Y’all may or may not know this… but when Barry and I first got together, we were both significantly larger than we are now. We both lost a fairly decent amount of weight before we were married and in the early years of our marriage. I used to weight nearly 170 pounds and Barry weighed over 300 pounds at one point in his life. I have lost a good bit and Barry is down around 200 pounds. How did we do it…?
By learning the art of intuitive eating!
Stacy: People often ask us both how we lost weight and kept it off. And the answer – intuitive eating – is not typically what people expect to hear. It took us both several years, but ultimately we have lost weight and kept if off by focusing on intuitive eating.
Now that doesn’t mean our weight doesn’t fluctuate, nor that we’re perfect at the whole idea of when/what to eat. We are not dieting, so our bodies naturally change here and there. So, with that said, what does it look like to eat intuitively?
Intuitive eating means that I listen to my body: I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
Barry: While it sounds like a simple thing and is an easy concept to grasp, it’s actually difficult to put into practice. As odd as it sounds to say this, I didn’t grow up eating when I was hungry – I ate for all kinds of reasons – and no reason at all. Eating was such a social thing or a way to handle boredom.
Stacy: If there was food, I would eat it. It never mattered to me before if I was hungry. It never occurred to me to think before I eat. For some reason, I just never thought to stop and ask myself if I was actually hungry or not. I just ate. And I certainly never listened to my body and stopped eating if I was full.
Some of y’all might be shocked because you grew up differently – knowing to listen to your body. But that just wasn’t the case for me. Food was always around when I was growing up. In my family, we ate because we were bored. We ate because we had company over. Or because it was a Sunday. Or a Tuesday. We ate All. The. Time. And a lot of the time I would eat until my stomach hurt and I couldn’t barely move.
Intuitive eating changed all that.
Barry: If I come home from work and I’m not hungry, I don’t eat just because it’s 6 pm and that is typically dinner time. If I’m not hungry, I do some work or play with the kids until I’m actually ready to eat. Stacy sends breakfast and lunch to work with me each day. Before I started intuitive eating, I would eat breakfast in the car on the way to work each morning. Then I would eat an early lunch because I was so hungry. And I’d be starving again around 2 pm!
Now, I eat breakfast whenever I am hungry.
This is actually a huge change for me. Because I’ve learned that I’m actually not hungry for breakfast before 9:30 or 10 some days, and some days I’m eating around 8:30. But I never eat at 7:15 like I used to. The joke around the office is that I’m on West Coast time. But I don’t care if it’s different from the norm and what people usually do. What’s best for me is to eat when I’m actually hungry!
You have to be comfortable with people thinking you’re weird.
Stacy: I learned to listen to my body and stop mindlessly eating. If my stomach told me I was hungry, I ate. But if I wasn’t hungry, I would listen to my body and wait until I actually was. That might mean that I missed a meal in the traditional sense. But I was flexible with my eating schedule – listening to my body instead of following a schedule.
I have a bad past history with food and exercise. I spent a lot of time abusing food and exercise. It caused some emotional scarring. So much so, that I don’t like to talk about what I eat publicly anymore. But this concept of intuitive eating changed my perspective and I think more people need to know about it. If you’re not hungry – don’t feel pressured to eat!
I’ll admit that when it comes to food, I have in the past not been the best mother either.
I’ve pressured my children to eat because it was meal time. I would think that if it was lunch time and they weren’t eating, it was my job to MAKE my kids eat. Then it hit me one day when I was making them eat even though they said they weren’t hungry. What am I doing here? Why should my kids have to eat if they aren’t hungry if don’t like to eat when I’m not hungry?!
Don’t get me wrong, I still make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my kids.
Meal planning can make all the difference. And most of the time, they are hungry and eat at least a few bites. But what I’ve realized is that just because I put out their meals and say let’s eat, it doesn’t mean they are actually hungry. If they don’t want a meal or snack, I will wrap it up and save it for later. I don’t stress if they aren’t hungry at the set meal times.
Barry: Why is it that everyone is supposed to get hungry at 7am, noon and 6pm and that’s it? I just don’t think that’s the way this is supposed to work. If you’re hungry, eat – if you’re not, don’t! It really is that simple, but as we said, it’s not that easy because in our culture so much of everything revolves around food.
Stacy: I know some of y’all might do this already.
But in our part of the culture here in Virginia, this is not the way it is. I had to learn to listen to my body – and to be comfortable with not eating if I’m not hungry. Sometimes this means that Barry and I eat dinner at 9 pm. We wait until we are actually hungry to eat!
I still do food planning, and my goal is to make food to have when we are hungry. But I make mostly things that reheat well or are made to be eaten cold. That way I can pull food out when everyone is hungry and can reheat as people need it. And this way, I’m not a short order cook making food all day long. But I always have good, healthy food available for them to eat when they are hungry.
Barry: I work at a company where lunch is 12-1. You work 8-noon and 1-5. If there are instances where I have to eat at a certain time, I might have a small snack instead of a meal. Snacks are a huge help. It’s not ideal, but you sometimes might need to make decisions based on your day and schedule, especially when we’re traveling. If I’m on an airplane, I have to make sure I bring along plenty of options so if hunger strikes I don’t find myself empty-handed. Literally.
Stacy: Please keep in mind this isn’t a post about weight loss, and it isn’t a post about dieting. It is a post about actually listening to your body instead of just looking at a clock.