimes I'm over my calories. So I'm trying to figure it out too 😊 I bought an endurance athlete diet book as well. I may have to reread that and crack open my intuitive eating book. Great article and wish you all the best 👍 Report
I think there is merit to this article. Just like we all have an inner child. I am on a quest that right now requires the regimen of tracking, weighing and recording. I am findingout test I like exercise do much thst I miss it if I don't get an adequate amount. The same with a healthy balance of nutrients. I believe that yhis is that inner healthy person waking me up to my needs and supplanting my wants. Started Spark and this quest at 229 and now I am 205, so I believe it is working. Report
ALILDUCKLING
I think it's a good goal, but emotional eating - like the author mentioned - is a problem for me with this approach. For now, my best plan is counting the calories and sticking with the nut stats approach. Maybe at some point... Report
Great article. This year I've decided to go low carb and mostly sugar free. I've been using the principle of intuitive eating, along with the tools on Sparkpeople and current research on nutrition, to trace the effect of various foods on my metabolism, emotions, mindset, and health. I've discovered that if I don't start eating those foods (chips, cookies, m&m's, etc.), I'm good, no problem. If I start, then look out! For a treat, fruit (fresh or dried) and nuts are the way to go for me -- but I only have one serving and don't get cravings to eat more, more, more! Report
I would love to realistically tap into my intuitive eating prowess, yet I know that for now it is waaaay off in the maybe one day category! This is such an interesting article, and being able to read the comments of others is honestly one of the things I appreciate the most about spark. For now I am content with trying to determine and tap into hunger signals and understand what "comfortably full" feels like. This alone is progress... Report
SHAHAI16
I haven't found my inner normal yet I guess. I stress eat, especially that time of the month (Seriously want to devour chocolate and chips). I pack my lunch to try to limit what I can eat at work, but I get home and have to figure what everyone in my house will eat. My body just isn't very good at telling me when/how much to eat, sometimes I'll just forget to eat, but over the last 3 years I've gained about 45-50 pounds that just don't want to budge. I've been trying to cut back on processed food but it's difficult when short on time and money. Report
I'm on a bunch of meds now. I'm sure at least one of them is not helping with my weight issues (to put it mildly.) One of them has also turned off my "trigger" to determine when I'm hungry and when I'm full. The only way that I know that I've eaten too much is that I'm miserable for the next two days. I'm trying to use portion control and menu planning to help determine when and when to eat. It does get really hard when I'm sitting down in front of something that is really, really good. Report
I don't trust myself yet. I'm tracking my food and eating in the calorie range that's been suggested by SparkPeople to learn how much food is enough food. Right now, I feel hungry quite often, even though I'm eating close to 1500 calories/day. This is week one for me, so I'm interested in seeing whether I'm eating enough or just right. I'm hoping that the inner normal eater will start to take over. Report
I can't quite get there. I don't "diet" but I do track my food and pay attention to calories. I also listen to myself and for the most part eat what I want when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. Report
I had been an intuitive eater having lost over 100 lbs and keeping it off for over two years, but the last 18 months things have changed. I haven't been able to exercise as much as previously and we have been traveling more. I have gained 27 lbs which I am determined to lose again. I am working on getting back to being an intuitive eater as well exercising more. Report
I think I'm going to try, because I eat too fast and don't even think about the food that is going into my body....... Report
You made some very thought provoking suggestions. As an elderly member I have often wondered how 8 prescription meds effect Weight gain, bodily function and how they effect our personality. My loss is slow, but definitely joyful. Report
ALWAYSCENTERED
Really liked this article. I too go through periods of normal eating, and then that ravenous beast comes out (like it did two nights ago) and I eat everything in sight. As I get older, I realize that no method is perfect. Some times I need to count calories, or white knuckle it through a surge of sugar cravings. Other times, like tonight, I left half my dinner uneaten because I just wasn't hungry. After all these years, my appetite and binges are still a mystery to me. But luckily sparkpeople seems to have a vast assortment of tools to fit my many moods. Report