The Intuitive Eating Approach For The Holidays

December 19, 2021

We are officially in the full-swing of the holiday season. Sugary treats, massive family meals, and other delicious snacks are only an arm’s reach away. 

If you’re someone who follows a healthy diet, this time of the year is extra tough. We don’t want to sabotage our goals. We want to stay disciplined and we don’t want to gain the typical 10 pounds most people gain from now until January 1st. 

But is depriving yourself of all this delicious food healthy? 

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Yes and no. 

Let me explain… 

While I encourage eating healthy as much as possible, some people (myself included at times) take this too far. 

It’s like drinking water. Yes, drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. But, you can also drown in water if you drink too much at one time. 

And so it is with eating healthy and clean. 

There is a point where you can take it too far and even develop an eating disorder. I’ll cover that in more detail later in this article. Before I do that, I want to explain why you shouldn’t follow any strict diet forever (including keto). 

Also, I want to reveal the Intuitive Eating Approach — and how it can help you “have your cake and eat it too” this holiday season. Following an intuitive eating approach is something you can incorporate into your daily life too, especially if you have a healthy relationship with food.  

Why you shouldn’t follow a diet forever 

When you follow a certain diet for too long, you don’t reap as many benefits because you lack variety. It can be tricky to overcome this mental hurdle that your dietary plan might not be serving you. 

Here’s why: 

When you switch to, say, a ketogenic protocol, you do so because you’re trying to solve a deeper issue in your body. Most strict diets, including keto, promote better gut health, reduce inflammation, reverse Type II diabetes, and can fix the root causes of your autoimmune disorders. Not to mention, they also help you shed fat, look better in the mirror, and gain confidence. 

This fools many people into following them forever. This approach makes sense — if you’re happier and healthier following a certain diet protocol, why would you want to stop?

However, it’s possible to follow a diet for so long that it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it’s much harder to recognize if your body is ready for another way of eating. 

Your diet shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach that you need to follow for the rest of your life. Your genetic expression can code for something new. Your cell turnover changes.  Hormones shift, and so do nutrient requirements.  Sometimes what worked at one period in your life, doesn’t work in another.  You will have to pivot.  

In addition, we all go through different “seasons” in our lives. Your body craves wildly different nutrients when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause for example. A man’s needs change too — whether he is in a more stressful season of  life or his fitness-regimen has changed.  

It’s much harder to ditch something that dramatically improved your life, but too much rigidity can lead to a full-blown eating disorder! 

Why strict keto is a bad idea long term 

Since I’m known as The Keto Nutritionist, many of my clients think I follow a rigorous keto diet all the time. While I eat ultra low carb 80% of the time, I do cycle in more carbohydrates and am not always in ketosis.

Here’s why: 

Our human bodies were designed to use BOTH fats and carbs. There are certain times when you need to carb cycle. For women in particular, you need to boost your progesterone the week before your period starts. Zero carb foods aren’t high in progesterone so to avoid disrupting menstrual cycles, it is important to eat healthy carbohydrates at the right time.  Men need these cycles too.  Especially if they have gene variants in MTHFR and FUT2. 

Remember: 

Our bodies need both fats and carbs. 

Staying in ketosis long-term without taking any breaks can cause muscle aches, nausea, and fatigue. And there are other nutrients your body needs that keto can’t provide.

If you follow a keto diet, your goal shouldn’t be to be in ketosis all the time. Instead, your goal should be to create metabolic flexibility and build a healthier relationship with food. 

How following a healthy diet could lead to an eating disorder 

Eating disorders are more common than you think. You might even have one without realizing it!

About 9% of Americans have some type of eating disorder or will develop one. While eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia make headline news because they’re particularly sinister, there are other types of eating disorders too. 

Any unhealthy relationship with food can morph into an eating disorder (even if you’re eating “healthy” food). 

There’s a special type of eating disorder called orthorexia. This is the eating disorder you’re most likely to develop if you’re obsessing.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder where you have an excessive focus on eating healthy or “clean.” Long-term loyalty to a certain diet (without taking a break) can lead to orthorexia. 

And yes, orthorexia can still happen even if your diet was therapeutic at one point. 

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Now, don’t take this the wrong way. You should focus on eating healthy and clean foods. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health and wellbeing. 

However, if you become afraid to eat anything unhealthy, that’s a sign that you might be developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders aren’t reserved for people who are underweight. You can be overweight or even a healthy weight and battle an eating disorder. 

When you develop an eating disorder because you’re eating too healthy, it’s extra insidious. 

But realize this: 

Your ultimate goal with any diet you follow should be developing a healthier relationship with food. 

This goal is even more important than losing weight, reversing Type II diabetes, or fixing any root cause that creates suffering in your life. These are all important goals, but they pale in comparison to developing a healthy relationship with food. 

