Sex and Intuitive Eating
Today we're going to talk about sex and intuitive eating. I want to ask…
Do you have as much pleasure in your life as you would like?
Are you enjoying your sex life?
Are you satisfied with your current sex life, whether your solo and your sex life is self pleasure time, or whether you are in relationships or experiencing sex with other people and enjoying that time?
I'm really curious how that is feeling for you, if you're satisfied with it?
Part of my personal journey is that I've always been a sexual person and enjoyed sex and pleasure. But I definitely felt some things were lacking. I didn't always feel connected to pleasure, or like it was accessible to me. For a lot of years, I was not only dieting, but I also was experiencing a lot of burnout, a lot of physical pain, and I was very disconnected from my body.
Through intuitive eating, I started to have a much more attuned relationship with my body, and was so much more connected to what was happening in my body. That meant that I was really able to feel pleasure at a different level. It also meant that I was able to recognize when there were barriers to having the life that I really wanted. I was able to recognize when I was experiencing depression, what my pain really felt like in my body, and what kind of barriers that pain and depression created to being connected to my body. When I saw all of that with curiosity, I was then really motivated to address that pain and depression as best I could. It helped to have let go of the shame and judgement around it first.
After doing intuitive eating for some time, I also had more body acceptance and felt braver about exploring sexually with people. At the time, I had a spouse, exploring with him and exploring sex with myself. I'm going to actually publicly admit this and I don't know if I have publicly admitted this before, but it took me until 38 or 39 (I'm 42 now) to actually start having orgasms using self touch only. I was only having orgasms either through very specific types of sex with my spouse, or through using a vibrator or something of that nature. I wasn't using them very often so I was almost exclusively only having orgasms when I was with my partner, when they put in the effort that it took for me to have an orgasm. I definitely felt like it wasn't as often as I wanted.
It wasn't until after I started doing intuitive eating and getting that sense of body attunement, getting a lot more curious about my body, letting go of shame, having a deeper relationship with my body, more connection with my body that I was like, why am I not experiencing this? Like, I know I can have orgasms. But I'm just not having this experience. I was missing out! And so I started doing some research and figured it out.
There's a website called OMG Yes...it is a great website for working on learning different types of self pleasure, exploring different types of sex, and different sexual acts. It's really an
educational tool for women; they actually provide animated drawings showing you how to do particular motions, and give suggestions of what you might like to try out. They have videos of women actually doing that type of self pleasure, the actual anatomy, and actually modeling it. Be aware that for some that could be activating if you have trauma around around sex; know that may not be the place for you, please check in with yourself first. If it feels safe to you, it's a great resource that I highly recommend.
Going back to my Intuitive Eating journey, after I started eating intuitively, having a more secure relationship with myself and with my body, being more connected and more attuned to my body, then I really started having more desire and wanting to experience more pleasure. My sex drive actually increased. I was well nourished so I wasn't so exhausted. I had more of an abundance of energy. This created a really beautiful opening for me in connecting to my sexuality and exploring it more and experiencing more pleasure. So it wasn't just about orgasms. That was kind of a side note; I had been really limited and didn't feel like I could figure out how to pleasure myself in that way. It's much more comprehensive than that. It is much more about enjoying all of the aspects of our bodies and really allowing more pleasure.
Oftentimes in diet culture we are so focused on controlling and managing our body and trying to contort it to fit this ideal standard. We're much less connected to questions like: what do I feel like in my body? What do I want to feel like in my body? How much pleasure do I want to experience?
I actually found through intuitive eating, with body attunement, and secure attachment with myself that my capacity for pleasure and sexual experience could really be increased and enhanced. I was able to prioritize that a lot more when it felt safe to do so because I didn't feel shame around my body and I felt acceptance over all my folds and rolls and dimples...all the things. When I had the bandwidth, because I wasn't spending all of my time- my mental and emotional energy, obsessing over food, trying to control and manage that, then I had bandwidth for other things. Again, I was well nourished, I had more actual energy. It's amazing how much having energy will increase your sex life. Satori Madrone researched the connection between intuitive eating and sexuality and how some people are really seeing the benefits of intuitive eating in their relationship with their body and that relationship with their body improving is improving their sex life. I'm not sure if that research paper is out yet but she is a great resource on this topic.
