5 Ways Intuitive Eating Changed My Life

Uncategorized Nov 19, 2018

This post is part of my Introduction to Intuitive Eating series. Check out “What is Intuitive Eating?” to start from the beginning.

Hi, I’m Madison!

Let me give you an idea of what Sunny Thymes is all about. I don’t subscribe to any diets. There are no “can’t haves” here. I’m all for intuitive eating: listening to your body to guide your food and exercise choices.

I want to share my intuitive eating journey with you because I want you to know that you are not alone! Because trust me. I’ve been where you are and I know how hard it can be.

How Intuitive Eating Found Me

I say Intuitive Eating found me, not that I found it because to be honest, I was not seeking it out nor did I think I needed to change my eating habits and behaviors. I struggled with an eating disorder in high school and by time I went to college, I thought I had fully recovered.

However (as I later realized), I was still living my life in a state of fear and anxiety around food and constantly obsessing over what to eat (or not eat). I was still following restrictive food rules, exercising to the point of causing myself chronic back pain and in a seemingly never ending cycle of anxiety.

I convinced myself (or diet culture convinced me) I’d have perfect health if I ate and exercised “perfectly”. But, the pursuit of perfect health was actually worse for my health than anything I could have eaten or not exercising at all. And it wasn’t until I discovered Intuitive Eating that I actually realized that.

I was reading a book about re-balancing hormones because of course, mine were super imbalanced from years of disordered eating. This book ended up leading me to another book about habits. Then, that book mentioned Intuitive Eating. I was immediately drawn to the concept and bought the book right away. It’s like the universe put me on a book scavenger hunt to lead me to exactly what I needed to heal my mind, body and spirit. If you stumbled upon this post, I hope you’ll take this as your sign to uncover what intuitive eating can mean for you.

When I started reading Intuitive Eating; I felt like it made so much sense! However, it was also a serious wake up call. It shed light on my disordered eating behaviors that I was still clinging to years after thinking I had recovered. Part of me was like “OMG this is genius, where has this been all my life?” and the other part of me was like “SHIT, I have some serious work to do”.

Learning to Practice Intuitive Eating

The first step for me was really rejecting everything I thought I knew to be true about health and nutrition (FYI this did not happen overnight). We live in a culture that convinces you that you can gauge a person’s health by their appearance (you can’t) and that if you eat THE perfect diet, then you will have perfect health (FALSE). It is extremely hard to unpack and dismantle your old beliefs about your body and health but it’s a crucial step in healing your relationship with food and your body.

The next step was intentionally breaking my food rules that I had religiously followed the last few years. For someone who’s a perfectionist like me, this was really difficult. I was literally terrified that eating the “wrong” foods would instantly cause me to be unhealthy. It got to a point where I literally didn’t know what to eat because I felt like for every food, I could google a reason why it was “bad” for me.

What helped me most in conquering this, was to ask myself “do I want to feel this way or do I want to be free?”. I had to continually remind myself to SURRENDER control and let my body lead the way. And guess what? None of the impending doom I expected occurred. Instead, the exact opposite did. The more I listened to and trusted my body, the more free, safe and energized I felt.

5 Ways Intuitive Eating Changed My Life

Before I discovered Intuitive Eating, I was having a lot of health issues (that of course, I blamed on not eating the perfect diet). In reality, the issues were caused by the stress of pursuing “perfect” health and the lack of variety of nutrients in my eating. As I started eating intuitively, my health improved DRASTICALLY. Here are some of the ways it did:

1. Healed My Hormones:

Before I discovered intuitive eating, I had blood tests done by my doctor and my hormones were extremely out of balance. My estrogen and progesterone were essentially non-existent and my cortisol (the stress hormone) was sky high, among other issues. Over the next few months, as I was practicing intuitive eating, my lab results continued to improve. At my latest visit, my doctor was super excited to tell me that ALL of my hormones are in balance again. And it feels reallyyyyyy good.

