• Sydney Cochran, MS, RD, LD

What Does Intuitive Eating Actually Look Like?


Below is a collection of all the foods I ate over the weekend and why I chose to eat what I did.

This post is not intended to be a list of what you should eat. Rather, I hope it provides a helpful glimpse into what it looks like to make food decisions based on your internal cues instead of external cues. What is normal eating for me might not be for you because we are different people with different lives and different needs when it comes to food.

For me, intuitive eating means having a little more structure and planning during the week to make sure I have food ready to eat during busy days. I plan recipes each week that I know my husband and I both really like, so I'm honestly rarely disappointed when it comes time for dinner. Plus, my stress level is massively reduced by knowing we already have everything we need to get dinner on the table. We usually eat leftovers from the night before for lunch during the week. Weekends are less structured - I don't plan dinners and we usually don't have any leftovers by that point, so eating decisions are a little less structured and that's why I chose to focus on a weekend for this post.

Now, to the food!

Saturday morning, we were helping with a race in Topeka and had to leave the house fairly early. Lately, I've been doing mainly toaster waffles for breakfast but I didn't really have time for that so I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Normally, I find that breakfast is more filling for me if there is peanut butter and a glass of milk involved. Sadly, we were out of milk so I had to settle for water. Not the most satisfying breakfast in the world, but I knew it would keep me full for a few hours.

We were at the race a little longer than we had anticipated and I knew I would be over hungry if I waited until we got home to eat. We stopped to get some gas and were conveniently right next to Juice Stop (which I love), so we ran in to get smoothies for the road. This was just enough to keep the hunger away while we drove home.

We stopped to get groceries on our way home, during which time my stomach started to not feel so great. I knew I needed to eat lunch when we got home but was having trouble figuring out what sounded good with the stomach ache happening. Luckily, Annie's mac and cheese was on sale last week and I bought some to have for situations like this and it sounded perfect.

I prefer the greek yogurt variation of the sauce (mix cheese powder with 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt) because I like the taste and texture better. Plus, a little extra protein doesn't hurt. Just a note on serving sizes listed on food labels: you are allowed to eat whatever amount you need to satisfy your hunger. There was a time when I felt like I could only eat 1/2 a box of Annie's mac and cheese because it said the box contained 2.5 servings, even though I was always still hungry afterward. Now, I find that I'm actually most full and satisfied after the whole box, which is what I had this time. You figure out what works for you. I didn't have anything else with it because nothing else sounded good. It's okay to eat a meal that doesn't involve fruit or vegetables.

Usually, I have a snack in the afternoon but nothing sounded good and my stomach still felt weird. My husband was making dinner for us and I started to get a little hungry right before it was done, so I had an apple while I waited.

For dinner, he made ribs in the instant pot (!!) and some rosemary dijon roasted potatoes and roasted broccoli on the side. I ate some more of the potatoes while we were waiting for the ribs to finish up and felt comfortably full after this plate.

After dinner, we decided to watch a few episodes of Master Chef before deciding if we wanted dessert or not. Once dinner had time to settle, we decided ice cream sounded good. We went and got some vanilla ice cream to go with the last of the brownies we had left from earlier in the week. Was I hungry at this point? Not really, but it sounded good and it tasted good and it made me feel a little better after being frustrated with having a stomach ache most of the day :)

Sunday morning, I made my normal toaster waffles. I tend to go through phases with breakfast - one thing will sound good for quite awhile and nothing else really does, so I just stick with it. Right now, it's toaster waffles from Aldi, one with peanut butter and one with butter and honey. Milk to go with it because I love milk and I find that it makes breakfast more filling and satisfying.

I don't usually run on Sundays but I didn't get to on Saturday and I'm preparing for a race with my sister so the longer weekend runs are kind of important. Maybe I'll do a post in the future on being intuitive with exercise while training for something specific. I would usually have a snack after church but didn't since I was heading out for a run. Sometimes I run into trouble if I eat breakfast before a run and sometimes I don't. This time I did :(

When I got home, my stomach wasn't feeling the greatest but I knew I needed to eat. A sandwich sounded good and like it would settle well, so I made one with ham, white cheddar, and mustard on sourdough. Something crunchy and sweet also sounded good, so I had an apple with cinnamon on the side. This was just enough to fill me up without upsetting my stomach.

We went and ran some errands and I started to get hungry while we were out, even though I hadn't eaten lunch long before. As soon as we got home, I started looking for a snack. I tend to get pretty hungry on some of these longer run days so I wanted something a little more filling with protein. Trail mix sounded good but we didn't have any, then I thought about yogurt with granola but I had just used the last of the yogurt the night before, so I settled for granola with milk. I haven't loved this flavor of granola, so I added frozen raspberries to make it taste a little better. I would've added some pecans or almonds if we had some!

About 2 hour later, I was hungry again. On days when I'm this hungry, I have a really hard time continually deciding what sounds good and I usually end up getting a little frustrated. After lots of browsing, I decided I wanted something salty. Popcorn sounded too boring, as did crackers, so I settled on sweet potato chips + salsa.

For dinner on Sundays, we usually just make whatever we can with the random ingredients we have around. After looking at our options (burrito bowls or baked potatoes), we weren't all that excited and decided to go get a pizza. I was craving something fresh and my husband agreed and said a cold salad sounded better than a cooked vegetable, so I got a salad kit. You do not have to eat salad or vegetables with your pizza. We usually don't because it's an extra thing to plan and we get vegetables elsewhere. But, salad sounded good. It's all part of practicing gentle nutrition. This was a kale salad with poppy seed dressing and a pepperoni take and bake pizza, both from Aldi. My husband also cut up a pineapple but I was full after the salad and pizza and didn't feel like having pineapple.

99% of the time, I have some sort of baked good or other dessert after dinner. But, this night it just didn't sound good. Often I'll end up having another snack later too but I just didn't feel as hungry on this night. I got a little hungry right before bed but not enough for a larger snack. I pulled out the pineapple from dinner and ate a few pieces of that and was fine. It is okay to eat again before bed, regardless of what time it is, and it doesn't have to be fruit. Sometimes, I have a bowl of cereal or crackers with hummus or Cheez-its when I get hungry before bed. I considered all of those things, as well as ice cream, but none of them sounded that good.

Hopefully this helps give you an idea of what intuitive eating can look like! Sometimes it feels less than intuitive in the beginning when you have to be hyper aware of your internal cues but it becomes more intuitive with time as you learn your internal cues. It is so much more freeing to trust what your body is telling you rather than relying on external information to dictate what/when you should eat.

#intuitiveeating #nutrition

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