Food | Real Life

Discover Intuitive Eating: A Journey Towards Lifelong Food Freedom

In a world plagued by the relentless pursuit of the “perfect” body, my life felt like a battleground, where food and body image were the adversaries. I carried the weight of constant guilt, shame, and inner turmoil from a young age, a burden that many women can empathize with.

The ’90s projected the image of a slender body as the societal ideal, a perception deeply etched into my family’s psyche. The relentless pursuit of thinness as a symbol of beauty and self-worth affected not only my family but also countless others. My mother and the women in my family grappled with their own complex relationships with food, often embarking on the treacherous path of yo-yo dieting. As a child, I couldn’t help but internalize their struggles, absorb their comments, and witness their journeys. These early experiences left an indelible mark on my consciousness, leading me to believe that women needed to be on an unending diet to be loved and accepted.

Jordan Macdonald
Jordan Macdonald at eight years old.

My childhood was marred by bullying and ridicule due to having red hair and living in a “larger body”. I looked different from the other kids. To compound my predicament, I experienced an early growth spurt, maturing into adulthood at the tender age of 12. Unfortunately, society’s critical lens labeled me “overweight.”

Jordan Macdonald
Jordan at 12 years old.

In truth, my body was undergoing a perfectly normal phase just before puberty, where a little extra weight is necessary for healthy growth and development. This weight serves as a protective mechanism to ensure that children have the energy and nutrients required for their rapid development. However, the timing of this phase can differ significantly among individuals.

At the time, I lacked this vital understanding. Being ahead of my peers in this way led to feelings of not fitting in and grappling with attractiveness, which was taught as being so important. This kindled my curiosity about diets and various weight loss methods, all of which began at around eight years old.

Jordan Macdonald
Jordan at 17 year old. Jordan says, “I was so insecure in my own body that I stuffed by bathing suit with socks. I was driven by a constant need to conform to societal ideals.”

As I navigated high school, I turned to starvation, stringent food restrictions, and caffeine as a source of energy. I was continually searching for ways to shed weight while experimenting with diet pills and other methods. Then one day, I discovered the gym, a revelation that reshaped my life. I realized that exercise could grant me more dietary freedom, setting the stage for my descent into the world of diets and bodybuilding. I partook in competitions, pursued higher education in personal training and nutrition, and immersed myself in diet culture in order to conform to the expectations of what it meant to “look the part.” I became a coach, guiding numerous clients through weight loss transformations. Yet, the relentless feeling of not being “enough” persisted.

Jordan Macdonald
Competing at the 2019 Vancouver PRO/AM.

My relationship with food was a charade; I’d convinced myself that I had resolved all my eating issues. But in reality, I had spiraled into a deceptive abyss. I struggled with binge eating, starvation, over-exercising, and excessive drug use while desperately clinging to this illusion. I embodied the essence of anorexia and orthorexia, spending all my time and money to continue this pursuit. While most of you are likely familiar with the term “anorexia,” “orthorexia” is less well-known. Orthorexia, or orthorexia nervosa, is an eating behaviour characterized by an obsessive fixation on healthy eating and dietary purity. People with orthorexia become consumed with ingesting only what they consider “clean” or “pure” foods, often at the expense of their physical and mental well- being. It’s crucial to recognize that orthorexia involves an unhealthy and extreme focus on healthy eating such as cutting out full food groups, labeling foods “good” or “bad,” or only eating organic, “clean foods.”

My body image lay in ruins, and despite my relentless efforts—minimal food intake, increased activities—I remained perpetually dissatisfied. While outwardly it seemed as though I had everything under control, the internal struggle became overwhelming. Over time, I found myself wrestling with binge eating, and my once-prized “willpower” vanished overnight, leaving me ensnared in a relentless cycle of restriction and overindulgence. This turbulent pattern caused my body size to fluctuate, further exacerbating my feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Jordan Macdonald
The continuous weight fluctuations: 68kg to 86kg. My mind and body were in turmoil.

Regardless of my efforts, it seemed that nothing could make me feel thin enough, strong enough, big enough, or muscular enough. I was perpetually chasing an elusive ideal that promised happiness but forever eluded my grasp. I was on the never-ending wheel of obsession.

The questions that haunted my mind were born from the depths of my pain. Why was I never content? Why did I harbour such intense self-loathing? I felt isolated and couldn’t bear the thought of being the only one grappling with these emotions.

