Thursday, August 21, 2014

Update on my intuitive eating experiment

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently read a book on intuitive eating (or what the author calls "hunger directed eating"). It's called "How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too" by Josie Spinardi. I'd read lots of books about intuitive eating, so I was very skeptical that this one would be any different, but I was really impressed with it. It explained intuitive eating in ways that I'd never really understood before, and even better, explained HOW to do it (as opposed to just what to do).

Most people know the basic principles of intuitive eating: 1) Eat when you're hungry; 2) Eat what you want  most; and 3) Stop eating when satisfied. It sounds SO simple, right? Well, I'd tried it about a dozen times before, and never lasted long. The second I'd binge, I'd think, "See? It didn't work," and I'd go right back to counting points or calories or whatever. After reading the Skinny Jeans book, and putting it into practice, I now realize what I was doing wrong.

When trying to eat intuitively before, I would still hold onto this thought of losing weight being the top priority, so I was still being somewhat restrictive. I didn't truly give myself permission to eat anything I wanted, and I avoided certain foods that I felt I might binge on. I also didn't eat enough. I didn't really understand how to know that I was satisfied, and I would stop eating before I was truly satisfied (physically and mentally). The combination of those two things would lead to a binge.

This time around, I really wanted to give it my all and fully trust the process. I even prepared myself to gain a few pounds in the beginning while I figured it all out. I decided to try intuitive eating not for the sake of losing weight, but more so to be able to eat in any situation without stressing out over it. I was tired of counting points, and I was having a really difficult time sticking to it because my heart just wasn't in it. I figured it couldn't hurt to give the intuitive eating one more try.

I'm so glad that I did! I am absolutely loving this way of eating. It's been a huge stress relief not to think about food all the time, and not to have to plan everything out in advance. I've learned a lot about my body just by paying attention to what it's been trying to tell me.

The Skinny Jeans book describes the beginning of this way of eating as the "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", because at first, you naturally want to eat nothing but what you deprive yourself of while dieting. Eventually, your body will stop wanting all the junk, and you'll crave healthier foods--but at first, it's normal to crave (and eat) "junk" food. This is the phase where I fully expected to gain a few pounds, but surprisingly, I'm actually down 4.5 pounds since I started the intuitive eating. I still consider myself in the "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", because I get excited to eat foods that I avoided for so long. But I've been completely trusting my body, and I've been eating what I crave--whether it's healthy or junky.

The thing that has surprised me the most about this whole process is that I don't actually want to eat a lot of the things I normally think I want to eat. For example, when I'm counting points or calories, all I want to do is eat ice cream. It consumes my mind until I end up bingeing on it. So I thought that as soon as I gave myself permission to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if that's what I wanted, I would do just that. What I discovered, however, is when I ask myself what I'm craving, it's never ice cream! I've only had ice cream twice since starting this experiment.

I've discovered that I actually don't really crave sweets as much as I expected to. When I do crave something sweet, it's usually in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. In the mornings, while I have full permission to get a doughnut for breakfast, it actually hasn't sounded good. When counting points, all I thought about was sweets!

Whenever I would see peanut butter Pop Tarts in the store, I always wanted to buy them; but I didn't, because I just "knew" I would binge on them. I'd had them once before, when they first came out, and I did binge. So when I gave myself permission to eat them, I bought a box. I ate one, and it just wasn't very good. Nothing like I'd imagined or remembered. In fact, we ended up throwing them away after a week, because nobody in the house really liked them!

On Jerry's and my anniversary, I bought a small bag of Birthday Cake M&Ms for us to share. Again, I always wanted to try them, but never bought them for fear of bingeing. We each tasted them, and neither of us was impressed enough to eat more than two.

These were not good at all!

Some of the junkier foods have definitely been worth eating, though! The ice cream that I had at the dairy farm yesterday was delicious. I had a single scoop, and ate all but a couple of bites. I made homemade fettuccine alfredo one night for dinner, and it tasted like what I imagine Heaven to taste like.

I've been eating and drinking things that I used to avoid--like orange juice. I never wanted to waste my calories on juice, but it sounded good to have with my eggs for breakfast one morning, so I bought some. And I love that I can do that without feeling guilty for "wasting" calories on a drink.

