I had all the confidence in the world that reframing my counseling to prioritize intuitive over clean eating would help my clients tremendously... but I had no idea how much it would change my life.
Let's talk for a hot sec about self care.
I spend tons of time harping on the importance of self care with my clients because unlike the gazillion dollar diet industry that's rooted in self-control, the non-diet mentality is rooted in self compassion. You can't build a good relationship with food without working on your relationship with yourself.
Self care is different for everyone. For me, it's waking up to the birds chirping and walking to the coffee shop with my boyfriend for snickerdoodle coffee and blueberry muffins. It's going on a hike with my best friend and not documenting it on social media. It's leading the life I want to live, not should live.
It's those things you do where your mind is quiet and your heart is warm and fuzzy. It's that fluttery adrenaline rush where you're like, "Woah. This moment is so frickin' awesome!"
Beyond self care, we talk a lot about ditching the all or nothing mentality. Eating squeaky clean for three weeks and working out eighteen times for some people can lead to going out to eat for three weeks straight and working out two times. That leads to low self-esteem and self-doubt. We work a lot on not just eating intuitively, but resting, exercising, and most importantly, living intuitively. When you give yourself some grace and flexibility in your food choices, when you eat the taco in the damn taco shell you're craving instead of over greens, you learn how to slowly but surely satisfy your soul with the simple pleasures in life.
Let's take a closer look at exercise. Movement. Going to the gym every morning at 5am may work for some people, but that kind of rigid routine can be super negative for a lot of people. Just like I wake up on Monday craving eggs and toast and on Tuesday craving a smoothie, some days I have more energy than others. We're not robots. Honoring your workout cravings is no different from honoring your food cravings. If you're not someone who eats peanut butter and banana toast every single day for breakfast, you're also likely not the person who can be happy with a rigid gym routine.
So a crazy thing happened. I slowly but surely stopped asking for no cheese or no bread or this and that on the side at restaurants when I knew it would make the meal twelve times more delightful. I stopped ordering what I thought I should eat and started ordering what I freaking wanted. And guess what?
I felt so FULL. I started really loving myself. Whereas I used to feel a weird sense of pride when I ate really well all day, I now feel that same pride when I have dessert after dinner. My clothes may be a bit more snug, but that's because eating really "clean" all the time and being a little too strict with my intake likely had me lower than my natural set weight. I don't want to be at a weight I have to sacrifice living for to maintain. I just want to be me.
Low and behold, I'm a whole lot happier and insanely more satisfied in all areas of my life now. I don't know how much I weigh because I can't remember the last time I weighed myself. I finally got to a point where I literally had zero desire to step on the scale. I used to weigh myself every week or two. I wasn't ever obsessive about the scale, but I did weigh myself. Sometimes it would be a few pounds higher and that scary, guilty feeling would rush over me. "You need to get it together this week!" Sometimes it would be lower than usual and I'd have a similar guilty feeling, but guilt because I knew I was finding joy I shouldn't in taking up less space.
It was a harsh realization to come to, that of needing to break up with scale, but if it wasn't an issue it would've been super easy, right? And saying it was easy would be a lie. It was new and it was surely out of my comfort zone. It was the beginning of a long road of breaking up with what I deemed my routine.
I realized that I really needed to start practicing what I preach. The scale (along with being a slave to any kind of number---calories, macros, etc.) is a big no-no with my clients. I've seen the negative effect it can have (whether it's a higher or lower weight than anticipated) on my clients time and time again. You can't eat intuitively when you're trying to weigh a certain number. That in itself is counterintuitive.
One of my favorite clients was really, really struggling with finding her natural weight. She'd practice eating intuitively, feel semi-confident, and then lose it once she stepped on the scale. If it was heavier than she'd hoped, she'd give up and binge eat. If she was lighter than she'd expected, she'd binge eat. She was basing eating on an external factor (the number on the scale) rather than her own hunger cues. Your body doesn't crave three Weight Watchers points or a 475 calorie meal. It craves food. No strings attached.
