Keto and Intuitive Eating

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Intuitive eating is kind of a big thing these days. It makes sense, society as a whole isn’t doing too well health-wise, and everyone’s sick of counting calories. Suddenly, “intuitive eating” sounds like some sort of no-diet miracle, and less of a basic survival mechanism that somehow managed to be ingrained in most species. Well, it’s no miracle, but intuitive eating and low carb diets actually work pretty gosh darned well together, which brings us to the point: keto and intuitive eating. It may sound a little suspicious that a way of eating that categorically avoids foods can be intuitive, but hear me out, friends…

What is Intuitive Eating?

We’ll just give a basic overview, but intuitive eating boils down to eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are full. We’ve all experienced emotional eating, or eating because we’re bored. Sometimes we eat when we’re actually thirsty, or because the food is there. Intuitive eating aims to cut through all of this, and try to retrain your brain and body to want food when you’re hungry, and to stop wanting food when you’re full. I know , amazing.

How Do You Eat Intuitively?

It the core, it’s actually really simple – eat when you’re hungry. Actually hungry. I realized a while ago that I wasn’t very good at this, and that I’d eat based on what an app told me to do, or just eat based on how I was feeling emotionally. Over the years, I discovered a few tricks that helped me figure out if I was actually hungry, and most of the time they work. There are also a few hints for the actual meal time, which can help you stop when you’re full.

Quick Intuitive Eating Tips:

  • Take a few sips of water before eating – I often find I’m just thirsty when I think I’m hungry.
  • If the craving is for a certain food, imagine yourself eating other foods instead. Are those foods satisfying? Does cheese sound appealing? Broccoli? If you think of other foods, but they don’t sound appetizing (foods you normally like, that is), maybe that craving was really just that.
  • Ask yourself whether you’re just thirsty, or bored.
  • Be present – focus on the meal at hand, and avoid having distractions like your phone, computer or a TV at hand.
  • Serve smaller portions for yourself. You can always go back, and this way you’re not just finishing food you’re not hungry for, because it’s there.
  • An oldie but a goodie – eat slowly, and chew each bite completely. You don’t have to count to a certain number, but chewing can help you digest food better and will allow your body to understand when it’s full.
intuitive eating binge
By: Photo and Share CC

So, How Can You Reconcile Keto and Intuitive Eating?

Traditionally, the idea behind intuitive eating is that all foods are included, and you aren’t restricting anything. Obviously, this isn’t the case with a ketogenic diet. Most carbohydrate-laden foods are avoided, and a carb limit is enacted. So, it would seem that keto is an incredibly monitored and not-so freeform way of eating.

Of course, this is typically just at the beginning. For most keto-ers, there comes a point where cravings disappear, and the need to count calories and carbs and avoid certain foods fades into the background. This is the point where intuitive eating begins.

One of the benefits of a ketogenic diet that many (but not all!) followers seem to experience, is the disappearance of food cravings. The more benign thoughts of, “oh, I could go for a doughnut,” won’t completely go away, but that nagging feeling that you MUST have that doughnut can, and will. With serious cravings out of the picture, finding a more balanced way to eat becomes second nature.

Eating intuitively on a ketogenic or low carb diet is incredibly simple. Ketogenic diets especially allow you to become more in touch with your body and to understand different signals and feelings. Once this piece is in place, the rest will come together.

How to Start Intuitive Eating on Keto

As mentioned before, intuitive eating isn’t rocket science. You can buy books on the subject, and do worksheets and meditations and the like. Or, you can just dive in and learn to listen to your body.

  1. Get a hold of keto – if you’re body isn’t fully fat adapted, this will make intuitive eating hard. It’s challenging to know what you’re body needs if you’re still in the midst of a carb addiction. Before you start to try and eat intuitively, spend at least few weeks counting carbs as needed and really understanding what your body feels like when eating the “right” amount of food.
  2. Stop Counting – At the beginning of a ketogenic diet, you’ll want to count carbohydrates and calories to have an understanding of what servings and your daily intake of food really means. Once you’ve been practicing for a few weeks, you can stop tracking so obsessively. Some people refer to this as “lazy keto.”
  3. Let Go – Yup, let go of the reigns and trust yourself for at least a few weeks before you hop on the scale, or measure progress in any way. There’s going to be a small period of trial and error before you fully get the hang of things. You just have to trust that you know what you’re doing.
  4. Go Easy On Yourself – Guilt and shame aren’t really helpful feelings when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Instead of feeling bad that you ate something “off plan,” or had a mini binge, use it as a learning experience. Maybe you discovered that you CAN have a cookie here and there and it doesn’t make you crazy. Maybe you just learn that peanut butter is not yet a food you can stop yourself from bingeing on just yet. Whatever the case, try to look at things as a step forward. This simple re-frame can help you stay on track and prevent that shame spiral that could lead to more bingeing.

Know When to Get Back to the Basics

Your first attempt at an intuitive eating plan may not go as expected. It might just be too soon, and you realize that you’re starting to fall back on old habits. This is totally fine. No need to panic – there are two ways you can deal with this: staying the course, and jumping back to a stricter form of keto.

Staying the Course

So, you don’t want to give up just yet! Totally fine! Maybe you’re just experiencing a bit of a hiccup. Stay mindful of what you eat and practice the intuitive eating tips mentioned above. This could just be a minor setback that you correct on your own!

Back to Counting on Keto

You may realize that you just aren’t ready to fully practice intuitive eating, and that’s fine, too! Counting your macros and calories isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly help many people. If you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, and overeating on an intuitive eating plan, you may want to take it back a step. Even if you just count carbs without counting calories, or just count calories and try to stick to low carb foods. Either way, introducing a little structure can help you get back on track until you’re ready to give intuitive eating another go.

Let me know!

Have you tried intuitive eating? How did you feel about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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