How to Transition from Calorie Counting to Intuitive Eating

After learning what it means to be an intuitive eater, most people feel a little skeptical about the whole thing. I know I did! It seems like most of us are hardwired to check labels for the calorie count as a way to evaluate nutrition, so it’s no wonder that we have doubts about the whole "unconditional permission to eat" whatever you want, whenever you want, thing. The reason why counting calories (or points, or macros for that matter) can be problematic, is that it's moving you away from the actual food and moving you towards a math problem that can be stressful and miss the mark nutritionally speaking. 

Calorie counting often feels comfortable and safe. You might be asking how you can make the transition away from that without feeling a little out of control? Here are a few simple ideas:

Ask yourself some questions.

What do you like and dislike about calorie counting? How does it serve you? What are the alternatives? By taking the time to actually write down your responses, you can start to pinpoint where you stand on some of these. For instance, counting might seem like the "right" thing to do for your health, but could actually be leaving you feeling unsatisfied after meals and always searching for something more. 

Track thoughts, feelings and emotions around food.

If you want to track something but still move away from the numbers, this could be helpful for you in the short-term. In my master's program, one of my instructors developed a tool that she called the Eating Behavior Diary which encouraged tracking mood, hunger/satiety, and even who accompanies you at meal times. This allows for identifying emotional eating and potentially the mechanism behind it. I have used this approach with a handful of clients and it tends to be helpful. 

Work on one meal at a time.

Changing a behavior is hard. One way you might ease yourself toward a more intuitive approach is by taking it one meal at a time. Breakfast might be a good place to start since there is typically less involved than with other meals. For some general direction, strive to include a source of protein, complex carbohydrate and heart-healthy fat for a satisfying combo (no number crunching required). 

Ultimately, you know what’s best for you and this might not be a shift you want to explore right now (or ever, which is totally fine). If it is, now might be the perfect opportunity to start. If you want to discuss it further, feel free to get in touch with me and I would love to help you reach that goal!

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