Once I let go and embraced ordering Nutella pancake balls rather than oatmeal that didn't actually sound satisfying at Sunday brunch, I felt an overwhelming, insanely liberating sense of freedom. I had this newfound sense of satisfaction that transcended into every other aspect of my life beyond food. It was like a new sense of fullness spilling into everything.
I felt more fulfilled by my relationships because I started doing more. I started LIVING intuitively. When my heart wanted to spend Saturday in nature and my brain wanted to schedule social media for the blog, I went hiking.
When my heart wanted to binge watch Bloodline and order pizza and my brain wanted to do laundry and go to the grocery store, I Netflixed my butt off. Food was just a gateway for me to realize what else I was too hard on myself about. It's still a laundry list, but I'm actively working on it.
I have my clients to thank for my new sense of contentment. I felt like a big phoney not being a living breathing example of eating, exercising, loving, and living intuitively. And I'm proud to say that now, I am.
When the old me contemplates drinking a smoothie I'm not really in the mood for at home and the new me gets really excited about going out with a friend for the world's best blueberry scone, I have the confidence to choose delight over deprivation. And it's not happiness over health. Happiness is health. There are plenty of days where I totally crave smoothies and salads and all things fresh. I like to work out and stay fit and I honor that. It doesn't have to be one or the other, all or nothing. No. Living without extremes is a beautiful way to be!
And it's so, so okay to still hear those old voices. I'm not ashamed of my past. I don't silence the noise. I've learned so much from it. It's been my best teacher.
My biggest hope for my clients is that someday soon they'll be able to just be. They say that teaching is one of the best forms of learning. I see that truth unfold loud and clear each day that I spend time explaining how to honor hunger rather than silence it with raw vegetables.
Every second you spend living in a box is a moment you won't get back. I know from experience that once you set yourself free, each and every moment will be exponentially more blissful. I can't wait for you to be there!
Saguren Redyrs says
Wow. Just wow!
I have definitely placed myself in a box and I get so frustrated when I do something wrong. One small 'failure' will lead me to cave and do everything else that I shouldn't do on that day because I've messed up anyway, so why not binge while I'm having a bad day. Reading this made me realize that this is not life. Happiness and enjoyment is life.
What do you do if intuitive eating is something you desire but you’re absolutely terrified of letting go? Like if I step out and eat other things while I’m afraid, will it still lead to freedom (or fat)?
This is so beautiful and good and true. Food for the soul! Thank you for sharing this and for believing this. I truly believe if we love and honor ourselves like this, many things will come into balance and we will be healthy and happy, as you say. Bless you in all you do!
Thank you so much friend!
Thank you for inspiring me to eat happy and live fully. I also wanted to say that because of you I eat fully and live happy :).
The criteria were food, ambiance and service among other things. Here is the list of their ten favorite ones:
Kerry Hinns says
This is amazing.! Thank you so much for sharing your words with the world!
I feel like, reading this, has totally pieced together the thoughts I've been having lately - it all makes sense!
Live a life you love. You are right, we do not need extremes. Everything is fine in moderation.
Rather than mindlessly scoffing five biscuits in the office, I am now coming home and sitting, savouring one biscuit with a cup of tea, because I enjoy it.
Thank you, thank you!
Loved this post! I'm not yet an intuitive eater, but I'm so happy I follow people like you who share how much happier they are since learning to intuitively eat and not deprive themselves. I'm slowly making the transition, thank you for all the intuitive eating/living inspiration! I hope to be where you're at one day!
Elizabeth Anne D. says
I can't say HOW much I love this. Recently I've been struggling with balancing eating well, and body positivity, but I love this approach. I can't wait to start consciously implementing it into my daily life < 3
YES TO THIS. Related, I posted on Instagram yesterday about the sugar detox that is taking over this week. I'm neither for it, nor against it, per say, but it's so incredibly important to do what is best for your body. For me, that means intuitively enjoying cookies and refined sugar because life is short and there's truly room for everything. Thank you for always being a soure of inspiration!
