Intuitive Eating For Men
One of the best-known tools for dealing with eating disorders or a negative relationship with food is intuitive eating. Much of the content around this is more geared towards women, which makes sense as women are disproportionately more affected by eating disorders than men. But I wanted to talk a little bit about intuitive eating for men too.
Before we get too far, let me add my normal disclaimer.
I’m not a dietitian, nutritional therapist or qualified medical professional. While intuitive eating is a helpful tool, it is important that for it to apply to you and your circumstances, you work with someone who is in a more qualified position to be able to support and guide you.
In other words, an actual professional rather than a podcast.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is the idea of listening to the signals your body is giving you in terms of the food and drink that it wants or needs and honouring those signals. In other words, rely on your intuition.
It is not a diet – in fact, it is the opposite in a sense as it rejects the idea of dieting.
You won’t be labelling foods as good or bad for you or forcing yourself to restrict the way you would if you were on a diet.
But on the flipside, it’s not a blanket invitation to just eat as much as you want whenever you want.
It is trusting your body’s signals to guide you on its wants or needs.
It’s not specifically focused on weight loss or weight gain, just on nourishing your body and allowing it to tell you what to give it.
Benefits Of Intuitive Eating
Another disclaimer here. None of the benefits of intuitive eating come automatically or easily. They take hard work and consistent application of the principles of intuitive eating, which I will come on to shortly as well.
You learn to be in tune with your body’s signals again
Your body is pretty smart and once upon a time probably knew how to signal when it was hungry or when it was full, when it was getting enough nutrition and when it wasn’t.
And then we started sticking to rigid meal times, yo-yo dieting, suppressing hunger and messing with that internal signalling.
Intuitive eating can help you get back to listening to your body.
You appreciate food more
You can stop seeing food as good or bad for you and can appreciate the taste and texture much more.
You learn the foods you like and dislike and how changing your nutrition can positively or negatively impact your body and how you feel.
You stop feeling guilty about food
You can finally stop feeling guilty about eating certain things or treating your diet like a question of morality. You also remove any emotional stigma around foods and don’t demonise them as maybe you once did.
You find balance
You learn to give your body the nutrition and nourishment it needs while also allowing yourself to enjoy those “less nutritious” things you like to enjoy sometimes.
Can Intuitive Eating Cause Weight Gain Or Weight Loss?
One of the common worries with intuitive eating is that it can lead to a weight change.
And while for many that is a question of gaining weight, for some it might also be a question of losing weight.
And where that concern comes from can depend on your own experience and background.
As I mentioned, intuitive eating isn’t a diet or eating plan so shouldn’t be attached to a weight-based goal. But yes, it is possible and often likely that a change in eating habits from intuitive eating will lead to a weight change.
If you have spent years trying to keep your weight down and have spent a long time trying to diet and restrict yourself, then loosening up on those restrictions may indeed lead to gaining some weight.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
Finally allowing your body to get the volume of food and nutrition that it has been asking for is not a bad thing.
Learning to find a balance between health and enjoying your food is not a bad thing.
You may find the increased nutrition will have a positive impact on your health, energy levels, mood, confidence levels and overall sense of well-being.
On the flip side, in some cases, it may also lead to weight loss.
If for example you have been dealing with binge eating disorder and this has caused weight gain, like it often does, then a better relationship with food may help handle this. You may find that change will make you binge less or the symptoms will become more manageable.
That in turn may mean fewer and smaller binges, which may mean eating less overall, which can lead to losing weight.
How any weight change manifests will largely depend on where you are in your relationship with food, what you are trying to achieve and your own past experience.
Intuitive Eating For Men – My Experience
I’ve never worked with a professional on intuitive eating so my experience is entirely from my own reading and therefore a bit skewed.
But when I did try intuitive eating for binge eating disorder when I was going through a particularly rough phase.
I used to be prone to food binges in the evening after dinner. So I could end up having 2,000 calories in a day up to and including dinner and then if I binged after that I could wind up on 3,500-4,000 calories, so more or less double.
That is an estimate by the way because I never really counted my binge calories.
When I tried to apply intuitive eating principles in the middle of a binge, that just didn’t work. A food binge like that doesn’t have an on/off switch and neither does intuitive eating.
