Get Educated on Intuitive Eating

An expert interview with Molly Bigford, MS, Registered Dietitian Level 3

You may have heard the buzz about intuitive eating, but what is it really? And how does it fit into a healthy eating plan for adults with cystic fibrosis (CF)?

Always work with your CF care team before making any changes to your diet.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is not a diet—it’s an approach to eating that is centered on listening to your hunger and fullness cues and trusting that your body will tell you what it needs. Even though the idea of eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full might sound simple, it’s not as  easy as it sounds. A hunger-satiety scale like the one below can help you to understand what your body is telling you.

What is your hunger telling you?
Empty. Feeling faint or sick because you are so hungry, as if you haven’t eaten for days. 1 It’s easy to overeat when you’re this hungry.
Try to carry snacks and plan ahead so you don’t feel this way very often.
Ravenous. Your stomach is growling and you are easily irritated and edgy. 2
Hungry. You feel a little low on energy and are slightly uncomfortable. 3
Peckish. Hunger signs and symptoms are manageable. 4 It’s time to eat!
Your body is sending hunger signals and food sounds great. Because you have more self-control at these hunger levels, you can practice mindful eating.
Neutral. Hunger is on the horizon. 5
Comfortable. You can eat with control. 6
Full. Feeling satisfied. 7
Too full. You’ve had a few too many bites. 8 Proceed with caution!
Eating past the point of fullness can lead to negative self-talk and may exacerbate body image concerns.
Stay mindful of your fullness level and remember that it can take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full.
Stuffed. Feeling bloated. 9
Thanksgiving Day full.
You never want to look at food again.
What should adults with CF keep in mind if they’re starting an intuitive eating journey?

Although people with CF may need to spend a lot of time thinking about food and eating, the mind and body can sometimes be disconnected when it comes to food. From an early age, people with CF learn the importance of food and maintaining their weight in order to stay healthy and help their bodies function. In time, many people with CF learn to ignore their natural feelings of hunger and fullness.

While working to repair the mind-body connection to get in touch with your own personal hunger cues can be useful for adults with CF, it’s important to note that everyone with CF  is different. Intuitive eating may not be appropriate for those who are struggling to gain or maintain weight.

How can intuitive eating affect body image?

Learning to understand and acknowledge your personal hunger and fullness cues may help you accomplish your long-term health goals, such as fueling your workouts or making meals a more joyful experience. And, learning to  trust your own feelings may enhance positive thoughts  about yourself.

How might someone know if intuitive eating is right for them?

Things like managing blood sugar levels or the medications you take may affect your personal dietary needs. Always work with your CF care team before making any changes to your diet.

Top 3 Tips for Intuitive Eating

1. Spend time learning about your own personal hunger and fullness cues. Use the “What is your hunger telling you?” scale above to help you get in touch with those feelings.

2. Avoid distractions while eating and focus on how the food makes you feel.

3. Remember that intuitive eating is a journey that takes time and practice.

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