And a healthy relationship with food builds the foundation that optimizes your health and helps you achieve these goals. 

Eating disorders can lead to malnutrition and a bunch of other health problems — even when you eat healthy foods. 

The Intuitive Eating Approach For The Holidays (And Beyond) 

Did you splurge a little on your Thanksgiving dinner (and dessert) this year or did you deprive yourself? 

It’s okay to splurge every once in a while. It’s okay to break from your strict diet protocol and enjoy food — as long as it doesn’t send you for a loop where you stop eating healthy for good and start binge-eating.. 

Intuitive eating helps you eat healthy most of the time because it keeps you in a state of honor and self-respect.  

Intuitive eating is a way to listen to your body about your foods instead of following a strict set of rules. Rather than eating and avoiding certain foods, you trust your own intuition, appetite, and experience with food to guide you. 

Our bodies are intelligent. We don’t even understand how intelligent they are yet, and we probably never will. If you learn to listen and trust your body, you can develop a healthy relationship with food.

Intuitive eating is way easier than following a strict protocol. No more counting calories and measuring out every crumb of food you eat. No more guilt if you have a sweet treat (especially during the holidays). And no more depriving yourself of the social aspect of eating good food. 

Intuitive eating is way easier than following a strict protocol. No more counting calories and measuring out every crumb of food you eat. No more guilt if you have a sweet treat (especially during the holidays). And no more depriving yourself of the social aspect of eating good food. 

Instead of following a diet’s rules, you let your body rule you. By listening to your body’s signals and cues, you don't have to starve yourself or worry about the scale jumping up 10 (or more) pounds. 

Now, intuitive eating isn’t a free-for-all. If you have celiac disease, you still need to avoid gluten. Or if you’re sensitive to dairy, you don’t want to add that back in.  Inflammation is still inflammation.  

You can practice it within a larger framework or diet protocol like adding in low carb treats at the right times. Intuitive eating gives you more freedom and control over the foods you put into your body. 

Instead of a strict protocol, intuitive eating is all about you. You notice how certain foods make you feel and adjust your food intake to match. With enough practice, an intuitive eating approach should make you feel your best — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This might mean changing the foods you’re eating and cutting something that isn’t serving you. Or it could mean relaxing your current food plan. 

Intuitive eating doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight — and that’s a good thing too! There’s a certain point where losing more weight becomes unhealthy, and this point is different for everyone. 

The goal of intuitive eating is building an even healthier relationship with food. It’s about enjoying the foods you eat more.  It’s also  about cutting out the foods that make you feel miserable. This approach requires radical honesty with yourself.  

Try the Intuitive Eating Approach during this holiday season. If you find that it works for you, continue to do it. 

Intuitive eating is the best “diet” to follow if you have a healthy relationship with food. 

3 Easy Ways To Practice and Enhance Your Intuitive Eating Approach 

Whenever one of my clients tries an intuitive eating approach, I always arm them with Peter Attia’s brilliant nutritional framework, which includes 3 different levers you can pull to improve your weight loss goals. 

Dr. Attiar makes the point that you should always pull one of these levers, often pull two of these levers, and occasionally pull on all three of these levels. 

So what are the three levers? 

  1. Time restriction — which is restricting the timing of your meals, or “when” you eat. 
  2. Caloric restriction — which is restricting how many calories you consume, or “how much” you eat. 
  3. Dietary restriction — which is restricting elements of your diet, or “what” you eat. 

By following these three levels, you’ll have much better results on your intuitive eating journey. And it makes the whole process a lot easier. 

For example, if you start plateauing, you can pull a different lever and experience some easy wins. Sometimes even simple changes on one of these 3 levers have dramatic results. 

If you’re already restricting “when” you eat, try adjusting “how much” you eat or “what” you eat. This same trick applies to each of the three levers. You can even try optimizing your diet using the same lever. 

Here’s a quick story about one of my clients who pulled the same lever, but adjusted the framework after hitting a plateau: 

One of my clients was already following an intermittent fasting approach (which is an example of the time restriction lever) along with a keto diet (which is an example of the dietary restriction lever). However, she plateaued and didn’t see the scale budge at all for 3 straight weeks. 

After a meeting with her, I told her to change her “feeding window” of intermittent fasting. Before our meeting, she had her first meal at 12 pm and her last meal at 8 pm. After our meeting, she had her first meal at 9 am and her last meal at 5 pm. Nothing else with her diet changed, except when she started and finished eating. She even had the same “feeding window” length of 8 hours. 

Her results? 

She blew past her plateau and started losing weight again! 

That’s just one example of how you can pull on these levers and experience some quick wins. Try this with either “when” you eat, “how much” you eat, or “what” you eat and watch the pounds melt off your body again. 

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