Is Your Intuitive Eating App Helping or Hurting?
Anyone who has been a part of diet culture is no stranger to food tracking in some form. Counting calories, setting food goals, and giving yourself exercise goals to “work off” what you’ve eaten are a core part of these apps.
Once you start your journey towards healing your relationship with food, you might be looking for an intuitive eating app to fill that void.
There are quite a few mindful eating apps out there. You can find apps that remove calorie counting, help you track your hunger scale, prompt you to journal, have timers to remind you to eat more slowly… the list just goes on.
The problem with these apps is that they ignore the most critical intuitive eating principles: when you’re using an app to determine when and how much you should eat, you aren’t listening to your intuition.
Instead, you’re relying on external input.
You’re waiting for your phone screen (in the form of your intuitive eating app) to give you “permission” to eat, feel good about yourself, or acknowledge growth. Food tracking apps are designed to help you lose weight and think about shrinking yourself and your body.
That’s no way towards food freedom!
Intuitive eating (aka food freedom) is all about listening to your internal cues.
It’s about having the freedom to love, fuel, and exercise your body based on your needs – not society’s or an intuitive eating app’s input. Switching your view to intuitive eating from being told how to eat can feel scary and overwhelming.
Using a mindful eating app can lessen that feeling of being overwhelmed, but it’s putting a Band-Aid on instead of truly healing you. Letting go of the idea that weight loss will make you happy is one of the first steps to take when seeking binge eating help, and no app can do that for you.
How to replace your intuitive eating app: the trusty phone alarm
Initially, intuitive eating can feel overwhelming and confusing. For those who are still craving some structure, you aren’t alone.
There are many tools that can help you on your journey. First, you can use a good old fashioned journal, or even keep track in your head to find your place on the intuitive eating hunger scale. You can record your thoughts and feelings to help you break this cycle.
As you’re getting started, you may want some extra help. People who struggle to recognise their hunger cues until their tummy is roaring might need something to prompt a self-care check-in.
For this, you can use your phone’s built-in alarm clock.
Setting an alarm for about 5 times a day can remind you to notice how your body is feeling. Plain alarms are a judgment-free alternative to intuitive eating apps, which might make you feel like you must eat right then. My clients love to add positive affirmations in the alarm title as reminders to love your body!
The built-in alarm clock can also work great with your phone’s notes app to help with journaling. Journaling can help you re-learn how to listen to your body and get back in touch with your emotional state, a key step in your intuitive eating (food freedom) journey.
Alternatives to an intuitive eating app
The truth is, leaving behind the apps can be difficult.
When you’re used to a dieting app, a sleeping app, an exercise app, an intuitive eating app, or a food tracking app, deleting them from your phone can leave a void in your routine and behaviour.
While I think there are plenty of healthy habits we can use to replace those apps, I’ve picked out some alternatives you can use in the interim to help you wean off the mindful eating apps.
The final goal here for me (and you!) is to move you forward into emotional wellness and 100% app-free, food & body freedom.
A journaling app is a wonderful replacement for your intuitive eating app. A journaling habit has been linked to many mental health benefits and can replace the automatic reach for something to give you “permission” to eat. Instead, you can open your journaling app and work through why you’re looking for external input.
My first recommendation for a journaling app is for my visual thinkers and those who have never journaled before. It’s called Daylio, and its creators call it a “micro-diary”. When you open Daylio, it prompts you to rate how you’re feeling using 5 smiley faces ranging from “rad” to “awful”.
When you’re replacing an intuitive eating app with a journaling app, it’s important to find something that doesn’t feel too difficult. You can log a Daylio entry even on days when you aren’t feeling like yourself or you just don’t want to talk about it.
This next app is for people who are new to journaling but enjoy expressing themselves in writing. Grid Diary offers templates and prompts to journal with. The format is incredibly flexible, and allows you to keep multiple journals at once.
The grid format of the diary can help you get started when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Each block of the grid features one question, such as “How was my mental state today?” or “What did I do for someone else today?”
My last recommendation is an app called Day One. This app has a little bit of everything. For starters, the beautiful interface makes this app calming and inviting.
When you start your journaling, you can add photos or just write your feelings. The premium version of the app also lets you make “written” entries using your finger or a stylus and dictate voice entries. The versatility of this app makes using it feel comfortable and familiar. You’ll hardly even miss that old intuitive eating app!
Meditation and Mindfulness Apps
Moving away from the external input of intuitive eating apps means you’ll need to practise getting in touch with your own inner voice. Mindfulness and meditation apps can ground you when you’re feeling particularly emotional or overwhelmed. Guided meditations often have breathing exercises, uplifting reminders and affirmations, or a mixture of the two.
Smiling Mind is a not-for-profit mindfulness app. It’s the perfect app to replace your intuitive eating app, since it has built-in mindful eating meditations. These meditations can help walk you through learning the core principles of mindful eating.
Smiling Mind doesn’t stop at mindful eating. As a matter of fact, it’s only a small part of their program. They have meditations on sleep, relationships, work, and even a “Mindfulness 101” course for absolute beginners.
My more visual learners will love Headspace. The app uses charming animations to help you master breathing exercises. Though it’s not an intuitive eating app, it does have mindful eating meditation that helps you practise enjoying food with all five senses.
Unlike intuitive eating apps, these mindfulness guides are there to help you practise looking inward. They can be especially helpful when you’re new to mindful eating, out of practice or just need a push to get started.
The last meditation app I’d recommend is called Insight Timer. It has thousands of guided meditations, courses, and more. This app is especially wonderful for the variety of meditations and mindfulness exercises it offers.