This has pretty much been my go-to breakfast--it makes me feel great,
it keeps me satisfied for hours, and it almost always sounds good when
I ask myself what I want for breakfast.
When we went out to dinner after the Tigers game last weekend, we went to a place that is known for their Chicago-style pizza. It's deep-dish, and loaded with cheese--definitely not something to fit easily into a calorie budget. In the past, I would have blown off my points, stuffed myself with pizza, because I planned to get back on track the next day. This time, I ate two slices, and felt good. We had four slices leftover, so we brought them home. It sounded good for breakfast the following morning, so I ate a slice for breakfast. And again the next morning. I didn't feel guilty, and I didn't feel like I was "blowing it" by eating the pizza.

Something else that I've been paying particular attention to is how my body feels after eating different foods--both good and bad. I've discovered that eggs with cheese, Ezekiel toast with butter, and some fruit makes me feel good and very satisfied for about five hours. I've discovered that I'm much more physically satisfied with savory foods than I am with sweets. I've discovered that homemade chicken noodle soup gives me a stomachache (not sure why), and that fried food makes me feel tired. The fettuccine alfredo that tasted amazing? It didn't make my stomach feel very good. I've learned that cinnamon raisin granola and milk makes my body feel great and gives me energy for several hours. I never used to pay much attention to this kind of stuff before, so I've found it really interesting!

Homemade chicken noodle soup--it tasted fantastic, and
was very healthy, but my stomach disagreed with it for
some reason

Despite all that I just wrote, I haven't eaten ALL junk. I just eat what I really crave, and I'm trusting that after this "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", I'll crave healthier foods. I've been eating a lot of fruit, because I love it, but haven't been craving many vegetables yet. Hopefully I will as my body adjusts.

I think the hardest part about eating this way is knowing when I'm satisfied, or have had enough food without being stuffed.  I've probably been erring on the side of eating a little more than necessary than too little, because I don't want to cause a deprivation binge; but the Skinny Jeans book really did help me to realize when I'm satisfied. For example, when you eat the first bite of what you've been craving, it should taste like a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. When you get to the point where it just tastes like a 7, then you've probably had enough. I've found this to be pretty accurate for me.

Something I've found to be helpful is that I don't go to the grocery store and buy all the stuff that I think I might crave--I only buy it if I have a craving that very moment. Instead, I know that I can go buy it at any time, so I'll just wait until I actually have that craving (and am physically hungry) before buying it. For example, I always see Oreos when I'm grocery shopping, and I think, "Oh, I can buy those now!" but deep down, I realize I don't actually have a real craving for them in the moment. So instead of buying them to keep around for later, I just leave them at the store and give myself permission to go buy them if I really want them later. And so far, it hasn't actually happened.

Well, this post is way longer than I intended--I'm just pretty excited that I'm doing so well with it. I've only binged once, and I realized it was because of having too much wine--I felt a "false hunger" after the wine, so I was eating to try to satisfy that--but because I wasn't truly hungry, I was never satisfied. Instead of saying, "See? It doesn't work!" and quitting, I learned that I just need to be careful when drinking wine that I don't follow that false hunger.

Our upcoming vacation will be a big test for me, because usually, on vacation, it's easy to go way overboard and say, "Oh, I'll just get back on track when I get home". But the reason intuitive eating appealed so much to me was that it's the same in ANY situation, including vacation. So I'm going to follow the same principles I've been doing all month, and hopefully continue to see progress.

So far, I'm just really happy with how everything is going. I've really enjoyed discovering all these new things about my body, my cravings, how I feel after eating, etc. It's been a fun and interesting experiment!

If you happen to have a Motivational Monday submission this week, I'd really appreciate it if you could email it to me by tomorrow evening. Since I'm going on vacation, I won't have a MM post for two weeks, unless I prepare one in advance. If I get some tomorrow, I'll put together a post for Monday. I know you've all got a lot of accomplishments to brag about! ;)


  1. Whoa, this is revolutionary! I've been trying something like intuitive eating which I've deemed "Three Squares", where I eat whatever I want as long as it fits on the plate. I learned after I went into a deep depression after my Dad passed in May that counting calories was just leading to binging. I have to agree on so many of the points you've discussed about how your body likes certain foods and you get hungry or tired after others. This is probably one of my favorite posts you've written! I've been blogging about my three squares experiment too, every day!

