Three Tips for Exercising as an Intuitive Eater

By Andrea Kent, MPH, RD, CNSC – Associate Dietitian at Nutrition Instincts – San Diego Nutrition Therapy

When going through the process of becoming an intuitive eater, one component that may come a little later in the journey, is looking at your relationship with exercise.  As exercise is deeply embedded within diet culture, it can be challenging to know when your actions are supporting a more intuitive approach to eating and your relationship with your body.  Asking yourself where you fall in these topics can help you create joyful movement that supports your recovery. Here are three tips for exercising as an intuitive eater:

1. Separate exercise from your desire for weight loss. 

Oftentimes if you focus on this type of extrinsic and restrictive goal, it can be harder to motivate yourself to actually get out and move your body in an enjoyable way.  Thinking about exercise as part of your weight loss journey can lead to equating this with restriction and deprivation.  These feelings then in part may lead to avoiding exercise altogether, falling into the all-or-nothing mentality. It can also negatively impact your relationship with food and recovery.  Instead, is there a goal such as flexibility, increased mood, or just plain enjoyment that could be your motivation instead? It can feel very challenging to separate exercise from the desire for weight loss if you’ve always exercised in connection with weight goals. Working with a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating and weight inclusive care can be helpful in exploring exercise for purposes other than weight loss and shifting your focus away from weight loss altogether. 

2. Seek types of exercise that are enjoyable.

Taking a look at the actual exercise or movement that we are doing can also lead to a more enjoyable experience. For some, there might be no  joy in getting on the treadmill. Instead, we can think of different skills or activities that align with your personal needs.  Do you like group or individual activities?  Is it important for you to be outside when move?  Would you like to incorporate learning a new skill into your exercise?  Finding an activity that gives us this pleasurable experience is derived from the “Hedonic Theory of Motivation” discussed in the book Intuitive Eating (page 204)- stating that “people will repeat activities that feel good.”

3. Incorporate movement into your routine. 

With so many of us working from home, it can be very common to spend a lot of time sitting at your desks. Instead of thinking of exercise as going to a class or within a designated time, it can be helpful to incorporate some small movements throughout your day.  While making sure to be aware of your lived experience, thinking about ways to incorporate movement during your day can be helpful.  This could look like building in natural breaks in your schedule to step outside- even for a few minutes, going to a different location for lunch (i.e. away from your desk), or trying to be creative with activities- possibly asking a friend to meet for a walk, or taking a meeting on the phone.

As with any part of intuitive eating, it is important to give yourself empathy as you begin this transition to exercising as an intuitive eater. However, even a little bit of movement can help  increase your body attunement and thus help you in nourishing a healthy relationship with your body. As always, please keep in mind that each person’s journey is unique and when or how you explore exercise will be personal to you and your recovery.

Want to learn more? Click to read more of our articles about intuitive eating!

Please note: This information is intended for educational purposes only and should never replace medical or therapeutic advice from your doctor, dietitian, therapist or any other health professional.

Andrea Kent, is a registered dietitian at Nutrition Instincts who focuses on bridging the gap between evidence-based nutrition and what that means for her clients in their daily lives. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, she aims to help each of her clients navigate a sustainable way to find peace with their nutrition choices and body freedom. Whether this is working with clients in recovery from an eating disorder, younger adolescents and their families, or exploring Intuitive Eating more in-depth- Andrea makes sure to support each client with an individualized and flexible approach in their journey. Interested in working with Andrea? Apply today!