As I looked upon our world, I saw that it was saturated with pain, guilt, and overwhelming shame. Many of us wrestled with something that, on the surface, seemed so simple. What were we doing wrong? How had we been led astray for so long? The patterns became glaringly evident; my friends in the industry faced the same issues I did. Clients returned with the same problems after we had expended significant effort to “fix” them. I began to question what I might be missing. Shouldn’t I be capable of genuinely fixing people rather than sending them on their way when they were only temporarily “better”?

I no longer desired my teaching to be merely a temporary fix, a fleeting solution. My aspiration extended beyond being a band-aid; I aimed to provide more and to lead individuals on a profound journey toward enduring transformation. My vision was to empower people to learn and thrive in their bodies without succumbing to the constant need for change. Diets, even for dedicated bodybuilders, often result in a vicious cycle of weight loss followed by regain. I envisioned fostering a lasting and healthy environment, breaking free from this cycle and promoting sustained well-being.

Jordan Macdonald
Jordan says, “Today, I’m at peace with my body. I’ve embraced intuitive and mindful training. No more nit-picking or neglect—my body is happy and in sync.”

So I embarked on a profound self-discovery journey, confronting difficult questions and searching for the elusive truth. Why was I constantly unhappy? Why was I suddenly unable to adhere to the rules that had governed my life for so long? Why was I, out of the blue, finding it impossible to stick to my meticulously planned diet? Even the motivation that had driven me to do my morning cardio for years had transformed into a desperate struggle.

As I grappled with these questions, it struck me that I couldn’t be the only one facing challenges like this. Why did so many of my clients experience weight regain after we had invested so much time working together? Why did my loved ones, when they embarked on diets, always end up regaining the weight in years to come? It couldn’t be simply attributed to a lack of willpower or effort. There had to be a deeper reason, a profound truth, because I had given it my absolute best and still found myself unable to succeed.

And thus, my journey to intuitive eating and healing my relationship with food, myself, and my body began. I have emerged on the other side feeling empowered, beautiful, and free. Intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s about empowering yourself to listen to your body and understand its needs.

In many aspects of our society, we often need to adapt and evolve as we gain more knowledge and understanding. However, one area where this adaptation seems sorely lacking is in the realm of “diets.” While the variables often change, with diets like keto, low-carb, low-fat, and more gaining and losing popularity, the end results are strikingly similar: weight regain after a certain period of time. Research unequivocally shows us that up to 95% of people who go on diets ultimately regain the weight they lost.

Intuitive Eating
Over 80% of people who diet regain the weight they’ve lost.

It’s disheartening to realize that weight loss diets have an overwhelmingly disappointing track record. Studies reveal that three years after participants complete a weight loss program, only 12% manage to maintain at least 75% of the weight they’d shed, while a staggering 40% end up gaining back even more weight than they originally lost. This information compels us to acknowledge that our approach is fundamentally flawed.

In light of these findings, it’s evident that the conventional dieting model isn’t delivering on its promises and it’s time to rethink our approach. You might be thinking “I’ve lost weight dieting” and I’m sure that’s very true, I also have! Think back to that diet, or another diet—how long did it last?

How long were you able to stay on track? After you stopped the diet did you binge everything in sight? Start another diet right away? How was your digestion? How were your cravings? Did the weight come back? Did you gain more than you started with? How did it make you feel when you ended the diet or regained the weight back? All of these questions are important to ask in order to see the patterns diets have in your life.

food shame
Many people feel shame and guilt around their food choices.

Diets often follow a familiar sequence. They begin with a sense of hope and excitement for change. You feel good about how “well” you’re doing. After a week, you might be tired but also rejuvenated, believing, “We can do this!” Three weeks pass, and the cravings become increasingly intense. You’ve been good, so you resolve to soldier on. By week 4, you can’t bear the cravings any longer, and you give in. It starts with just one cookie, then it’s the whole box, and you’re left feeling terrible, like a failure. At that point, you might think, “Well, I’ve already messed up, so I might as well finish the night like this. I’ll do better tomorrow. I’ll start fresh on Monday.” This scenario can play out in various ways, with longer or shorter timelines. You might attempt to compensate for the binge-eating through exercise, or resort to purging or taking laxatives, all actions that stem from shame and guilt.

Binge cycle
Diets create patterns.

