Meal time is meant to be an enjoyable experience but tracking food can sometimes add a level of stress that makes food seem scary. For some, it can lead to dreading meals as well as social outings involving food with friends and family. For others, you may have enjoyed tracking for a time but you’re ready for that season of your life to be over.
Intuitive Eating Defined
Intuitive eating is a style of eating that allows you to follow the signs your body shows you as to what it needs. It’s about following your body’s hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues and promotes a positive relationship with both food as well as body.
How Tracking Can Help with Intuitive Eating
While intuitive eating is the ultimate goal, oftentimes it’s not as intuitive as you may think. Our hunger cues are often dysregulated due to chronic dieting or fad diets. Yo-yo dieting causes your body to go into survival mode and leads to dysregulated appetite signals. You may realize that early on in your health journey that your signals may be slightly off or wrong altogether. Waking up in the morning without an appetite is the perfect example of a dysregulated appetite. At that point, as you’ve been fasting for multiple hours, you should absolutely wake up hungry.
This is why tracking is a great tool to learn from and bring you closer to intuitive eating. It helps build awareness around how much and how often you’re actually eating, helps you learn about the makeup of different foods, and can even encourage you to choose healthier options. If you haven’t already, read this post to weigh the pros and cons to determine whether tracking is right for you.
How to Know if You’re Ready for Intuitive Eating
If you’re someone who has been tracking food or has tracked it in the past and found it made the experience of eating food less than desirable, it’s time to transition away from tracking and towards intuitive eating.
If you’ve ever experienced an eating disorder, intuitive eating is shown to be associated with positive body image, greater emotional functioning, as well as less disordered eating.
Or if you found tracking helpful and you’re simply ready to try something new, intuitive eating is an excellent goal to strive for.
Regardless, tracking is meant to be a temporary tool; it’s not meant to be forever. If you’ve been tracking for a while and are ready to transition, there are some stepping stones and other tools that can be helpful in order to truly embrace intuitive eating so that you can continue the progress you’ve made so far. Here are some options for you.
How to Transition
Utilize the Hand Method
This method is somewhere in between tracking and intuitive eating. It allows you to take what you’ve learned through tracking but instead of relying on exact numbers, you eyeball your food to get a good idea of portion sizes. We’re a huge fan of the hand method as it can provide means to help you gauge that you’re not over or undereating and not having to deal with the stress of tracking every little morsel you eat. In other words, it’s a great method in and of itself, as well as an excellent stepping stone towards intuitive eating.
A serving of protein is approximately the size of your palm, a portion of veggies is the size of your fist, a serving of carbs is a cupful in your hand, and a serving of fat is roughly the size of your thumb. When you sign up for our macro calculator, you'll receive an email with a PDF that'll help you learn how many servings you should target, and how this method can be applied in real life.
Track On Occasion
Some may find that tracking occasionally is the most helpful option to help you transition. Tracking every once in a while just to check in and make sure you’re truly eating the way you believe you have been can be exactly what you need to feel good about your new direction. This is where tracking comes in as a very useful tool. It can be used to check in on yourself periodically and as a friendly reminder that you’re still on track. Or to let you know that you may not be as in tune with your body as you may have thought.
Start a Food Journal
Even with tracking, a food journal can be helpful since it’s another tool to help you become more aware of your body’s signals and how you feel. Used by itself, it’s a great way to focus on the positives of your journey thus far, especially if you feel a little lost by no longer tracking. In your journal, you can ask yourself questions like, “how can you build on the successes of your week”, which will continue to help you build good habits whether or not you’re tracking as the same time.
As I mentioned earlier, intuitive eating isn't always as intuitive as you'd think. On top of yo-yo dieting causing our hunger signals to become dysregulated, processed food is engineered to want us to eat more of it... making it even harder to notice fullness cues. That being said, when we take the time to learn how to eat intuitively through tracking, the hand method, or journaling, intuitive eating is the end goal we hope for everyone. In the long run, it's the most sustainable approach for any and all health goals.