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You don’t know what to eat. Nothing sounds good. You’re hungry and you know you need to eat to avoid becoming hangry but you’ve been in the pantry three times and now you’re standing with the refrigerator door open and you STILL can’t find something to eat. There’s food there. Just nothing that really jumps out at you.
It’s a frustrating spot to be in to say the least. And when you’re practicing intuitive eating, not knowing what you want to eat can be even more frustrating because you don’t want to resort to your old dieting tactics of filling the void with a diet beverage or eating something you don’t enjoy just because “they” said it’s “healthy”.
Not knowing what you want to eat can also lead to fears about resorting to old ways or bingeing when hunger levels rise higher.
So clearly there’s a need to be prepared for this sort of thing to happen. I thought I’d put a few tips and suggestions together for you when you find you’re faced with this “I don’t know what I want to eat” feeling.
Reassessing your hunger can help you find what you want to eat
Eating when you’re hungry will increase your chances of knowing what you want to eat. Go back to the basics and determine if you are actually hungry. Does it make sense for you to be hungry right now or do you think you should eat because conventionally it’s TIME to eat? What hunger level are you at right now? What signals are you noticing?
When you don’t know what you want to eat, turn to your favorites…
This is probably my favorite one! I can usually find something to eat when I have access to my favorite foods. When I became an intuitive eater, I loved the fact that I could now keep previously restricted foods stocked in my house and I wouldn’t be afraid of them being there. That was such a freeing and peaceful experience the first time I was able to do this. So keep those foods around (depending on where you’re at in your journey of course) and check in with them too.
Keeping a stocked kitchen can help you find what you want to eat…
Knowing what you usually like to eat and making sure you have it on hand is intuitive eating 101. But it’s funny how often we forget to do this. Or how often life gets busy and we haven’t set ourselves as a priority (or we haven’t added food as a self care method) and grocery shopping gets missed. My tip here? Add grocery shopping to your calendar (whether you do it online and do pick up or delivery or you head out to the store in person).
*I am blessed with so much in my life. I have never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. This is not a concept that is lost on me. I know not everyone has the same life experience. Food security is a subject that is near and dear to my heart and while I know it adds challenges to the idea of eating intuitively, I don’t want it to be a barrier for anyone. If you find yourself in a financially strapped situation and food security is an issue for you, check out these two links to find a food shelf near you.
When you don’t know what you want to eat, it might be time to turn to a little inspiration.
When you don’t know what you want to eat, it might be time to turn to a little inspiration. Like the ideas of keeping favorite foods around and a stocked kitchen can inspire you to find something that sounds good, keeping some cookbooks filled with recipes you enjoy or turning on the food network can provide a little dose of much needed inspiration. Keep a stack of recipe cards or use an app to collect recipes. I personally use and love one called Plan To Eat.
On the same note as using inspiration, creating a menu plan can be super helpful. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but taking the time to plan and grocery shop to make sure you have all the planned items on hand opens up your options when you find yourself a little stuck. Menu planning can be super fast, I think I can do one in about 10 minutes a week using my favorite app.
Are you emotional right now?
Trying to figure out anything when your emotions are heightened is challenging to say the least. And while I’m all about occasionally utilizing a favorite food as a good bit of self care to soothe an emotional situation, turning to food in the heat of emotional times is not ideal. If you find that you are emotional and trying to fix something for dinner, try taking a middle step and do a brief meditation or deep breathing or read a book for 10 minutes to help you step away from the intensity and bring you back to more stable ground for decision making.
Change the question away from what you want to eat…
Instead of thinking about it in terms of what you are craving or what sounds like it would taste good right now, try asking yourself, “What can I eat that will make me feel good (or have more energy or sustain me for my run, etc.)?”
A note about some fears that can pop up…
I mentioned earlier about the fear of overeating or bingeing. In intuitive eating we learn that eating something that is not what we want usually gives us little satisfaction and can lead to continuing to eat until we finally eat the thing that satisfies us. Ultimately this leads us down a path of eating more than we would have if we had just had the thing we wanted (the thing that would have satisfied us) in the first place.
But you don’t know what will satisfy you so what if you try something and that’s not it? It kind of feels like a catch 22.
Being in this situation can also trigger some fears of binge eating. It can trigger memories of “out of control” eating behaviors. These fears are real and when intuitive eaters have reached a stage where they regularly have these foods accessible, it’s understandable you might be fearful of making a choice you might later regret.
Don’t let this stop you from keeping your favorites around. Don’t let this stop you from doing all the things intuitive eating has taught you to do. Mostly trust in yourself and show yourself compassion. You are human which means you are not perfect and you won’t always make the most intuitive of decisions. That’s okay. That doesn’t make them wrong and it doesn’t reflect on your value. Everything is a learning opportunity.
I hope you’ll try some of the suggestions I’ve laid out. I’d love to hear from you if you have additional ideas that have worked for you. Leave a comment below to share and support fellow intuitive eaters.