This was great! This is exactly the mentality I have. Deprivation can be really depressing and I'm glad i realized that.
Thanks for sharing!
What a great post! I love blogs that promote happiness and health, no extremes, just listening to your body. So thank you, and please, if you're able, continue to write more awesome/inspiring words for us readers to soak in!
Your latest posts are such a breath of fresh air! I truly appreciate your courage to make a change not only to your own life but the courage to share it with all of us without knowing what kind of reaction you might get. Truthfully I get the emails from your blog but not until these lasts few posts have I actually read them. I guess I felt like I would never be able to eat the way you did but I wished I could. Now it all just feels more genuine and "real" for so many of us who live busy, full lives that ebb and flow with the needs of our work and family. Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to embrace change and share it with all of us.
Deb Oswald says
I'm so glad you are beginning your journey into no-restriction and living a more full life that is not circling around what you are eating. Clean eating is another word for restriction and diets. People have no idea how pervasive the diet culture is and how much control they have over what we see- everywhere. It twill be fantastic when women in particular no longer spend their lives worrying about how their bodies look and start doing the fantastic things we are meant to do. Clothes are just clothes, if they get tight, buy new ones. You are entitled to beautiful clothes no matter what size you are. And speaking of size, you might "think" you know what weight/size you should be- but your body knows better than you. 🙂 It is a journey. And it is spectacular when you just live without restriction and dedicating your life to changing the way you look to meet societies unrealistic expectations. We are not here for the viewing pleasure of others. Rock on!
Deb Oswald says
Had to edit my blog address
I tried forever to "eat clean" and just yesterday I decided I'd rather eat what I need. I couldn't do it without having a prolonged period of obsessively "eating clean". All of my nutritional study time was just a primer for eating intuitively. Now it's easy! So I think the worry about eating clean may have just been worth it 🙂
This was the post I needed to read today. I've been trying to so hard to eat (and live) intuitively, but I've been struggling recently. After three months of avoiding the scale, I stepped on yesterday and fell into the same negative routine of letting myself be disheartened by the number. And I've been beating myself up for falling off my strict gym schedule.
Thank you for this. It is perfect.
This is incredibly relatable, because this past year has been a year of relearning intuitive eating for me too, and it's also been a year of learning intuitively how to say no and say yes and live each day with more gratefulness.
Nicole Rosalyn says
Alexis, this post resonated with me so much (as do all of yours). I spent so long being super strict about my food and exercise habits, thinking that if I controlled those two things, I could be the "master" of my body. Turns out, you can't master your body because it will still fight with every ounce if you're doing something wrong. That could translate to just feeling off or not being in the best mental headspace or realizing your social life is suffering.
Slowly but surely, I am moving to a place of acceptance and allowing my body to take over the reigns. I am deviating from my intense workout schedule that I'd kept up for over a year, I'm allowing myself to eat chocolate several times a day it that's what I'm craving.
It's a hard thing to do for us over thinkers, but it absolutely can be done, and I'm so glad you're starting this conversation.
emily vardy says
Oh, this is such an excellent post. I really hope I can get to that point of eating and living intuitively some day.
YES YES YES!! You are a Godsend. I needed this. My mind, body and soul needed this. And I bet thousands of other women too. Thank to so incredibly much for your words.
"i don't want to be at a weight I have to sacrifice living for to maintain. I just want to be me."
this is my favorite post of your life posts. it's relatable , and so true and honest! (not preachy or out there. I LOVE your blog).
this is how i am living my life now. everything may not be perfect, but i am working on those things, slowly! and doing what makes me happy.
Crave Columbus says
Preach, woman! I am an avid schedule lover, so when I tend to get off track by eating out too many times or sleeping in over my morning workout, I beat myself up. It's so refreshing to hear from others that we are NOT robots. We are humans. Another killer article that hit home to many!