No matter your religious or spiritual preferences, Insight Timer has meditations to help you relax, sleep, and more. They offer mood check-ins before and after a meditation and a silent meditation timer for those times when you’re ready to luxuriate in your own quiet presence.
One of the things you might love about intuitive eating apps is the validation (you may not even realise this!).
An app celebrating your successes feels great, especially when you’re struggling to make positive changes. Another alternative is a habit-forming app that can help you replace your food tracking app by celebrating all life’s successes – not just those about food.
My favourite is Thrive. Thrive is a habit-former, mediation app, and blog all rolled into one. This app is great for people looking to download one app to replace their intuitive eating app, meditation app, and notes app all at once.
You can set goals and then create lists of steps you want to take to achieve those goals. When you’re feeling stressed from a setback or hard day, you can use their stress reduction guide to reset and start fresh.
Goalify is another habit-forming app, and it’s perfect if you like looking at lots of data points or spreadsheets. With Goalify, you can set different kinds of goals and get tips and notifications to help you reach them. You can even invite your friends and work on forming good habits together!
My last recommendation may not be for everyone, but fans of classic games are sure to love it. Habitica is an app that turns forming new habits into a game. If you love Pokemon or Animal crossing, Habitica will replace your intuitive eating app in a heartbeat.
In Haibitica, you create an avatar, set your goals and then start playing! Achieving your goals earns you points and in-game currency that you can use to dress up your avatar. One thing to put on your radar with this app is that missing your goals hurts your character’s health, which might be upsetting to some people. If you’re ready to take on fantasy challenges, though, this app is perfect.
When you’re working to remove an intuitive eating app, replacing it with other diet culture apps can be tempting. Calorie counters aren’t helpful, but your body loves joyful movement! Step counters can prompt you to get moving without punishing your body.
Well-being should always be your goal, not “working off” your lunch. Walking is wonderful for your physical and mental health, so an activity reminder can be a great help. Many apps (and people) recommend 10,000 steps a day, but the truth is, that number is just big, snappy, and flashy.
It isn’t the number of steps required to see the benefit.
Recent studies have shown that significant cardiovascular health benefits start showing up at just 7,000 steps a day.
An entire kilometre is only about 1,500 steps for most people; less if you’re especially tall! But regardless of how many steps you take, the important thing is to get out there and get started!
For those who want to move toward intuitive eating, a pedometer that doesn’t convert your steps into calories burned is important. That way, you can focus on enjoying your walk without worrying about how it “matches” the food you’ve eaten.
A simple pedometer is StepsApp. This app is just what it sounds like. The clean interface doesn’t overwhelm you with options, and it can sync with your Apple Watch to count your steps when you don’t have your phone on you.
If you struggle to feel like walking is “worth it” or you need to have a new reason for exercising (rather than trying to shrink your body), check out Charity Miles. Charity Miles donates money to more than 50 charities with every step you take. You can even log other movements like biking, swimming, or dancing.
With this app, your movement does good for the world as well as yourself. Win-win!
What is Intuitive and Mindful Eating?
Since we’ve discussed intuitive eating so much in this post – and because intuitive and mindful eating are sometimes used interchangeably, I’ll give you a quick definition. Though they are both very similar, there are slight differences between intuitive eating vs mindful eating.
Intuitive eating (food freedom) is all about listening to your body. Your body will tell you how much food you need and how often.
Your body is smart. It knows what it needs. Intuitive eating (aka food freedom) means you stop listening to what other people say your body needs and start listening to what your body tells you it needs.
Intuitive eating is NOT a diet, and it’s not for weight loss. Intuitive eating is a way to get back in touch with your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. This is where intuitive eating apps fall short. Intuitive eating apps consider weight loss part of the program.
In reality, aiming for weight loss is the opposite of intuitive eating.
Mindful eating can be part of your intuitive eating (food freedom) journey, but it isn’t the same thing. Mindful eating is about really enjoying your food. When you eat mindfully, you allow yourself to relish in every bite.
But it’s not necessarily about listening to what your body needs for nourishment.
Mindful eating is about enjoying the sight, smell, texture, taste, and even sound of your food. It’s taking time to focus on eating without any distractions.
When you eat mindfully, you give your body time to catch up with your fullness cues. It takes your body about 20 minutes to realise you’re full, and mindful eating gives you a chance to notice you’re full before you’re stuffed.
If enjoying your food this way sounds blissful, that’s because it is! A “mindful eating app” might remind you to eat or prompt you to eat slowly, but the best ways to practise mindful eating include pairing it with my intuitive eating principles, and turning inward (not to an app) for guidance.
Ditch the Intuitive Eating App, Embrace Food Freedom
Intuitive eating apps are often just diet culture repackaged.
True intuitive eating puts your health, happiness, and relationship in the best hands: your own. Learning to trust yourself again is scary. I know, because I’ve been there.
Creating a new relationship with food is difficult, but it’s possible. Instead of relying on an intuitive eating app, you can work directly with me to build the healthy habits you’re searching for around your relationship with food. The programmes I’ve created are all-in-one options to help you ditch the food trackers, mindful eating apps, intuitive eating apps and diet culture as a whole.
But it’s about so much more.
You will see a full body and mind transformation that impacts every aspect of your life!
With any of my programmes, you’ll have ongoing support, regular healing sessions, and check-ins. Most importantly, you’ll never have to wonder if your intuitive eating app is helping or hurting, because you’ll have the best source when it comes to eating: yourself!