2. Reduced My Anxiety

Once I started eating intuitively, I realized how much mental space was previously being consumed obsessing over food and exercise. I have always been a perfectionist so anxiety is sort of in my nature. It took me a while to realize that trying to eat perfectly healthy all the time was actually a MAJOR source of my crippling anxiety. The more intuitively I ate (which led to living more intuitively in general), the less anxious I felt. It feels so good to have mental space for the things that really matter to me like my relationships, personal growth, sharing this message, etc.

3. I Went From Sleeping 3-4 Hours to 8 Hours a Night

This was a REVOLUTIONARY change for me. I used to have so much anxiety about not being able to fall asleep. I’d be so exhausted but as soon as I would get in my bed, my heart would pound uncontrollably, my breathing would become really shallow and I would feel mentally WIDE AWAKE (but so physically run down). Most nights, I would lay there miserably staring at the ceiling for several hours.

As I practiced intuitive eating, my sleep started to improve. The more I trusted my body with food, the more I trusted myself in all areas of my life. I began to slowly trust my body again to take care of me and put me to sleep at night. This process took several months and there were a lot of ups and downs but I can hardly believe that I am sleeping 8 hours almost every night now. It feels so incredible to wake up in the morning actually feeling well rested. This has definitely been the most life changing improvement for me because sleep affects EVERYTHING.

4. Healed My Chronic Back Pain

Intuitive Eating isn’t just about listening to your body with regards to food. It’s also about listening to your body with regards to movement. For years, I worked out 7 days a week thinking this was my golden ticket to perfect health. Working out was non-negotiable and it would interfere with me living my life. Eventually, I started getting really intense back pain and it lasted for 2 years. I kept thinking like “oh I can heal my back, I just have to be even MORE healthy” which perpetuated the cycle.

After reading the book Intuitive Eating, my ~intuition~ started telling me that I should not be working out 7 days a week and that was probably what was causing my back pain. My mom tried to tell me this before but I just did not want to listen. Finally, I gave in because I was willing to do anything to heal my back. I decided to give up working out until my body told me it was safe again. I forced myself to not work out for like 2-3 weeks. On one hand, it was so hard do this because working out had become part of my daily routine. On the other hand, I knew instinctively that it felt right and my body was so relieved to be given a break.

Lo and behold, about 2-3 weeks later, my back pain was GONE. I have since re-incorporated movement (not 7 days a week) because I really do love the way it makes me feel. But I listen to my body, rest when I need it and only move when I genuinely feel like it.

5. Made Me Happier

Overall, this journey has just made me happier in general. I have so much more room in my life for the things that fulfill me like building this business and deepening my relationships. Freedom feels soooo good.

Please note that this information is for educational and inspirational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. Not everyone who practices intuitive eating will experience the exact same results as I did.

Intuitive Eating is Imperfect

This is just a friendly reminder that Intuitive Eating does not have to be perfect. As a perfectionist, I have to constantly remind myself that there is no such thing as perfect eating. I was listening to the Let it Out Podcast the other day and the guest, Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian and reputable intuitive eating counselor, was saying even she still sometimes has disordered thoughts. It’s normal for these old thoughts to resurface sometimes and that is OKAY. It’s about how you move through these moments that matters. Release your judgement, have compassion and move on.

All of This Ultimately Led Me To Start Sunny Thymes

Before starting Sunny Thymes, I got asked about my recipes all the time and thought many times about starting a blog to share them. I’ve always loved cooking and creating recipes but I just couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted my niche to be. I didn’t JUST want to share my recipes. I wanted to share a deeper message but I wasn’t sure what that was. After reading Intuitive Eating, I immediately knew this was the message I was meant to share.

I am so grateful for you reading my story and I hope it helps you realize that you are not alone. And, YOU CAN 100% HAVE THIS FREEDOM AND MORE TOO. My mission and purpose behind Sunny Thymes and as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach is to help you tap into the wisdom of your mind, body and soul so you can unlock your freedom and create the life of your dreams.

This is the 2nd post in my Introduction to Intuitive Eating Series. To continue reading the series, check out the next post: How to Recognize and Reject the Diet Mentality.

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