Now, let’s explore an alternative approach—one where we ditch the concept of dieting and instead embrace intuitive eating; honoring our body’s wants and needs. You might be skeptical, wondering, “Won’t this lead to constant overeating or malnourishment?” Well, the magic lies in allowing all foods and removing the labels of “off-limits” or “special.” When we categorize foods as forbidden, our minds tend to amplify their allure, creating intense cravings. It’s like our inner child throwing a tantrum for that forbidden cookie!

Consider my own experience with bread. I once believed I had a bread addiction, convinced that having it in the house would lead to devouring an entire loaf. However, the reality was different—I didn’t have a bread addiction; I had been on a highly restrictive diet that banned bread for years. The scarcity of bread in my life, paired with continuous dieting, turned it into a forbidden pleasure. Breaking this cycle and habituating myself to its presence helped overcome the craving.

Habituation is crucial in overcoming food fears. The scarcity of certain foods, induced by prolonged dieting, can create intense cravings and affect our relationship with those foods. In my case, the guilt and shame surrounding my food choices triggered biological changes in my body, heightening cortisol levels and impacting digestion.

Research indicates that emotions, particularly feelings of guilt and shame, have tangible effects on bodily functions, including digestion and metabolic rate. The intense sensations I experienced after these food binges were a result of the destructive impact of guilt and shame on my body’s ability to properly digest those foods. Moreover, avoiding certain foods altogether can lead to a loss of digestive enzymes, making it harder for the body to process those foods. This is why, if restrictions are placed on your diet, seemingly random digestive issues can develop.

When we take the diets away, we take away the “forbidden food,” eliminating the perceived higher status of certain foods. Creating an even playing field for your food cancels out feelings of guilt and shame, the driving forces for binge eating.

Jordan Macdonald
Jordan recalls this day: “My first vacation embracing intuitive eating where I didn’t worry about meal plans or exercise routines. I ate when hungry and had an absolute blast!”

Now, let’s delve into what it truly means to eat intuitively.

In the realm of intuitive eating, the focus is on attuning yourself to your body’s natural signals—hunger, fullness, and satiety—rather than being confined by external rules or rigid diet plans. It’s like giving a high-five to your inner food guru, trusting yourself to make choices that authentically satisfy your needs and desires without the fear of losing control. If you’ve been relying solely on external “wisdom” for nutrition, like coaches, diet plans, or calorie counting apps, stepping into intuitive eating may feel terrifying and maybe impossible, but with the right guidance you can soar.

Intuitive eating is like having a heart-to-heart with your body; it’s about understanding that overeating or undereating isn’t merely a willpower hiccup but a signal, a symptom with a deeper root cause. Your behaviors and patterns are like messengers, and our emotions are the keys to unlocking their secrets.

When we find ourselves diving into a bag of chips despite a lack of hunger, it’s not because our willpower is lacking—it’s a response to something deeper. Our emotions act as a gateway to this inner knowledge. Stress, boredom, loneliness, and feeling overwhelmed may lead to overeating as a way to seek comfort in what’s readily available. On the other hand, undereating can be a response to emotions like sadness, stress, fear, or a sense of unworthiness.

Intuitive eating is the guide that helps you decipher these messages, providing insight into what your body genuinely needs. It’s about creating a dialogue with yourself so that the next time you feel the pull of emotions, you won’t find solace in a candy bar. Instead, you will learn to honor your body’s needs and  foster a partnership free from constant battling. It’s a journey of understanding, respecting, and working together with your body to cultivate a healthier and more harmonious relationship with food.

Interoceptive awareness, one of our “superhero” skills of understanding and responding to internal body signals, is a pivotal element in the intuitive eating journey. It’s akin to having a friendly conversation with your body, especially when it signals hunger or fullness, in order to build a connection with your own sensations.

Now, let’s talk about conventional diets. They impose strict rules, fixated on calorie counting and rigid meal plans. Unfortunately, they often miss the mark on nurturing interoceptive awareness and throw people into cycles of deprivation, guilt, and a one-size-fits-all mentality, hindering a genuine connection with internal cues.

But fear not, intuitive eating is here to break the mold! It’s all about a laid-back, internally guided approach which bids farewell to external rules. By honing in on interoceptive awareness, you’re essentially taking charge of your food and body relationship—a far cry from the fleeting promises of many diets.

Studies indicate that intuitive eating enhances interoceptive awareness, improving your ability to understand what’s happening inside your body. Think about those moments when you ignored or didn’t notice something until it became an extreme sensation—like holding in your pee or denying yourself food. These are ways we choose to overlook our body’s needs.