Sam @ Sam Vander Wielen says
Love this, Alexis! I think it's so helpful to come at life from a place of cultivating joy + fulfillment. Once we do, we're not looking for external sources to validate us or do it for us. Thanks so much for all of your amazing posts! <3
jordan @ dancing for donuts says
i couldn't be more in love with this entire post. you're so right, we are NOT robots. and as much as i love having a schedule and sticking to it, planning every meal and snack and workout every single day just isn't working for me anymore. i've been trying to practice intuitive eating and working out so much more, and even though my jeans are a little tighter, i feel happier. as i get older, i'm starting to realize that having a mind at peace is more important than having a six pack. of course i wish i could have both, but self care has been taking a priority for me these days and i'm so glad!!
Love this SO much.. Thank you! I never post comments on blogs, but this post made me feel compelled to give you a virtual hug/high five.
Amber @ Madden Wellness Counseling says
I absolutely love this and am SO right there with you right now. I have wanted to work with Eating Disordered clients for years after having my own battle. It wasn't until I actually started learning about Eating Disorder therapy and working with other clients that I realized how much "stuff" I'm still working through myself. Allowing myself to ACTUALLY be an Intuitive Eater has 100% influenced all other areas of my life positively. There dishes in the sink and I need to get them done but I'm so tired I can barely hold my eyes open?? WHO SAYS! I'll do them tomorrow or when I actually have the time to do them. I should be working out this evening because I've only worked out twice this week, but I'm exhausted and reading a book sounds so much better. READ A BOOK IT IS! And you know what? My clothes are a little tighter, too. And I've just decided I'm going to buy bigger pants and move on. 🙂
Ugh you know I'm obsessed with this! As I've been attempting a more intuitive eating approach, I've seen so many parallels to other parts of life. Recently, I told John "you know, I think I could probably swim." (I have never been able swim and am terrified of trying.) But now that I trust my instincts around food and my body to tell me what to do, I really think I could swim if I tried! It's small but so so so big. YOU ROCK sistafriend!
I absolutely love how open, real, and fun you are! I too had to learn to let go of the food scale and body scale, which I had been a slave to for years. The food scale went "out the window" last summer, and I never looked back. I got rid of my body scale this February thanks to Kylie, and I feel so. much. better. I couldn't care less what I weigh. Even when I went to the doctor recently, I wasn't the least bit concerned, which is a first in a long time. I love this post, and I'm proud of you for making these changes that better your life!
Alexis, I could not love this more! Thank you so much for sharing your story and your wisdom. I was literally nodding and smiling the whole way through reading. Here is to living and eating intuitively and FREEDOM <3
YES!!!!!! This is everything.
You are helping and changing so many women in such a positive way. PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! A post like this is such a breath of fresh air and to know that we aren't alone in the struggles, and that there is a way to overcome this obstacles. THANK YOU!!! 🙂
Hi Alexis -- thanks for the post. Your story sounds very, very familiar because I made a similar switch about a year and a half ago. I'm not sure that I did it consciously but I learned that I could trust my instincts when it came to my body rather than fixate on what's"good for me". After a few months, I was feeling much easier in my skin and WAY less anxious. but also -- my body wasn't really changing at all. My workout habits stayed basically the same (2-3 times a week and a lot of yoga). So I decided to stick to it, and I am so so grateful.
But my question is this: where does the intuition come from? How does we learn to trust ourselves rather than the external metrics designed to guide/help us stay on track?
For example, I know that I'll crave a gooood burger about one a month, give or take. And I'll have it. My favorite thing for weekend breakfast is a scone. So I'll have it. But my body also craves the "good stuff" much more often -- particularly in the sticky DC summer when hot food is almost repulsive. But what is it that got me here? Surely, not everyone feels that way or at least, not everyone believes that they might feel that way if they try "intuitive" eating. Any thoughts or insight for the people who are worried that once they try to leave these rigid structures behind, they will get into habits that include nutella pancake balls and cheese fries too often?
