Yes, that's right — as much as I like the idea of intuitive eating, hearing JUST EAT INTUITIVELY can mean absolutely nothing to someone with an eating disorder or other food obsession.
Why Just Eat Intuitively Is BS Advice
We hear it all the time: Just eat intuitively, listen to your body and see what it wants, follow you hunger and you'll be fine!
That's great, but how do you do it if you have…
✅Been eating same things over and over again, over the last 5 or 10 years?
✅Always been on a diet?
✅Always been under eating?
✅Trusted others to make food choices for you (aka followed a meal plan which didn't work for you)?
✅Your hunger signals are gone because your appetite has constantly been suppressed? “Just follow your hunger” may sound nice but it gives us exactly zero tools to implement.
The 4 S System for Sustainable Eating
Instead, follow the 4 System. Here are the 4 S's to keep in mind:
We have to actually *like* the food we eat. No bland or gross food, something we've had day in and day out and can't even look at anymore. Start thinking: What would be a meal that I truly like? And eat that food. It may take some time to figure that out, but if you understand that no food should be off limits, it's much easier to do.
What we eat has to support our lifestyle, give us energy (both physical and mental), and overall support our health. Keep that in mind when eating — does this really support me? Or am I just trying to get by with as little as possible?
Food should satisfy our taste buds and hunger. It's possible to get full from a large meal but feel empty inside because the food wasn't enjoyable. Or, eat a tasty thing but too little so we're still hungry. We don’t want that.
A good meal should keep us full 3-5 hours. If it didn't, it wasn't large enough or didn't have enough protein/fat. Snacks are different, this is for full meals. Note thought that when you're recovering from an eating disorder or hypothalamic amenorrhea, your hunger cues may be different — you may be very hungry all the time. Then, eat as much as you need to sustain your body. Do not wait for 3 hours to eat if you're hungry sooner!
Put the 4S System In Practice
Start asking yourself these questions when you eat. Do I savor this, does it support my health & my goals, am I satisfied when I finish my meal, does it sustain me for several hours?
And remember, the 4S System is not another RULE. We've all had too many rules already. This is a guideline. Keep these 4 S's in mind most of the time but know that you don't have to be perfect with this.