As we dive into self-discovery, gaining essential knowledge about our bodies, it’s crucial to recognize that the problem lies in the lack of accurate information about our bodies. Instead of seeking external solutions for what we don’t understand, let’s turn our focus inward and ask critical questions: “Why can’t I do this?” “Why isn’t my body cooperating?”

Many of us have had these same questions, and many of us think we are the only one struggling. I can reassure you, however, that you are not alone.

Rather than adhering to a prescribed plan dictating how much and when to eat, it makes more sense to ask yourself: “Am I hungry?”  or “How hungry am I?” and to be able to stop eating and identify when you are full and satisfied. Empower yourself to make food choices without fear of over eating.

Intuitive eating equips you to conquer these challenges, enabling you to learn, listen, and truly understand what your body needs. Building a relationship with your body eliminates the need for external validation, because you possess the power within yourself.

Imagine having the ability to stop dieting forever and maintain a healthy weight without hiring a coach or joining a weight loss boot camp. What would that feel like? To not worry about food choices, to never feel guilt or shame again. How much more life would you live? How much stress would you drop? How would your life change?

The Science Of Self-Empowerment: Exploring Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating isn’t just a feel-good concept; it’s backed by science and has gained recognition for its effectiveness in promoting healthier relationships with food. Several studies have shed light on the benefits and outcomes of intuitive eating:

Improved Psychological Well-being: A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior” found that intuitive eating is associated with improved psychological well-being, including lower levels of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction. Diets encourage body dissatisfaction and a constant need to change, creating environments low in food satisfaction and increasing cravings and stress levels.

Positive Body Image: Research in the “International Journal of Eating Disorders” indicates that intuitive eating is linked to a more positive body image and reduced pressures to conform to societal ideals of beauty.

Healthy Weight Maintenance: Contrary to the myth that intuitive eating leads to weight gain, a study in “Obesity”  found that individuals practicing intuitive eating were more likely to maintain a healthy weight over time.

Reduced Emotional Eating: Intuitive eating encourages coping with emotions without resorting to food. A study in the “American Journal of Health Promotion” showed a reduction in emotional eating among participants who adopted intuitive eating practices.

Improved Long-term Outcomes: Research published in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” suggests that intuitive eating leads to better long-term outcomes in weight management and overall health.

Jordan Macdonald
Finally liberated from the diet mentality. Via: Evan Porter.

Conclusion: A Journey To Empowerment

If you’re among the many women struggling with binge eating, weight management, body image, anorexia, or chronic dieting, know that there is hope. You don’t have to be stuck in this pattern forever. Intuitive eating propelled me out of the clutches of diet culture, ushering in a healthier, more fulfilling relationship with both food and my body. The once-persistent fear around food has dissipated, my weight no longer fluctuates dramatically, and I’ve shed an impressive 20 pounds by dropping the diet mentality. My journey of personal transformation through intuitive eating has been nothing short of liberating.

About the Author

Jordan calls Calgary, Alberta home, where she lives with her loving boyfriend and their tiny dog Zoe. Her days are devoted to empowering individuals and helping them understand their body’s needs through a holistic approach to inner healing. She strives to empower people to fully grasp themselves inside and out. In her spare time, Jordan finds solace outdoors, engaging in hikes and spending time connecting with nature and animals.

Jordan is also the creator of “Intuitively You,” a comprehensive course that imparts the principles of intuitive eating and unveils the secrets to lifelong food freedom, sustained weight management, and genuine happiness. By addressing the core of food-related issues, these principles serve as a foundation for healthier, happier lives. According to Jordan, this course offers a uniquely holistic approach to lasting change through dismantling the diet mentality, honoring your body’s cues, making peace with food, and challenging negative self-talk. With science-backed techniques and her personal guidance, participants are guided on a transformative journey towards self-empowerment and ultimate food freedom, uncovering the secrets to understanding their minds, bodies, and emotions—the key to addressing the root cause of their struggles.

It’s essential to emphasize that intuitive eating isn’t a passing trend but a pathway to empowerment and a more balanced approach to life. The course is your invitation to embrace a sustainable and empowering approach to both your relationship with food and your overall well-being.

You can reach out to Jordan with questions, comments or to book a free consultation via email at or Instagram @redhotfitness and @bemore_intuitively_you.

Photos provided by Jordan Macdonald.

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