Miss Polkadot says
I hope Alexis won't mind me chiming in here. What you're worried about is a very common fear of people approaching intuitive eating [it was/is at times for me, too]. The book Alexis mentioned - Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole - goes into this in detail and is very reassuring. Essentially, giving yourself full permission to eat whatever you want will eventually lead to balance. So maybe you will have a few more burgers or scones for some time. But after a while, that gets boring and you will naturally find yourself craving more, say, salads or other fresh foods again. Despite occasionally struggling with this myself still, my intuition has proven my worries wrong time and time again.
I love this so much, it almost brought tears to my eyes. This is so similar to my own journey and seeing it written out so beautifully just warms my heart and makes me so happy that you're spreading this message to all of your wonderful readers. THANK YOU for being such an incredible and brave human and for spreading love and kindness 🙂
I really appreciated this article. I recently go so caught up in what I weighed that I let my prescription for anti-depressants lapse because I feared having to step on the scale at my doctor's office when I went in for a periodic check. Crazy, right? Never again. I've been learning to not be so hard on myself, so your article is very timely. Thanks!
Cynthia Carrier says
I originally found your blog through Pinterest as I searched for a way to stop the GI upset I experience when I eat meat. I was looking for delicious, satisfying meal options that did not include meat, but what I found was that plus a refreshingly genuine approach to eating that refuses to wear a label like Vegan or Paleo and instead focuses on nourishing one's appetite and spirit. This particular post, with its discussion of how self care is physical, emotional, and spiritual at once, speaks to my heart. My story includes a long and rugged struggle with post partum depression, and as I am now rounding the final bend of that painful chapter, self care has proven to be the single most important factor in my survival and recovery. I am a whole person, complete with emotions and needs that must be honored, apart from my children. I am not a number on a scale, a body shape that fits smoothly back into her pre-pregnancy jeans, or a robot that rarely sleeps and still gets up at 5 to work out because that's the only time all the other people don't require something of me. I am so grateful that I discovered you as you are embracing this new outlook on your life and blog. While one could certainly argue that our lives are categorically opposite, I submit that they are fundamentally the same. You have challenged yourself to live intuitively and honor your spirit, and I am discovering that I have been searching for permission to do the same. Thank you for bringing brightness to this portion of my journey, and for reminding me that kindness to ourselves is every bit as critical as the kindness we offer others.
Tara | Treble in the Kitchen says
Love love love this 🙂 So happy YOU are happy!
"It doesn’t have to be one or the other, all or nothing. No. Living without extremes is a beautiful way to be! Every second you spend living in a box is a moment you won’t get back. I know from experience that once you set yourself free, each and every moment will be exponentially more blissful."
What a great post! You inspire me each and every day! Thanks for always keeping it honest, extremely real, and positive. xoxo
Erin @ The Almond Eater says
I love this so, so much. I'm not the best at being flexible when it comes to work, but food and exercise are always something I've been pretty flexible about, probably because I'm just too obsessed with chocolate and cheese and, due to my never-ending injuries (i.e. back pain, ankle pain..), I've sort of had to become flexible with my exercise regimen. Truly, it's a beautiful thing to live intuitively--thanks for the wonderful post lady!
Oh gosh. This is great. I'm getting there too, although it's been a year-plus-long process. I went to the doctor this week and for the first time, turned around and didn't care what I weighed. I couldn't have cared less and told them that! I've gained some weight but also gained a hell of a lot of life back. 🙂
Juliette | Namastay Traveling says
I really like the idea that we're not robots. Often times I'm fine getting up early and going to the gym..but then one day I just can't get myself there and start to feel like I'm going to lose all my motivation! But really, self care is listening to what you need each day...and knowing that can change. Thanks for sharing your story!
Carrie this fit chick says
I just listened to your podcast with Davids yesterday and you mentioned how you cant just post to post. You gotta feel it in your heart and have purpose. These are those posts--- i can feel your passion and emotion. Its wonderful! Love the idea of living intuitively aside from food- thats something that stuck with me 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says
Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm still trying to eat intuitively myself - I've found that the tighter you try and control your diet, the less control you actually have. Balance is definitely the key.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Teele Mannik says
I swear, you kill it every time you post something. You are a breath of fresh air. THANK YOU. I needed this, I think MANY people need this.