I recently received this question from a reader:
Can I eat intuitively while also eating paleo?
This is a very common question from people who are initially introduced to intuitive eating. They often wonder if they can still eat intuitively while adhering to any sort of diet or protocol (such as paleo).
Because this question necessitates more than a yes or no response, I promised this reader a blog article in response to her query.
What is intuitive eating?
First, it’s important to understand what intuitive eating actually is. To me, intuitive eating is eating based on cues and signals given to you by your body. The words “your body” are key here because intuitive eating is not eating according to someone else’s thoughts on how you should eat or what you should and should not eat. Intuitive eating is all you. It’s about listening to your body, trusting it, not being judgmental towards it, and truly respecting it, meaning providing your body with the nourishment that it needs to feel happy and satisfied.
Rather than depriving oneself, intuitive eating involves recognizing the reasons for eating for reasons other than hunger, as well as recognizing the reasons for eating beyond one’s sense of fullness, without judgment. When eating intuitively, it is important you get your mindset around food right. One of my favorite tools for getting your mindset right around food is to allow yourself to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Basically, when we restrict foods, we are not eating intuitively.
However, there are times when “restriction” of certain foods can still be considered intuitive and this is when you are not restricting certain foods due to fear of gaining weight or any body image related reasons, as well as any food fears in general.
When restriction is allowed
The only time “restriction” of certain foods would still be considered “intuitive” is if it is deeply and honestly for your health and this is because intuitive eating is about respecting your body and honoring it. If a food does not affect you in a positive way, you are doing your body a loving service by not having this food at all or on a regular basis (which we will talk about later in this post.)
For an example, I know that (some times within a matter of minutes) dairy causes me to have acne. Additionally, I either experience constipation or diarrhea from it as well.
As for gluten, I have not been tested for Celiac disease, but I know from personal experience, after I eliminated gluten from my diet, I no longer suffered from months of constipation (yes, I said months) and my depression and anxiety also ceased. That is reason enough for me to no longer consume gluten.
I personally choose to eat the way I do because of my health. Something that has also helped me is to not label the way I eat. I do not label my diet as “paleo” or any other diet name. I truthfully eat whatever I want, whenever I want and that is how I am able to eat intuitively, yet still refrain from eating dairy, gluten, and some other foods most of the time.
The reasoning behind your “restriction” is crucial.
You must be completely honest with yourself and know, deep down that you are doing it for the right reasons (and not the wrong ones such as food fears or body image issues).
If you’re struggling with the distinction, something that helps me is knowing I can have the foods I avoid (ie. dairy and gluten) whenever I want. I will occasionally eat ice cream with my boyfriend, use butter if there is nothing else to use, or munch on some cheese, but, while doing this, I know I will be negatively affected, but continue to enjoy dairy at times because I truly want it, deep down.
You may not experience hunger cues if you’ve been dieting for a long time (even decades! ), yo-yo dieting, or have an eating problem. If you don’t get those cues or don’t know what they are or how to detect them, it’s difficult to eat intuitively and respond to hunger. Ignoring hunger cues on a regular basis tames them to the point where you don’t have any at all!
Intuitive eating generates benefits for physiological and psychological health. Eating intuitively will allow to exclude the notions of overweight, obesity, body index and body satisfaction as well as the restrictive behaviors linked to dieting, anxiety about food, as well as concerns about the nutritional content of food.
Read also: Is FOMO Sabotaging Your Health?
Intuitive eating is all about listening to yourself, trusting yourself, and providing yourself with what will truly make you happy, deep down. And, like I said, sometimes that does include dairy for me (despite my negative reactions to it).
Lastly, I hope, after more time spent on healing my gut, I will be able to incorporate dairy more regularly into my diet, but for now I am focused on healing my digestive system. That is another way to identify if you are avoiding a certain food(s) for the right reason. Many sensitivities/intolerance can be reduced or completely eliminated with a gut healing protocol.