The Food Lie We Have All Been Told
As a long time lover of Intuitive Eating, I thought I knew all I need to know about how to listen to your body until it occurred to me that there was still one thing I was yet to unlearn.
In case you have not heard of Intuitive Eating, it is the belief that your body knows best in terms of what to eat. In its simplest form, it means:
Eating when you are hungry
Stopping when full
No food is bad or good, healthy or unhealthy
Nutrition is not a moral issue
Food is more than just fuel.
You are allowed to use food to provide joy, connection, and memories. It also is a central part of many cultures
It was a large part of my body confidence journey, allowed me to stop punishing my body with food (or the lack of it!), and liberated me from the endless hamster wheel of diets I was on. It took many years, but eventually, my hunger became as simple as my thirst. When you are thirsty, you drink a glass of water. If you want another glass of water directly after, you don’t berate yourself ‘you just had one, stop being greedy!’. You just get another glass of water. When that thirst strikes, you don’t question it or undermine it by saying ‘you aren’t really thirsty!’, you listen to it. And over time, I listened to my hunger and respected my body enough to know it knew better than any diet book.
This is a very short summary on intuitive eating, and the bulk of this was self-taught through books so take the above with a pinch of salt and if it intrigues you, do explore it further with actual experts (like!). I have never actually gone to a nutritionist to adapt my eating into an intuitive approach and therefore, my relationship to food and making it a non-diet approach has definitely been a step-by-step process where I add a piece of knowledge as I go but since I have been eating this way for many years now, it has been a long time since I have heard something new that really made me think twice.
It was TikTok where I heard this piece of information and I won’t lie, a huge part of me was tempted to say I read an article about it to sound smarter, but we do things honestly here. The thing with TikTok and in fact, anything on the internet is critical thinking is needed. You shouldn’t listen to just anyone and even if they are an expert in their field, it doesn’t mean they are good at what they do. What I do believe in though is that if something makes sense to you and you believe it will have a positive impact on your life, that’s when I will absorb it and take it in.
So what was this random stranger on TikTok saying?
That the concept of three meals a day stemmed from people who want to separate themselves from animals as they found simply eating when you are hungry, barbaric. They believed there should be more order in the day and therefore the three-meal-a-day system was created. In life coaching, there is a saying that goes ‘Take what’s useful and leave the rest’. I don’t know whether any of this is true but what this TikTok provoked in me was the realisation that with my intuitive eating approach, I have questioned everything about what I was taught about food. Everything EXCEPT eating three times a day. Of course, I understood to listen to your body and not the clock, and even for periods of my life have missed breakfast because I’ve never really liked breakfast foods. But have you ever had someone say something in a slightly different way and it resonated completely differently? It might have just been the timing of it or it could just be that I was now open to it but it has sunk in and the last week, it has changed how I have eaten.
The biggest moment was probably yesterday. My boyfriend needed to go to Covent Garden to return something and he suggested we went for lunch while we were there to make the journey a little less of a waste of time. The only problem was that I had nine radio interviews (yes, NINE!) until 2 pm so we decided on a late lunch.
I woke up, noticed there were some leftover sausages at 9 am, and suddenly craved them. A part of my brain said ‘No, eat later, otherwise, you’ll be hungry for lunch’. I told my brain to shut up, and checked in with my stomach - yup, hungry! And so made them then and there. Then I was given 30 minutes for lunch at 12.15pm and again, my brain said ‘you are going for lunch in a few hours, don’t ruin your appetite’. Shut up, brain! Are you hungry? Yes! Great, what was in the fridge? Leftover cheese from Amsterdam. Put that on a cracker with some honey and yum. Triple that and whilst I wasn’t full, I wasn’t hungry and that was enough to last me for the next three radio interviews. I could have pushed through but I know if I was hungry while trying to do radio, I would not have done as well. Also, that’s not intuitive eating! We ended up having lunch at 4pm and found an incredible place called La Goccia. Probably a bit too expensive for what it was but it filled the spot and I did something that I used to really struggle to do. I stopped when I was full. There was a leftover piece of pork chop and a leftover piece of chicken and I let the waiter take it away. What made me most proud of myself was that I didn’t say no to it because I was stuffed or bursting. I was just full. Not uncomfortably so, and I didn’t want to be either.
In the evening, we had an event where there were some rubbish vegan tapas. I had one or two because they sounded interesting from the labels but shortly realised they didn’t taste as good as they looked so I stopped at two and decided I’d go home for dinner. When we got home though, I realised I wasn’t hungry. Long overdue for a shower, I decided to have a wash instead and then realised it was close to 9pm and I still wasn’t hungry.
I have NEVER in my entire life gone to bed without dinner. ‘Going to bed without dinner’ is a statement that automatically feels like a punishment, despite the fact, I was never punished that way. I’ve foregone breakfast all the time but I LOVE dinner so to choose to not have it seemed preposterous. My worry is always that if I don’t eat dinner, I will wake up in the middle of the night hungry or even just wake up early and I really needed a lie-in. I stopped myself and checked in with my body. Where was this coming from? It was a scarcity mindset, it was whatever remnants of disordered eating I had left inside me and then it occurred to me. This was coming from boarding school. If you didn’t eat at 6pm at boarding school (which was SUCH an early dinner as some days we only ate lunch at 2pm!), you couldn’t eat until the next morning and I would often get hungry at 9pm only to realise the vending machine was broken, and since I hated school breakfasts, then next time I could eat would be lunch.
Well, I’m not in boarding school anymore. So I listened to my body, went to bed without dinner and actually didn’t wake up starving. I did have the lie-in I wanted and ended up having a late breakfast. As I am typing this, my boyfriend has just asked me if I wanted lunch. I asked my stomach and she said no.
Do you eat three meals a day? Have you ever questioned it? What was the greatest thing that intuitive eating taught you?
Lots of love,