The last thing I want to say is that I really found that this sent me on another journey. I actually ended up deciding to leave my marriage, which I wouldn't say is because of intuitive eating or because of this expansion and my sexuality. I left my marriage because it was not right for me anymore. When I became single for the first time in 17yrs, I really wanted to grow and explore my sexuality more. I hired a sex coach. Her name is Jessie Fresh, she's a pretty incredible person. For some people, when we start diving into their intuitive eating journey and their body attunement, you may find that you aren't satisfied in this way. And for whatever reason, we don't talk about it. I was really fortunate to meet Jessie at just the right time. The base coursework is called the erotic freedom course created by Jaiya. Similar to the way that I have the food attachment model and the food attachment styles and you can take my quiz online, you can take the quiz on Jessie's website, or on Jaiya’s website, and find out what your sexual blueprint type is. It's kind of like your love language for sex. You can find coaches through the erotic freedom club or work with Jesse if you're interested in getting support in those ways.
I found that becoming more in tune with my body and getting curious about my body and prioritizing pleasure over restriction and diet and all of that misery, shame, really made a huge difference in my life.
I would encourage you to start to explore pleasure as you become more in tune with your body. Consider allowing pleasure to be part of your journey because pleasure is so good for our nervous systems. It's so good for our relationships. It's so good for your overall health, and it just feels amazing. Go out there and get yourself some pleasure!
I hope this will help you to see more of the benefits of moving away from diet culture, weight stigma, and shame and restriction. Buck those systems of oppression with self pleasure!
If you're ready to dive into your relationship with food and want to get curious, you can take the food attachment style quiz here.
Are you dreading Holiday gatherings because of food struggles? Opting out is a valid choice but if you are engaging in holiday celebrations, being prepared can help make them enjoyable. Read on about 6 ways to take care of yourself and commit to actually enjoying yourself.
Honor your hunger. Honoring our hunger means being mindful of your body's signals- eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are full (most of the time).
This means, first and foremost, make your hunger a priority. Take time to eat. Know that you don't need to “save your appetite or wait to eat until the party.” Give yourself unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry. This is key to building trust and attunement with your body. The more you are in tune with and honoring your body’s needs, the more ease you will feel. If you avoid getting overly hungry, you are less likely to trigger primal hunger that leads to eating beyond hunger. Also tune in to your fullness signals, it's ok to eat beyond fullness (if you actually want what you are eating). But if you are eating without checking in with your body, or cleaning your plate rather than eating the amount you wanted, it could be beneficial to be more aware. One downside to eating beyond fullness is that often, it can trigger shame wiring. Sometimes you might find yourself aware that you are full but really wanting to continue eating something because its tasty- If you give yourself permission to stop and eat more later or have it the next time you want it, you may not feel the need to eat beyond fullness. You can get my free hunger scale here to learn how to use this valuable tool.
Eat food. Seriously. Make sure you have a plan to be well fed. Getting over-hungry or not having a plan for our basic meals can cause us to get hangry and lead to overeating. It also diminishes our enjoyment of the festivities.
When shopping be sure you are still getting all the staples for feeding yourself on the regular. Don’t skip meals. When planning for parties, be sure you are planning breakfast and lunch for yourself to eat BEFORE the party so you don’t end up eating everything in sight (think all the cookies) at the party.
The holidays are an extra busy time for most yet it is just as important to get quality nutrition as any other time of the year. This means we have to be efficient and intentional in getting meals handled.
You can save time and energy by ordering from click list or avoiding the congested parking lots and grocery store all together by ordering on prime now. Consider ways to streamline meal prep by carving out time to make freezer meals with a friend, buy pre-cut veggies, or simply planning to make easy meals. The Instant Pot might just be your new best friend. Make a roast, soup or stew on Sundays so you have something ready made in the fridge….I throw in a whole chicken, make some rice and some pre-chopped veggies most weeks- it can be made into stir-fry, Mexican night, curry, and even simply eaten with herbs and butter, so it goes super far in keeping me fed all week.
If you know there is actually just too much to physically get done, or simply want less stress this season, consider temporarily using a meal delivery service if you have the financial means to do so.
Set Boundaries. Does your stomach twist thinking of seeing a family member who comments on your body or food choices? Talk with them in advance about what is bothering you and set the boundaries that feel good to you. If you don’t feel comfortable being around them, it's ok to opt-out. You can read more about this here.