    1. Ooo Czesia, you've peaked my interest in your blog. I'm going to check it out!

  2. This sounds really neat! Thank you for sharing and I'm glad it's working well for you!! Enjoy your vacation!!

  3. This is very encouraging. I realize you're still experimenting, but I've also been reading the book (not quite finished), and I feel like it may be a "breakthrough" for me (and hopeful that it is). I absolutely can't stand counting calories, points, etc., and I fail when I try, so this is giving me hope that maybe I can eat like a "normal" person. I'm very interested to see how things progress -- thank you for sharing!

  4. I'll have to keep my eye out for that book. I don't trust myself with intuitive eating, but it might be something to look into. That's great that it is working so well for you.

  5. I'm so happy for you, Katie, there is nothing better to a former binger than being able to stop stressing about food and just be "normal." Another good author on this subject is Geneen Roth. One of my favorite quotes from her is "For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge." So true--there is no cycle more vicious than the diet-binge-diet cycle. Good luck and have a great vacation!

  6. This is really, really interesting for me. I might have to find this book. I wish I had a Kindle or something! Maybe Barnes & Noble might have it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Following. Thank you for your posts on this. I'm so tired of binge eating. It's almost worth staying 30 pounds overweight forever if it means I can have peace with food. Fall is coming. My favorite time of the year!!!!!! I want to be able to enjoy my senses to the max, pumpkin pie, hikes with the brilliant leaves, spice tea etc....
    I'm going to try this book too. My three meals a day and two snack plan seems to have me binge eating more - and wanting food in that desperate way that is awful and compulsive

  8. I love this book! I bought it after you suggested it in the previous post. I've read books about intuitive eating before, but this one is so different. I've been able to stay binge free for 3 days, which is big for me. I hadn't been able to go more than a day between binges before reading the book. Thank you so much for the recommendation, and for being a continuous source of inspiration!

  9. I started Intuitive Eating last week after reading the same book and can mirror your same experiment so far. My daughter was home from college and I made her favorite dinner without stressing over it, ate until I was satisfied and that was that. Simple. I, too, like the way Josie explains everything - I'm really connecting with it this time. I hope for future success for you and have fun on vacation!

    1. Oh, and my IE started in a unique way. I got the stomach flu and while I was recovering, nothing sounded good. So I just listened to my body and it just started from there. Then I read Josie's book and lots of Geneen Roth, became inspired and it's working well - though it's only been about 10 days worth.

  10. Thanks for sharing! I think that you will do fine on vacation. When I've gone to those types of resorst (I've gone to Cancun) I find that I'm pretty active and moving a lot so that as long as I don't stuff myself I do pretty good. The thing to watch out for are the drinks! Those will get you :)

  11. I have been reading the book on your recommendation and finding some good stuff in it. I hope you don't mind sharing- do you find it hard to balance intuitive eating with feeding a family? I read one part where she talks about if you crave cookie dough, you should have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and eat it at the table on a beautiful plate- sounds great, but how does that work with getting family dinner on the table? I guess I spend so much time trying to figure out what everyone else will eat that I don't think about what I want any more. Anyway, glad to hear it is working for you!

  12. I ordered this book for my Kindle after reading your previous post. It has made so much sense so far about why I over eat. The more I try to diet and restrict, the higher my weight goes. One light bulb moment for me, is when the author said that the reason many people overeat when they get home after work is because they are so stressed from the day, and then have to come home cook dinner, take care of the kids, etc.... She said that food has become the fun and stress reliever in the day. I realized that is was what I was doing. I would come home and binge and eat everything in sight trying to find the one thing that was going to make me feel better after a stressful day. Then I'd made dinner and of course eat again. I noticed it at work yesterday too. I was so stressed out over a work project. At lunch time, when I started eating I intantly felt this rush of relief and started feeling calmer. I associate stress relief and calming down with food. So now I am realizing I have to add more fun activities and stress relief activities into each day. I have only read about 1/2 of the book so far, but I think that this might be what I'm looking for. I already feel less stressed over food.

  13. This sounds similar to what I have been trying to do in general, so I am going to have to go read the book!

  14. You're really making me have to go back and re-read the book! I am so happy with the success you've been having. It makes me want to try IE again!

  15. This has been a very interesting post and you bought to light some things for me. Thanks for posting this and I am glad it is working so well for you.

