Intuitive eating with PCOS is possible!
Intuitive eating is a non-diet framework created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that helps you break restrictive rules, use internal cues to guide nutrition choices, break the cycle of chronic dieting, and improve your relationship with food. It gives you the tools to change your mindset from restriction and rule-based thinking to a behavior-focused with compassion.
There are 10 principles in the intuitive eating framework. You can learn more about them in this blog post, or better yet, read the book!
The wonderful thing about intuitive eating is that it’s for EVERYONE—no matter your size, age, presence of medical conditions, etc. Intuitive eating is a flexible, no-rules way of eating that considers your individual health and needs, and can be used in any lifestyle.
Intuitive eating is a perfect match for PCOS! We already know that diets don’t work, and can even cause more harm for PCOS. Plus, PCOS is so individual—it looks and feels different for everyone. No one can tell you how PCOS feels, because you are the only one that knows how it feels in your body. You are the expert! Intuitive eating lends itself to helping you listen to your body, and respond to it’s needs without the outside noise and rules that confuse us into thinking we don’t know our own bodies. Intuitive eating helps us understand our bodies and guide us in making decisions that feel best for our bodies with PCOS.
How to begin intuitive eating with PCOS
Ditch the idea that dieting works for PCOS.
The first step is understanding that restrictive dieting does not work! If you need a refresher as to why dieting doesn’t work for PCOS–go to this blog post. Recognize the damage that dieting has caused in your own life: disordered eating, added stress, poorer body image, further damage to PCOS. The next step is ditching your food rules and dieting tools, removing the scale as a marker of progress for PCOS, ridding of the good vs. bad food mentality, and making peace with food.
Choose to start working WITH your body instead of against it.
Stop the body combat; the combat that makes you hate and punish your body through restriction, over-exercising, and anxiety. Your body is not wrong. Although you may not fit the “ideal” body type set by unrealistic diet culture standards, your body is still good. Start listening and responding to your body’s needs, not to change it but to care for it. This is body respect. Your body uses symptoms as signals. Approach these with curiosity and compassion. When you start listening, you can start caring for the body you’re in right now!
Start tuning in to your internal cues for hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.
Before, during and after meals, consider your level of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Are you getting too hungry? Too full? How do foods make you feel? Do you enjoy what you eat? Are you always hungry? Use your answers to these questions to guide you in creating a way of eating that works for your body! I recommend journaling about your body’s signals, what you notice, and what happened when you responded.
Address high insulin levels associated with PCOS
One consideration to keep in mind is that PCOS is often associated with high insulin levels, which may cause frequent hunger and strong cravings. This complicates intuitive eating. Addressing high insulin through nutrition, lifestyle, and medications/supplements is essential to feel more typical hunger and cravings. This will simplify intuitive eating, as it will reveal your body’s true hunger and fullness signals uninfluenced by high insulin and insulin resistance.
Learn to kindly cope with your emotions.
Food is emotional, and so is PCOS! When food is easily accessible and cravings are strong (as they often are with PCOS), it can be easy to use food as an emotional crutch during times of stress, depression, or anxiety. Recognize when this is happening, with self-compassion, and explore ways that you may be able to cope without using food, as food doesn’t usually fix the problem long-term. You may consider seeking a mental health provider that can help you navigate this, and/or opt for stress reduction activities like yoga, Epsom salt baths, listening to music, journaling, prayer or meditation, or whatever you find works best for you.
Do movement you enjoy.
Exercise is not a punishment for having PCOS. Choose movement that feels good and that you actually enjoy doing. Get creative. No gym required.
Provide your body with gentle nutrition.
Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, restrictive, or harsh, even with PCOS. When you’ve practiced tuning-in and recognizing internal signals, you’ll be able to decide what foods help your body feel good, in what amounts, and when. A good place to start is simply eating three nourishing meals per day, and then snacks when needed. Eating ENOUGH is the first step.
Take what you know about PCOS and how nutrition can influence it. Focus on what you can ADD to nourish your body and improve PCOS symptoms. Keep in mind ways to help balance blood sugar and improve inflammation, as these are what drive PCOS.
At the same time, consider what you want, what foods you enjoy and how you feel mentally and physically!
Want to start eating intuitively, but feel you’d be better off with guidance and support?
Check out the 1:1 Peace with PCOS Experience to learn more about how I can help you navigate PCOS without dieting!
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