Honor your food needs. You deserve to feel well, making your unique food needs a priority is an act of self-care. It’s important to honor your body by being sure there will be food you will feel good eating.
Plan ahead and bring food you know works for you. If you have any food intolerances or know you feel better eating particular types of food, it's ok to ask what will be served.
Contact the host before the gathering to let them know that you have special food circumstances, ask them to provide you with an idea of what will be served. Tell them they don't need to do anything special but that you want to be prepared. Bring a dish that is complete enough to get you through the party.
Eat foods that are satisfying. Again, seriously. One of my favorite principles of Intuitive Eating is discovering the satisfaction factor! When we eat foods that we really love and savor them, we need less to feel satisfied. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat and enjoy the special holiday foods you love. Rather than eating mindlessly, focus on tasting your food and being present to really experience it.
Make it special without food. Find traditions that light you up, bring you joy, and get you in the holiday spirit without needing food to feel good. If we are satisfied in life, we will not need to rely so much on food for satisfaction.
Some simple beautiful traditions to consider:
Creating space to enjoy non-food centered Holiday traditions can fill us up in a way that no fruit cake can.
A few years ago I hosted a celebratory meal for my group coaching program participants. We said what we were most grateful for, and discussed what we loved about the holidays (and the challenges). One of my guests brought the most beautiful flower centerpiece, it just made my table gorgeous. We took pictures and laughed. I also started another new tradition that night; before the party I wrote a gratitude to each guest, I included what I am thankful for about them - their smile, their warmth, their hugs, their unique talents. At the end of the night, as we said goodbye, I slipped them their card. It made the evening that much more special. My heart swells right now remembering it.
The Holidays have so much magic to enjoy - the smells, the lights, the fire, the decorations, the hugs, and yes, the food! Get into the spirit in ways that fill your heart in addition to your belly.
Want more ideas on navigating the holidays? Check out my other holiday blog posts, Five Steps to Keeping Your Sanity During the Holidays and How to NEVER Put Weight on Your Resolutions List Again
What is Success?
So often when people come to work with me, I ask this question and they say that they want to lose weight. We see and hear the message that thin is better everywhere. That losing weight will solve all your problems. We've all seen those before and after pictures on social media. The people are always sad and bigger on the left, and thinner and happier on the right. But it is only a temporary fix.
The research shows that diets don't work, diets fail at any significant weight loss over any longer period 85% to 95% of the time. Research also shows that over time, you are more likely to gain weight if you're a dieter. It also increases the likelihood of weight cycling, bingeing, and shame around food in your body.
But if diets don’t work then what really does work? What is success?
First off, we have to disconnect the idea of weight loss from success. When I go deeper and ask individuals what they really want in their RELATIONSHIP with food and their bodies, it turns out that there's actually a bunch of things that they're wanting. They think that weight loss will bring them all the things (even if dieting did lead to weight loss, weight loss will not give you all the things you really want, or even most of the things). Typically, they're most wanting to feel good about themselves. To feel good enough.
When it comes to appearance there is a need to disconnect the idea that our value and our worth is tied to our size or appearance. Even if you get to that magical number, you still may not look the way that you want to look, and you still may not feel like you're good enough. This is because you're always chasing this kind of arbitrary external ideal and appearance. This will not lead to true self acceptance or feeling enough.
Some other things that people are really looking for are energy and vitality. Maybe they're concerned about a health issue like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What they're really wanting is to feel well, to feel vital, know that they're taking care of their health and addressing any issues. Unfortunately, our healthcare system has equated thinness with being healthy. My opinion? That's just false; that is diet culture, anti-fat bias, and weight stigma showing up at the doctors office.
If you want true success, what we really need to do is focus on helping you heal your relationship with food and your body. We do that by looking at what kind of attachment relationship you have with food and your body.
Are you more anxious and preoccupied? Are you more fearful and avoidant of food? Are you more dismissive and avoidant of food? Knowing your food attachment is the first step toward a secure attachment with food and your body.
So, what does that look like? It means building a strong relationship with food and your body. It is building that body attunement so that you can really nurture your body in the way that it needs.
Building that body attunement so that you can really get connected with your body. What signs and signals is your body giving you? From there you can use that information to make choices and use discernment in your relationship with food. This helps with making choices about what, how, when and why you are eating.
