People are often under this misconception that intuitive eating is just perpetuating obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, and just causing people to eat nothing but Oreo cookies and McDonald’s. While it is true that some people eat foods they previously thought of as off-limits, they also eat a lot of nourishing food as well.

Recently, I’ve not had much of an appetite. And nothing sounds good to me to eat. I get hungry but then can only seem to eat a little bit. I’ve been eating so little that it has become a little bit alarming. So when my husband expressed his worry, he asked me what I felt like I could eat. I told him that the only thing that sounded tasty to me was an order of chicken tenders from Jack in the Box. When I expressed the unhealthy aspect of that choice, he said, “You gotta eat something and this is better than nothing.” So that’s what he got me and I enjoyed it without guilt. (Now, I would never do that every day nor even once a week, but it sure helped me eat on that day.)

Intuitive eating is not a free-for-all where you eat whatever you want, in whatever quantity, regardless of how it makes you feel.

It is all about honoring your hunger, trusting your body, and eating to fuel and nourish your body.

Here are some ways that intuitive eating works, and can help you be the healthiest you have ever been.

It Relieves Stress About Food and Diets

To start with, you are able to relieve a lot of stress and frustration in your life when you begin intuitive eating. Think about how much time you spend thinking about food, researching diets, trying to plan your life around healthy meals, and the stress that comes from fear of hunger, binge and restrict cycles, and an obsession with how you look.

SO much of this is alleviated when you begin eating intuitively. All you have to do is follow your body’s cues, whether it means you are craving a juicy steak, or you are feeling like eating a big salad.

You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out the right “diet” plan for you. I’ve been obsessing over whether to eat more plant-based or paleo or Whole30 for heart issues and diabetes. When I realized I was just making myself insane with decisions, and trying different things, I decided to listen to my body, asking it what it wants, and all that anxiety went away. I’ve created my own “diet” by listening to my body and am much happier with my food choices these days.

You Stop Obsessing About Food

Are you one of those who gets up thinking about food all day? What you’re going to cook or prepare for each meal? Many of my clients say that they are thinking about the next meal before they finish the one they’re eating.

So, you will open up a lot more free time when you aren’t thinking about food every single moment. Intuitive eating helps you stop obsessing about every single thing you consume. Food just becomes food. It becomes a way to fuel your body, to nourish it with nutrients, to feel satisfied and happy. When you get to this point, you start noticing when you are actually hungry and when you are full, and are able to discover the foods you actually love.

You Avoid Binge Cycles

This is a big deal for chronic dieters, people with disordered eating and eating disorders, and anyone who feels out of control around food. If you fear food, are afraid of sugar and fat, and think carbs are coming for you, then intuitive eating is the best option for you. In the beginning, it can be scary, but if you follow through with it, you will start to notice when you stop binging, and are able to just eat and not worry about it.

You No Longer Have Intense Cravings

Feel like you will always crave chocolate chip cookies or salty snacks forever? First of all, there is nothing wrong with these foods. Second, you will notice that you don’t experience these intense cravings that seem to consume your mind. When you do have a craving, you will eat that thing to satisfy it, then move on. But you also understand when a craving is physical, or if it is an emotional pull from a history of restrictions. That is the beauty of intuitive eating.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you have an intense craving — even for something that is so-called “bad” for you — it’s better to give in to the craving, enjoy what you’re eating guilt-free, and then get on with your life. You can rest assured that giving in to cravings every now and then is better for your mental health and then you’ll likely make better food choices most of the rest of the time.