How to Develop Intuitive Eating
I tend to put intuitive eating on a pedestal. It's some unrealistic mystical concept that only supermodels seem to tame. They make it sound so effortless, so natural, so easy: Listen to my body, eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full.
Yeah, I listen too. That doesn't mean I always choose to respond in the most appropriate way...
I decided to play a little and take one day to devote to intuitive eating: A day where I would listen to my body - not my mind, not my emotions, and not my habits. A day turned into a week - I like to play - and a week turned into a realization that intuitive eating is much more basic than I made it out to be.
It doesn't necessarily have to do with dissecting every signal your body is sending or figuring out how to respond. It has to do with how you feel before, during and after each meal.
When I finish a meal, and I feel totally and completely satisfied, in a way that spans from my tummy to the top of my head, I know I'm eating intuitively. When I eat a snack without holding onto feelings of deprivation and regret, but instead am filled with a sense of nourishment that extends from my body into my spirit, I know I'm eating intuitively.
It's that effortless satiation in which all aspects of my being feel nourished to the point that my body is humming slightly and my mind is no longer racing.
Here’s how to start playing with intuitive eating:
1. Turn up the volume on your hunger levels.
When your body starts to feel depleted of nutrients and energy, it signals the brain that it’s hungry. Suppressing this natural instinct quickly puts you at risk for binge-eating later on in order to provide your body with a “quick fix” to its problem. Your body has no rules for when you can and can not eat. Those rules are in your head so shut them off for the day and turn up the volume on your body’s voice. It will tell you when it’s OK and when it needs sustenance to keep feeling strong. Both signals are just as important to listen to.
2. Drink up.
So many times I find myself standing in front of my refrigerator for minutes on end, the cold air spilling into the kitchen as I survey its contents over and over and over again. If you are having a hard time distinguishing what you want, pour yourself a glass of water or a cup of tea. Whether you’re thirsty or not, take this time to let go of any preoccupations you had about your meal or snack. If you are truly, physically hungry then you won't need to eat RIGHT THIS SECOND and it won't HAVE to be that juicy avocado toast from Butcher's Daughter. That's emotional hunger. Physical hunger is slow, steady and can be satiated by various types of food.
3. Get back to the basics.
Whenever I commit myself to the Sakara meal delivery program, everything slows down and something magical happens: I remember how to eat. I don’t have to worry about what I think my next meal should be, what I want my next meal to be, and what to do when they inevitably don’t lead me to the same thing. Instead, I trust that I will love the food, that it will love me back, and that I will leave with feeling satisfied and vibrant from the inside out. When you eat clean, whole, simple foods, this simplicity seeps into the rest of your life and all of the emotions attached to your eating habits begin to loosen their grip and fade away.
4. Notice how you feel after you eat certain foods – both the good and the bad.
Integrate this project into your daily life for however long it serves you. Whenever you eat a food, notice how it makes you feel 10 minutes later…3 hours later…the next day. Write it down. Does it affect your mood, energy-levels, or skin? Do you feel bloated and famished or light and strong within the hour? Do you feel overcome with anger and anxiety or love and satisfaction? There are several complicated and interrelated factors that determine the way a food will affect you and it’s important to play around with it to see which foods do good in your body and your life.
5. Move your body.
Moving your body everyday helps strengthen your connection to your body and to that good feeling that you want to maintain. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress, which can also trigger emotional eating, so take some time to elevate the level of endorphins in your brain, reconnect to feeling alive and powerful, and move your body! It’s easy to stress about how, where, and when, but try and connect to the activity itself. Don’t sweat just to sweat. Sweat to get some fresh air, to engage your breathing, to spend time with a loved one, to feel strong.
6. Make gentle changes.
With intuitive eating, no foods go on a good list and no foods go on a bad list. Putting foods off limits gives them power, resulting in a sense of powerlessness when we give in to them later on. Instead, make an effort to fill your life with those foods that leave you feeling light and bright, strong and empowered. The more you eat these foods, the more you will crave them and the way they make you feel. Allow this transition to be gentle.
When we commit to a ridged, lofty idea of intuitive eating, it often backfires and leads to obsessing. I have no idea what my body is craving, so whatever I choose to eat will be wrong. I can't sit down before a meal and figure out exactly what my body needs, what my mind is craving, what my emotions are feeling, and how to reconcile the three. Those powers are reserved for witches and people who practice Kundalini Yoga 10 hours/day. Think simple, think basic, think clean. I don’t sit down before every meal and close my eyes so that I can figure out what I want. I sit down before every meal and close my eyes so I can start to let everything go. I sit up straight, rest my hands on my thighs, palms face up, and relax my shoulders down my back. Naturally, my breath starts to deepen. I elongate my inhales just as much as my exhales. I choose a mantra and I breathe it in with every inhale:
I release all that does not serve my highest good
Slowly…I start to let go…
And slowly…everything becomes much clearer, much simpler, and much more fun.
*Image via here