The other day I was heading to Chipotle to pick up lunch. My favorite thing to get at Chipotle are their crispy tacos. Inside goes:
pico de gallo
An order typically comes with 3, but you can get them a la carte as well. On the way there I noticed I wasn’t super hungry. Plus, I had snacks for the afternoon and time to eat them, so getting 2 tacos made sense, but it triggered something in me that food was being taken away.
Before I get more into this Chipotle story, I wanted to give a reminder of the importance of being where you’re at. Below are the phases one will go through on their path of becoming an intuitive eater (brought to you by a supervision session I did with Marci Evans years ago). Attempting to do the steps out of order will not work. Without walking through these phases you will likely stay stuck in your current relationship with food.
- Phase 1: Nutrition rehabilitation. Intuitive eating is contra-indicated bc client has no idea when they are hungry or full. Client has a broken satiety meter that tells them they are full when hungry. This phase involves placing client on a meal plan for weight restoration, weight stabilization or normalized eating pattern.
- Phase 2: Practice identifying, normalizing and responding to satiety cues (this can take 2 months to 2 years).
- Phase 3: Indicators of readiness for intuitive eating and supporting client on intuitive eating journey. Consistent access to all foods. Full permission to eat. Shift focus off weight and to healthful behaviors.
Back to my Chipotle story. I recognized that my body only needed 2 tacos and even though it brought forth a rebellious part of me, I reminded myself that you can just do something once. You can experiment and if whatever it is doesn’t work…you are the adult and you don’t have to do it again.
With any changes to intake you are considering making with food, it is important to leave your body autonomy strong. Any food recommendation that is forced/prescribed/expected, drains away one’s autonomy and feeling like you HAVEEE to do something isn’t motivating for many, at least not in an ongoing and sustainable way. You are in charge of what makes the most sense for you when it comes to nourishing yourself. Consistently pointing yourself back to the inner wisdom your body has to offer when feeding yourself and giving more worth to what your body is asking for/telling you is key. Autonomy can be increased with curiosity and question like:
- What ideas am I considering trying?
- Given my history with food, does it make sense to experiment with that right now?
- What attunement disruptors am I trying to notice and care for myself well even if they’re there? (More on attunement disruptors below.)
Unhealed food insecurity, which is healed through permission to eat, walking through the 3 phases mentioned above, and working with a therapist, is often an attunement disruptor. An attunement disruptor is anything that get in the way of being able to listen to and honor what your body is asking for. Attunement disruptors may include: stress, illness, mood, eating disorder, exercise, distraction, rigid rules, poor self-care, trauma (i.e. food insecurity), or anxiety. For many, having a behavioral strategy, rather than continuing to intuitively eat, you slip back into when attunement disruptors are high can be important. For instance, during times of great stress when hunger/fullness cues aren’t reliable, stepping away from intuitive eating and into a behavioral approach of 3 meals and 3 snacks.
So, back to my Chipotle story. I ate 2 tacos. I was full and satisfied and know that’s an option for taking care of myself in the future when 2 tacos makes more sense than 3 tacos. Now. I also think it’s important to remember that these changes should not be made rigidly. This doesn’t mean now I will only get 2 tacos for the rest of forever (that would be a food rule and therefore an attunement disruptor). This is just an option to choose sometimes, NOT always, forevermore, and at the expense of pleasure. Sometimes you can just try something to see if it works…even if it triggers feelings that food is going to be taken away initially, depending on where you’re at in your intuitive eating journey, it may be something that is health promoting for you. I will also say: It takes food insecurity a long time to heal. You need a big span of time (perhaps a decade or more) with consistent access to food and permission to eat it to calm down the reaction that food is going to be taken away, especially if you grew up in a home where you weren’t allowed access to food due to not having money to buy it, a parent who was concerned about your weight and therefore withheld food from you, or an eating disorder that created food rules and therefore limited your access to food. In my intuitive eating journey I’ve had the thought of, “hmmm I don’t think it makes sense to have this food right here anymore” for months to a year before I made a change. It’s a slow process of experimenting and being where you are at and not jumping to step 9 when you’re on step 2.
I bring up the Chipotle story to say that it felt like my food insecurity was being triggered. A feeling that food was going to be withheld from me. When it comes to anyone who has a medical condition that may be improved by dietary changes, I find this concept of not triggering your food insecurity to be an interesting and helpful one. A good way to approach any food related changes, if you’ve decided you’d like to make a change, is this: Of the changes that are recommended for x condition, which of these changes doesn’t trigger my food insecurity? Which of these changes does it make sense for me to experiment with, given what I’ve been through and my unique relationship with food and my body? Which does it not make sense to add in?