Even if there was a “perfect” food plan, life happens and it wouldn’t be perfect for what your body needs everyday. For example, if you get a cold, or get pregnant, these things contribute to what our body really wants or needs in those specific moments. Different things are going on in terms of our metabolic processes, and we're going to need different things on different days, it's just how it is.
Resonant eating is important to keep in mind when looking for that success. Resonant eating is eating in a way that really resonates with your body, mind, spirit, and soul. It means you are in tune with what makes you feel well and how to achieve that vitality and energy you want. But it also includes eating things simply because you want and enjoy it.
Food is meant to be something that we're in a relationship with, that we're able to take in, and that we gleam satisfaction and joy from. It's meant to be a cultural tradition; a social connection with other people, but for each person it is going to be a little different.
When you come to a secure attachment relationship with food you're able to have that autonomy to eat what you want and eat in a way that resonates with you.
Another common concern is emotional eating, soothing using food or what is often called binge episodes. For that, success would look like peace, ease, and freedom from those cycles. The answer to that isn’t restriction or weight loss…it’s addressing the things that cause you to binge.
So what is success? That's really up to you, your desires, what would feel good to you. I want you to imagine an ideal relationship with food. Most of us have that one friend who just eats what they want and food isn't really that big of a deal to them. We feel some slight envy of that friend, right? But why? They have a secure attachment with food and their body. They are eating to nurture their body and not to punish it.
A client recently said to me that she wanted to be friends with her body and friends with food. We started focusing on just that. She started asking herself questions like “was I a friend to my body today?”, “Is this nurturing to me?” Sometimes the most nurturing thing is sitting on the couch with Netflix and ice cream, and that is okay! That is knowing what your body wants. That is getting more attuned with your body at a deeper level.
So going back to this idea of, what is success?
It comes from knowing what you really want and addressing that underlying need to desire. We have to start by dismantling diet culture BS ideas- recognizing that appearance isn’t the end all be all. Weight loss isn’t a silver bullet for being ‘cured’.
I want to leave you with a few questions:
What do you really want for yourself in your relationship with food and your relationship with your body?
What are your priorities and how can you reframe the idea of success to really match what you actually want for yourself?
I think of Intuitive Eating like driving a car. If you had never been in a car or been taught anything about what a car does or how it works, driving one would be VERY difficult if not impossible. If you grew up on a farm and were taught how to drive tractors at a young age, you would probably pick up driving a car with ease. For most of us, learning to drive is a learning curve. You have to be taught and then practice it for months and months before you are given a license. Then, it still takes a while to become fully comfortable and capable. It can take years to become a really good driver. But after gaining experience and muscle memory, you can pretty much drive on auto pilot, unless you are driving in difficult circumstances and then you need to pay more attention.
To take the analogy further, there may be other reasons you struggle to learn to drive based on your abilities, your environment, or the things people have told you about driving. If you experienced someone constantly telling you how dangerous driving is, you might get such bad anxiety while driving you couldn’t focus. If your nervous system is very dysregulated, driving would be more difficult. If you had difficulties with sensory motor processing, you might need to develop additional skills to be able to drive safely. If you were told you aren’t any good at driving, you can’t trust yourself on the road, or there is something wrong with you, developing the confidence to drive would be hard.
Similarly, learning the basic skills of body attunement, being able to feel into your body and respond to its signals, is foundational for Intuitive Eating. But if you’ve never developed the habit to feel when you are full because you were taught to eat until your plate is empty, if you were actively taught to disregard your body signals, or that those signals are bad, how can you expect that you will just know how?
And that’s the problem.
Like driving, the barriers need to be addressed; you have to learn how. It takes time, support, and perseverance.
If you experience these challenges around body attunement the simplified Intuitive Eating messaging out there could contribute to you feeling like there is something wrong with you that you can’t just “tune in” to your body and live happily ever after. Your physiology (how your body works), the support you have, and life experiences (like how you were cared for and your environment) play a huge role in your relationship with food and body.
This is why considering your attachment style with food is critical and allows you to take all of these pieces into account.
Learning your Food Attachment Style™ will help bridge the gap. It will help you understand why you have struggled and what to do about your unique challenges so you can finally have the relationship with food and your body that you want.
You can have peace, satisfaction, and ease.
You can be friends with your body.
Take the Food Attachment Style™ Quiz here.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing your relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals your body gives you. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale..