How to nourish one’s self in the era of Mc Donald's and Oreo.

Sep 11, 2019

The health industry would like to make us think it’s easy … You overeat? Just stop eating so much and avoid the so called ‘bad’ foods. "Follow the plan, eat the greens and stop complaining."  The trouble is, you can not simply avoid unhealthy foods, since they are everywhere. Many people successfully white-knuckle it for a while (days, months, years)  until the inevitable arrives: the moment self-control snaps and we go all-out, promising ourselves to eat healthy again tomorrow…

Consciously trying to avoid a burger only makes its appeal bigger. Since self-control and willpower are limited resources (which are often exhausted at the end of a workday or when we're under more stress), it is no wonder we succumb in large quantities to the very foods we 'forbade' ourselves. "The forbidden fruit effect" is a known psychological effect, - btw well documented in the realm of politics regarding the non-sense of prohibitory laws. ( "when prohibition increases the harm it is supposed to reduce") But when it comes to managing food and obesity, we're lagging behind the theory and fail to connect the dots.

Sure, there are the lucky few for whom it works. But comparing yourself to the select few is a recipe for disaster...Read up here if this is new to you.

Do you want to have a natural, effortles relationship with food, where you can have your ‘forbidden’ foods at home without overeating on them or exerting willpower? Where you don’t have to fear or compensate dinner parties? Then it’s high time to explore something else…

It’s time to take back your power. Intuitive eating is what did it for me.

Intuitive eating, what is it all about?

Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to eating and living that centers on eating in a way that simply makes you feel good. Whereas dieting and food control have been proven to be unsustainable and actually promote weight gain later in life, the research on intuitive eating is unequivocally positive. (check this review of the studies). Even though the science is out there, intuitive eating does not get the media publicity that diets or food science get...

Don’t let that put you off, societal change can be slow, but you don’t need to wait for mainstream media to catch up on your newfound Food-happiness.

Now for intuitive eating to work, you need to forget about dieting, food rules and food morality. That’s right, no more ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, no more fixed mealtimes. We are going to approach all foods as neutral sources of fuel for our bodies and we are going to simply eat when we are hungry. We are going to eliminate all external expert advice and instead we are going to learn how to become our own expert.

For many of you this approach might seem extremely scary. You’re already seeing yourself going on a cookie spree every day…

Don’t despair, we are all BORN intuitive eaters. As kids, we eat with curiosity, we only eat what we like, we only eat when we’re hungry (at the most inconvenient times) and we stop when we’re full, to the frustration of our well-meaning parents. If we would be allowed to keep doing this, and have a consistent access to a big variety of foods, we would all turn out to be normal balanced eaters, enjoying the variety of sweets, salads, roasted veggies and chips without drama. See, your body doesn’t want to poison itself... It is when we get conditioned into our societal way of thinking around food (with food morality, diet obsessions and beauty focus), that we learn to override and ignore our own body’s cues, until we can’t hear them anymore…

Are you part of the “clean plate club”? Aaah the typical example of our food conditioning! It is entirely impossible for your hunger and needs to match exactly the size of your plate over and over again. Sometimes we need more, sometimes we need less. We knew that as kids, it’s high time to get that wisdom back.

Here under I discuss some key principles of intuitive eating.

 1. The hunger and fullness scale

Start by finding out how hunger feels for you. The nature of our hunger cues is different for everyone. Some people feel it strongly in their bodies: think of a growling stomach or even light pain. Others feel light in their head and others feel like they suddenly can’t focus on a task anymore and lose concentration.

What’s important here is to define how hunger shows up for YOU, don’t go asking anyone but yourself what 'hungry' means. That is what this is all about: you becoming your own expert.

Then find out what fullness means for you. When are you feeling nicely full? When are you feeling too full (when you feel tired instead of energized after eating) When were you not full enough? ( and needed to eat soon after)

Once you have a good idea of what hunger and fullness feel like for you, start rating the intensity of the signals on a scale of 1 to 10. 1= ravenous, 10= stuffed and feeling slightly sick, 5 is neutral. Eating between a 4 and 7 is ideal to start of your practice. This may seem a bit artificial, but believe me it’s worth it. We can’t undo lifelong conditioning around food without a li’l effort.

Take away practice: This week, try eating only when hungry and stopping when full. Allow yourself to eat outside of the usual timeframes for food, make sure to have access to enjoyable food most of the time. Try to stop 2-3 times during your meal to assess your fullness level. See what happens.

 2. Eat what you feel like eating 

Go from “what should I eat” to “what do I feel like eating?”.

So if you’re hungry and you feel like eating a lemon pie, do it. But let me reassure you, you will not feel like lemon pie for lunch every day for the rest of your life… Your body wants to be functional…The more you let go of rules, the wiser your decisions will become because they will reflect your body’s wisdom and  - remember: the body does not want to poison itself.

We need to pass an initial period of doubt here, of trial and error before we develop trust. The tricky part is to really allow yourself ANY and all foods, whether it be a salad or a bunch of french fries. If you don't succeed in that, you are not truly practicing the art of intuitive eating. 

Take away practice: Start asking yourself what you feel like eating. You can use some questions to guide you: 'do I feel like crunchy or soft foods? Hot or cold? Sour or sweet? If you have troubles knowing what you feel like eating, try closing your eyes and imagining what naturally comes up. You may also try visualising yourself eating this or that food and see how pleasurable it is in your imagination.

3.The satisfaction factor:  "vitamin P"

Food not only needs to fill our nutritional needs, we are wired to crave satisfaction from food. Eating is a biological need, just like sex and we see that all biological needs are linked to satisfaction. In fact, if you ignore the satisfaction factor of your meal, your body does not even fully register it has eaten. This is why you can be physically full, but still feel empty.

Your veggie-protein dinner might give you all the nutrients you need, if it didn't deeply satisfy your taste buds, you may crave food later on in the evening, as if you hadn't eaten at all. A lack of vitamin P (pleasure) is in my opinion worse than any other vitamin shortage, simply because there are instant consequences... Discover the research behind that here

Take away practice:  Sometimes, you have reached the fullness point but you still feel unsatisfied. Know that you are simply lacking some vitamin P and explore what more you want to eat to get to that satisfaction point. Don't second guess yourself, allow yourself to eat whatever comes up.

The recommended supplements in intuitive eating

Nope no pills, but mindset shifts: ... Unconditional allowance... Compassion...Always putting your body's cues first (especially in the learning period)... No guilt, No shame... Trust. 

You may sometimes find yourself eating beyond what you think is 'normal', beyond what any diet told you to eat. You may eat cookies every single day. Allow it, trust the process, know that you are getting to know your body's cues and remember that it will regulate itself and guide your appetites accordingly.

Eventually intuitive eating, when practiced correctly, will lead you to the weight your body is happiest at.  It will lead you to have zero troubles navigating the world of Mc Donald's and Oreo, it will make you lose interest in the foods you thought you were addicted too and most importantly of all: it will make you develop RESPECT for your body like no diet ever can.

=> Although I did my best, I've barely scratched the surface on intuitive eating in this article.  You can dive deeper by listening to my podcast on the topic. 

Last but not least, a shoutout to the ladies who birthed and formalised intuitive eating, pick up a copy of their life changing book here.


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