It can be convenient and tempting to define and categorise the Beyond Chocolate approach as Intuitive Eating and I have often struggled both with the term itself and with the idea of labelling what we do as intuitive eating. I think the term is too generic and doesn’t acknowledge the complexities and complications that many of us experience with our relationship with food. The idea that the answer is to rely on our intuition (whatever that means you to) and that we need to respond to our intuitive desire to eat and stop eating and all will be well, seems far too simplistic to me.
I have no beef or problem at all with the Intuitive Eating movement, it’s just that it’s not for me and it’s not what we do. Yes, Beyond Chocolate is about listening to our bodies AND it is also about noticing how our minds sabotage our bodies’ signals and cues, how years of dieting muddles our intuition to such a huge degree that recognising and responding to our hunger is far, far more complex that it sounds.
Eat when you are hungry – at first glance this could be interpreted as intuitive eating and yet, truly exploring this principle means that it is so much more than that. How do you know when you are hungry? Really, how do you know? If you simply rely on your body’s physical signals, you may confuse anxiety for hunger, you might confuse thirst for hunger, you might think you are hungry all the time… or very little, then what? If you don’t pay attention to your thoughts, you might find that you tell yourself you are hungry when in fact, what you are responding to and confusing for hunger are age old habits and beliefs about when you should eat and when you shouldn’t. Sometimes the sensations and thoughts that accompany anxiety or tiredness can get muddled and we interpret them as hunger… It’s not as straightforward as the concept of intuitive eating would suggest.
Tuning-in and really getting to know what drives your eating is something that takes time and curiosity and a lot of practice. How come some days I feel hungry and some days I don’t? How does the kind of food I eat impact how hungry I feel? How do I untangle my beliefs and my emotions from my eating? Not just from what we think of as overeating but from the every day, ordinary eating we do to keep ourselves alive. My intuition is a fickle and subtle creature and I have had to do one hell of a lot of tuning-in to answer all those questions. For example, for a long time I thought I was hungry when I felt that familiar pulling sensation in my belly and then, when I observed more closely, I realised that I live with a low level of anxiety which sometimes feels more intense and can feel a lot like my hunger. It’s very helpful to recognise the difference. Thinking that we have to eat intuitively is also a royal pain in the ****! If I can only eat when I’m hungry then quite frankly my life is unmanageable. If I live by that concept as a rule, a rigid ideal, the perfect solution, then when do I get to eat cake? And what happens if my job or my daily activities mean that following my unpredictable stomach hunger makes meals impossible to plan or predict?
Beyond Chocolate is not about complicating things and making our lives revolve around food. It’s fine to plan. It’s fine to choose to eat breakfast before I leave the house, hungry or not, because it fits into my day. It’s fine to have a piece of cake with my tea just because it tastes gorgeous. That is not intuitive eating. That’s being my own guru. That is taking all the Beyond Chocolate principles and fitting them into my life rather than fitting myself into any kind of system or programme. Even one that calls itself intuitive eating.
Above all else Beyond Chocolate is about tuning-in and being your own Guru. The more you tune-in, the more you find out about yourself and your eating, the more choice you have and making those choices is how we step into being our own Guru. Yes, we can always go back to a programme or a diet or a system that suggests we eat at certain times or that we cut out certain foods or that we listen to our bodies and respond to our intuitive needs (whatever the plausible reasons for these suggestions) and at the end of the day we will be squeezing ourselves into someone else’s idea of what works. The challenge of Beyond Chocolate is to find out what works for you, not what system works but what feels good and manageable and ticks all the boxes you want to tick.
When we can put weight loss on hold for long enough to tune-in and really discover what our eating is all about and to experiment with different ways of meeting all our needs, for food and for nourishment of all kinds, then we can truly taste the freedom of a way of eating which works on every level. And that’s the key: TO PUT WEIGHT LOSS ON HOLD. It’s not what many of us want to hear and the truth of it stares me in the face every single day. The more we focus on weight loss, the more we go round in circles. Losing it, yes, and then putting it back on, endlessly. If you are here, reading about Beyond Chocolate, then the diets have failed you at least once. Focusing on weight loss is 100% guaranteed to see you yo-yoing for ever. After 12 years of working with women on their relationship with food and 14 years of working on my own, it’s the one thing I can state with absolute certainty and confidence. It can take years to really become our own Gurus, god knows I’m still walking that path… and it is the most satisfying, empowering, enjoyable, moving and liberating path I have ever walked. Weight loss will come, if that’s what we want. It’s just the the way there doesn’t look like we thought it would and it takes far, far longer than most of us would like and far longer than the diets promise.
Beyond Chocolate and Intuitive Eating are not, never were and never will be the same thing. Putting the two in bed together muddles and confuses things. Beyond Chocolate is nothing other than the clever marketing name of our company and the philosophy at the heart of our organisation is YOU. You, unique, intelligent, knowledgeable, curious, powerful and free. YOU and whatever matters to you. And because as humans we achieve things so much more quickly and easily with support, that’s what Beyond Chocolate is here to provide and enable.
So, I invite you to tune-in, be curious, to ask far more questions than you think you need to, to question anything that you think of as your intuition and find out it more about it and to be open to the unexpected, the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar… Prepare to turn your intuition on its head and discover what really makes you tick, and eat!