Interested in Intuitive Eating? You must do this first!
Are you fed up with dieting? Good. Fad diets often lead to disappointment and long-term weight gain. So now, you’ve started looking for what you can do to eat healthy and perhaps shed some pounds, and you’ve discovered “Intuitive Eating”. On the surface, this appears to be your ideal plan for healthy nutrition.
In theory, it is! Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that throws away the diet books and meal plans and encourages you to be the expert of your own body, eating when hungry and stopping when full. It brings back the pleasure of eating.
As a Mindful-based Eating Coach, I love the idea of intuitive eating (and it relates quite closely to mindful eating) but there is one area where it falls short: How do chronic dieters trust their intuition?
To be an intuitive eater, you must first learn to trust your body! It is wonderful to eat for your needs and not based off of a strict diet regimen. However, dieting, especially many attempts to diet, breaks your ability to trust your body. It requires you to look outside of yourself for guidance – a book, a plan, a meal system – and quiets the inner voice that tells you what YOU need. Without trust, your intuition is faulty.
Think of your body as a young child. If you have deprived it of a food (cookies), or food group (carbs), for most of its life, then when you start eating “intuitively”, it says, “good, let’s eat the cookies!” You feel great because intuitive eating says you can eat what you want; but you feel bad because what you want is not nourishing your body. Intuitive eating is not to blame. Your body is simply confused – where it once was highly restricted, it now has full freedom of choice. Oh, the power!
This is where mindful eating steps up to the plate (so to speak). To trust your intuition with food, you must first trust your body, which means you must bring awareness to your body. Mindfulness requires you to be present, listening and sensing your experience with food.
Here’s an example: Your body says, intuitively, “eat the cookie”, so you do. But you don’t just eat the cookie. You eat it mindfully! You ask, “why do I want this cookie? Am I actually hungry? Am I sad and wanting to feel better? What does my body want or need with this cookie?”. Then, as you eat, you do so slowly, smelling the cookie; tasting the vanilla and chocolate and butter; noticing the sensation as you swallow; sensing its energy in your body. You are fully aware of the process of eating and the information your body is communicating to you.
Your body and mind are processing that communication. You are aware of what motivated you to eat the cookie. You are aware that half of the cookie was enough to satisfy your hunger and craving. You put the remaining cookie down. You trust your body.
Awareness, paying full attention to your actions and choices, puts you behind the wheel driving the decisions towards healthy eating. Being aware, you’ve learned your personal hunger cues and fullness cues. You’ve learned the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. You know which foods feel good in your body, and which foods deplete your energy and zap your vigor. You trust your intuition. You trust yourself!
Listen to your body and your intuition will follow!