PCOS and Intuitive Eating Series: 5 Tips to Begin Intuitive Eating with PCOS
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, learner mindset.
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.
Here’s a few tips to get started with intuitive eating with PCOS:
Choose to start working WITH your body instead of against it. Stop the combat and surrender. Your body is not wrong. It was made perfectly. Although you may not fit the “ideal” body type set by unrealistic diet culture standards, your body is ideal. Stop constantly trying to change it’s appearance and start learning to work with it! Your body is intelligent, and uses symptoms as signals. When you start listening, you can start caring for the body you’re in right now and appreciate how it responds!
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 the second blog post in this series. Recognize the damage that dieting has caused in your own life: disordered eating, added stress, weight gain, 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 success, and ridding of the good vs. bad food mentality. Know that weight loss is not a behavior, it’s a symptom, and they are many other behaviors that can actually improve your PCOS.
Start tuning-in and truly listening to what your body is telling you. Be your body’s teammate. Consider what your body might be telling you about its current state of health and your PCOS? For example, you might consider how often you have strong cravings, how energized or fatigued you feel, how you’re sleeping, or if you’re having regular menstrual cycles.
Before, during and after meals, consider your level of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. How do foods make you feel? 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.
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 too 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.
Provide your body with gentle nutrition. Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, restrictive, or harsh, even with PCOS. Understanding your body needs food to live is a good place to start—it needs to eat enough and often. Restriction rarely works, and you are not an exception! 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. It can take some time to feel confident with your nutrition choices, especially with PCOS hormone imbalances. But it is possible with time and intention. You may experiment with nutrition changes and evaluate how they work for you! Choosing a variety of foods that feels good for your physical and mental health is important. Meals don’t have to be complicated to be nourishing! Remember, that carbohydrates, protein, and fats are ALL important and necessary!
Want to start eating intuitively, but feel you’d be better off with guidance and support?
Check out my PCOS Nutrition Coaching Program to learn more about how I can help you navigate PCOS without dieting!
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