  16. I am following this too and so far so good. Keep it up!

  17. Thank you Katie, I was eagerly awaiting this review. I am in the process of reading this book after seeing it on your site and so far I am really liking it. I quit WW this year because it made me really obsessive about my body and weight, and that didn't help my already tenuous self-esteem. I always have thought that more than counting calories, I need to deal with my emotional eating, I am not carrying a few extra pounds because I love food so much, its because I eat for emotional reasons!

    Anyways the biggest things I have learned so far that have shocked the heck out of me are that I don't know what I want to eat and how to tell if I am full. I have confused my body so much over the 15 years of dieting that I am really having to relearn that!

  18. It's really interesting to read about your experiment with the intuitive eating. I'm still not brave enough to try it. I have always had a horrible time telling when I feel full, even when I eat slowly and mindfully.

    I totally agree: the birthday cake M&Ms were horrible. I threw most of my little bag out, too!

  19. I've recently started WW again, but I'm also trying to use my points more intuitively if you know what I mean. For instance, yesterday, I prepared and counted two pieces of toast with peanut butter and banana.... after 1.5 pc, I was full.... so I *gasp* stopped eating!!!! I was pretty pleased with myself...and I saved myself some points for later. Good for you for giving intuitive eating a shot. It is so hard to change eating habits, but if we are mindful of our hunger pains and know when we are full, we can win the battle.

  20. Since I discovered intuitive eating on your blog I too have started my own intuitive eating experiment! So far it is working for me too in a lot of the same ways! I am losing weight (not my main priority but happy with it), understanding my body's true and false hunger signals, and I'm noticing how food makes my body feel. I have not read this book yet. So far I have just found Intuitive Eating youtube videos and checked out a book out of the library. It also helps that I have been also been really frugal and a minimalist money wise. I make a grocery list for the whole week ahead of time. That way I can spend less and go shopping less. I have been spending about $1 or less per serving and find really great recipes on pinterist for yummy food (even dessert). So far I agree with this whole post and think that this is truly the answer I have been looking for in my life towards living a happy and healthy life.=)

  21. I know you're on vacation, but I missed this post and wanted to comment anyway... I think this is great and Intuitive Eating really is an ultimate goal of mine. I've gone back to calorie counting for now, because I've put on 15 pounds and need the structure, but I don't tell myself I can't have anything I only make sure I eat what will fit in my daily allowance (1520 net calls).

    Can't wait to hear how vacation goes! :)

  22. Thanks for this update!

    I bought and read the book on your initial positive review and really liked it... but now I'm seeing how hard it is to substitute in the emotional self care than makes it work.

    A work in progress... but now you've inspired to go back and do some re-reading!

  23. Thank you so much for this! I am currently reading the book. I was getting slightly overwhelmed by all the WONDERFUL info in the book, so I needed to find encouragement from people who have really tried IE. Your blog post really encouraged me to pursue IE! I started WW back in August 2014, and I have lost 25 pounds so far. However, I have been noticing that I am focusing more and more on the scale to the point that I often go to extreme measures just to make sure the numbers on the scale move in the right direction. I've had an unhealthy relationship with food for almost 10 years, and lately I've been thinking that WW isn't really helping me to think through my relationship with food. So, I think that IE is right for me for the time being. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! I'm starting the New Year off on the right foot! :)

    I'm so glad that I discovered your blog and I will be checking for updates!

    PS I also have a small blog for my weight loss journey (, if you would like to stop by one day! :)

  24. Hi there,
    I've read the book and found it so liberating. Your experience is really interesting and it encourages me to pursue this new direction, even though I still have "bad days". How is your intuitive eating experiment going? I'd love to hear from you again about this topic.

    1. Hi there Lily,
      I did the intuitive eating for a couple of months, but my weight wasn't budging. I was maintaining very well! But I am not happy at this weight, so I decided to start Weight Watchers again. I did learn a TON from this book that helps me, however--regardless of what I'm doing to lose/maintain my weight :)

  25. Thanks for writing this, so interesting! I was reading a preview of the skinny jeans book and googling hunger directed eating led me to your blog. I wanted a little more info before committing to the book :) These tips are something I will have to think about. Right now I am on a meal plan (aka diet) which makes me feel great and I have lost weight, I also work out very hard and don't eat refined flour or sugar (at least seldom). But I always eat very fast and eat until my food is gone and don't always think about whether I am satisfied or if the food tastes like a 10 or a 7. So, thank you for giving some insight to the book!


I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)

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