But I did find that if I was more mindful and thoughtful of my nutrition during the day and often ate a little bit more and with some more flexibility, I felt fuller. And if I was then under the same stress or triggers as what normally caused me to binge, my mind wouldn’t immediately turn to food.
So it did help in that sense.
And these days (at the time of writing) I am eating a bit more as I am trying to gain muscle, and eating more for binge eating disorder does seem to have helped. I have not been hungry so when stressed, I have been distracting myself with something else.
10 Principles Of Intuitive Eating
There are 10 principles of intuitive eating that I want to talk you through here, which give some guidance on how to apply it to your everyday life.
Reject Diet Mentality
Dieting doesn’t work for you and if it did, you wouldn’t be trying new ones. So maybe it is time to move on.
Honour Your Hunger
Eat when your body tells you it is hungry and stop when you feel full.
Hunger isn’t a bad thing that you need to suppress or demonise.
Make Peace With Food
This isn’t a war. No foods should be off-limits or banned (medical reasons aside). If you want to have something, you should feel comfortable enough to allow yourself to have it.
Ironically when you give yourself that flexibility, the cravings for those kinds of foods can go away as you realise you can have it whenever you ant anyway.
Challenge The Food Police
Stop letting other people tell you that foods have to be labelled as good or bad or that you’re a sinner because of something specific you eat. Don’t let others project their own food views on to you.
Feel Your Fullness
Just like it’s important to pay attention when you’re hungry, it is important to listen to your body telling you it is full. That way you learn to eat to the point of fullness, not to feeling overly full or stuffed.
Try to eat distraction-free or without multi-tasking. So when you eat, it is your sole focus.
That way you can make the most of the experience of eating, and really focus on enjoying the taste and texture of what you are having.
Cope With Your Feelings Without Food
Food does tie to emotions for many of us. That’s why we resort to comfort eating, stress eating and boredom eating.
And as a short-term fix, it can work to sedate whatever we’re feeling. But it doesn’t address the underlying cause. And that is why we can keep going back to emotional eating.
So while you are working through that cause, try to find another way to deal with whatever you’re feeling. You could go for a walk, take up a hobby, try a puzzle – something to keep your hands busy or to keep you away from food.
I started adult colouring books. That doesn’t mean anything X-rated. I mean colouring books specifically designed for adults.
Respect Your Body
Your body is 100% unique to you, your background and your lived experience.
So stop trying to compare your lived-in body to unrealistic standards that you see by comparing yourself to other bodies.
Exercise And Feel The Difference
Be active and exercise in a way that you enjoy and gives you a sense of satisfaction.
It doesn’t have to be about calorie burn or chasing an aesthetic goal. it should be about having fun and enjoying the experience.
There is no perfect way to work out. You can lift weights, run, climb, dance, hike, throw axes or anything else physical that your body will thrive from.
For me, it has been long walks listening to podcasts. It keeps me mentally and physically engaged and I have loved it.
Honour Your Health
Focus on gentle nutrition and aim for progress instead of perfection.
Don’t just focus on calories and macros. Find a balance between giving your body the nutrition it needs and the foods that you enjoy.
An occasional treat or indulgence won’t derail you or take the balance away from an overall balanced diet.
So really the aim is progress rather than perfection.
Intuitive Eating Is Different For Everyone
The best way to explain how unique and personal intuitive eating is for each person is with an infographic I once aw on Instagram that I haven’t been able to find again.
It was just an image of a plate of cookies.
And the caption explained how progress will look different for different people.
- For 1 person, progress might be having 1 cookie and not feeling guilty about it.
- For 1 person, progress might be being able to stop at 1 cookie.
- For someone else progress might be being able to have as many cookies as they want without feeling the need or urge to count them.
We all have different experiences and lives and so success and progress will look different for each of us.
Getting Help With Intuitive Eating For Men
As I mentioned, the best place to get help is through a qualified professional. And if you Google search “intuitive eating therapist [your town]” you will find some recommendations.
That will always be better than relying on social media, the internet and a podcast. As you will have a very unique experience and might need guidance that is specific and actionable based on the life you have lived.
But a therapist is often financially out of reach for me, especially given at the time of writing this we’re in a period of high inflation and a cost of living crisis.
So I have included some free resources below that I would recommend checking out for help: