Intuitive Eating and Meal Planning

Have you ever wondered how you can incorporate meal planning into your Intuitive Eating journey? Not sure it’s “allowed” or how to go about it? Sit back as you read through these tips and snag my how-to guide.

One of the barriers to Intuitive Eating I hear most often is the lack of structure. Chronic dieters thrive off of the ease of external rules. Labeling foods into “yes and no” categories, eliminating specific food groups, and using the clock for guidance certainly provides ease. Whether ordering in, or meal planning, these external rules narrow down options, prevent decision fatigue, and even give us a false sense of morality in “following the rules”. 

The problem with external rules as your guide for eating is in the sustainability and rigidity. When we “break” these rules, we feel like we’ve “broken” an oath with ourselves, and the pervasive diet culture we live in. This is a distressing situation that requires soothing. Research shows that even the perception of breaking a diet rule can lead to chaotic eating. In less professional terms, this is the “f*ck it” phenomenon. You ate the candy, you might as well go ham on the pizza, pasta, ice cream and crackers as well. There’s only one way to end the vicious restrict-binge cycle, and that’s by exploring an individualized, flexible and self-care oriented way of eating. You deserve a peaceful, sustainable and happy relationship with food and body. 

When we realize that the diet attempts and external rules we’ve subscribed to are no longer serving us, it can be hard to shift away from the structure, rigidity and clarity of dieting. The truth is Intuitive Eating is an abstract and flexible concept. It requires introspection and flexibility. At the heart of Intuitive Eating lies individualized self-care. So if you need a little more structure in your life, particularly in the early stages of transition, carve it in. I support people who need structure, all that I ask, is that we stay gentle and flexible in the process. 

I’m going to walk you through some tips for meal planning with a self-care mindset before I offer my free guide. 

Tip # 1 – Consider your capacity. Ask yourself the following questions:

“How busy does my schedule look?”

“What is a realistic amount of time I can spend in the kitchen this week?”  

“In the interest of energetic health – can I consider convenience from a restaurant/grocery store or ask for help from a friend, partner, or roommate?”

There’s nothing worse than making a to-do list for yourself that is laden with unrealistic expectations. Be real here. Do you have time for prepping meals? On the scale of rather chill to extremely overwhelming, what does your work/school/life schedule look like this week? From here, ask yourself what meal prepping/planning is going to look like? Do you have one day to prep or can you spread it out across a couple days? Would it benefit you to intentionally carve in take-out or the grocery store deal of the week? (Huge shoutout to Sprout’s $5 Sushi on Wednesdays in Denver).

Tip #2 – Plan to have 3 meals per day. 

Your body needs consistent and adequate nutrition. When working with my clients in recovery, we don’t move forward in talking about variety and nutrient density until adequacy is solid. I get that a busy lifestyle, medication interactions, stress and old habits may contribute to skipping meals or going longer than 4-5 hours without eating. The cells in your body aren’t as understanding as I am. In fact, they have better boundaries! If they don’t get the energy they need, consistently and adequately, those little fighters are gonna do what they need to do in order to practice cellular self-care. That might look like telling the brain to increase food thoughts or the metabolism to slow down. Your cells are also snitches, and they’ll tell your hormones that you’re not feeding them. The punishment there is the cold shoulder in the form of disconnection from hunger/fullness cues.

Eating patterns are rarely consistent and adequate when it comes to dieting, which is exactly why many people struggle with trusting their hunger and fullness cues. Regardless, we must channel logic and nourish ourselves anyway. Particularly if you are a busy human, I invite you to consider using flexible planning of 3 meals per day. You can always switch it up in the moment, but having a back up plan will provide a nice sense of security in getting those cells nourished. Adding 1-3 snacks in your day is often advised, especially if your meals are longer than 4-5 hours apart.

Tip # 3 – In Intuitive Eating and Meal Planning, we ALWAYS lead with Satisfaction. 

Last but certainly not least, comes satisfaction. Satisfaction includes all things like taste, temperature, texture, meal size, timing, variety, eating alone or with others, inside or outside, etc. The hub of Intuitive Eating is satisfaction. Many people limit this to their taste buds, however, this is so much more than just taste. Satisfaction factors in your eating environment. It considers how you feel before, during and after your meal. When exploring satisfaction, ask:

“Is my fullness comfortable?” 

“Are my taste buds longing for more or are they saturated?”

“Is my eating environment pleasant?” 

“Do I have an abundant or restrictive mindset?” 

“How’s my mood, am I curious or judgmental in my thoughtS?

After you consider these mindset tips for meal planning, I invite you to check out the Step-by-Step Intuitive Eating and Meal Planning Guide I have for you!

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