"Our bodies will do what they are SUPPOSED to when we let go of trying to control what it does for us."

By Arielle Tschinkel
October 12, 2020
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Demi Lovato has been candid with her fans for years about her experiences with disordered eating, including how it has impacted her relationship with her body.

Most recently, in a new post on Instagram, she joked that she "finally" has "the boobs [she] wanted" now that she's been developing healthier eating habits. "It's all me," she wrote alongside two stunning selfies. "And you know what, [my boobs are] gonna change [again] too. And I'll be okay with that as well."

But what, exactly, helped Lovato cultivate healthier eating habits and embrace these changes? In her post, the singer said that simply listening to her body's needs made a huge difference. "Let this be a lesson y'all.. Our bodies will do what they are SUPPOSED to when we let go of trying to control what it does for us," she wrote. "Oh the irony."

Though she didn't specify it by name in her post, Lovato seems to be describing intuitive eating, a research-backed practice that involves ditching fad diets and restrictions around food in favor of eating mindfully and trusting your body's signals — i.e. eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. (Related: The Anti-Diet Movement Is Not an Anti-Health Campaign)

If you have a background of extreme dieting and disordered eating (as Lovato does), the very concept of food can be fraught with all kinds of toxic rules and beliefs (think: labeling certain foods "good" and "bad" depending on their nutritional content) that can be tough to shake. Intuitive eating can be one way (among many) to reestablish a healthy relationship with food.

When learning to eat intuitively, "people adapt to this new permission to eat what they want and return to eating reasonable quantities of indulgent foods and a more balanced diet overall," Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.D., a psychologist and author of When Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder, previously told Shape. "As with any relationship, it takes time to build your body's trust that it can really have what it wants and needs," she explained.

So, what does intuitive eating actually look like? Aside from listening to your body's natural hunger and fullness cues as Lovato described, intuitive eating also entails focusing on self-care by sticking to food choices that make you feel good, consciously appreciating the journey of food from farm to plate, and eliminating anxiety about food by making the experience of eating more positive and mindful, rather than worrisome.

In practice, that could mean journaling about different feelings and challenges that come up while intuitively eating, registered dietitian Maryann Walsh previously told Shape. Walsh said it could also involve cleaning up your social media feed by unfollowing any profiles that promote harmful or toxic messages about eating — something Lovato has been known to do, too. The "I Love Me" singer told Ashley Graham earlier this year that, when it comes to her eating disorder recovery, she's not afraid to block or mute people on social media who make her feel down on herself. (Not only that but she also intentionally uses social media now to share raw, unedited photos of herself to help others accept and embrace their bodies.)

While there are some basic tenets of intuitive eating, different experts have different methods and recommendations for following the practice, depending on the situation. For instance, for those with a history of disordered eating, Walsh told Shape it's important to practice intuitive eating with the help of an RD and/or a mental health professional, rather than alone, to avoid the possibility of relapse. (Related: How the Coronavirus Lockdown Can Affect Eating Disorder Recovery — and What You Can Do About It)

Ultimately, though, the goal of eating intuitively is to simply develop a healthy relationship with food, explained Walsh. Or, as Lovato once put it: "Stop measuring and start living."

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