WHAT IS INTUITIVE EATING?
Our relationship with food is ever-changing and very often, extremely complex. How we eat is a direct mirror-image of how we’re treating ourselves and it’s no surprise that with our busy modern lifestyle - more often than not - our bodies get the last thought.
Childhood memories, good times and bad times, and our own individual experiences all shape our relationship with food, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Add to this a world where we can order food in an instant, where packaged food outweighs fresh on the shelves and where time and money play a massive part of our decision making and you’re left with a very confusing space. We live in a society that makes food choices a lot harder than it should be and our decision making far less conscious. We all want to eat well, have body acceptance and a peaceful relationship with food, and we all deserve to have these things.
Introducing Intuitive Eating, an alternative no-diet diet, that allows us to become experts of ourselves. It sounds easy but with the modern world adding layers and layers of stress and imbalance, our intuition is fighting its way through the noise. I know this because I lived this way for many years. Having trained in Intuitive Eating, I now live harmoniously and consciously - connecting my mind and body. I want to share this knowledge and philosophy with you.
Eating intuitively slows down the pace and allows us to start feeling into our food choices. It allows us to distinguish the physical and emotional cues of hunger and acknowledge our choices. How do you want food to make you feel today? What do you feel your body needs? These are questions eating intuitively focuses on, helping you to re-establish a relationship with your intuition and break free from the ongoing battle with your body and your mind. Less judging, more eating and more satisfaction!
If you’re stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle, body shaming, or just want to rekindle your relationship with your intuition, here is my introductory guide. All you need is 5 days and a journal; but one especially for this experience too. I advise to do the five steps over the course of 5 days. Give yourself a quiet week, one that focuses only on you and not when you’re calendar is packed full of meetings and events. Really embrace the steps. If this connects with you, you can join me to taste the sweet success of eating food like it's just food and becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals in my 10 week programme, which launches on 1st August.
Give intuitive eating a try. You just might be surprised at how much of your life opens up when you start trusting your body — and yourself.
The Intuitive Eating 5 Steps: A Mini Guide:
Step 1 - Keep a food diary
It may seem ironic to ask you to focus more on what you're eating, when the task at hand is trying to get you to eat intuitively, but bear with me here. To start identifying with your food habits, you need to see it, right there in front of you. You’d be surprised how many people eat a very specific thing at a certain time of the day, completely robotically, and it’s only when they write it down, they realise why (stress from your boss come 4pm or fatigue that hits post lunch). Start a journal and note down what you ate, why, how it made you feel and how hungry you were on it on a hunger scale of 1 (ravenous) and 10 (not hungry at all). To understand your relationship with food, you have to connect with it and seeing it on paper allows exactly this.
Step 2 - Inward Listening
To be able to use your intuition, you have to connect with it. Set the intention to tune inward every day for 20 minutes. First thing tends to work best, so set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. If this fills you with dread, I assure you this meditative state will give you a boost of energy. Scan your whole body from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head. Use all of your senses and be curious. Is there tension or a noteworthy sensation, is there an area that feels light? Breath into spaces that feel heavy and on the exhale breath, release the feeling - literally visualise the breath releasing it as you exhale through the mouth. Try to imagine what this sensation would be like if it had a colour, shape, size, texture, movement, weight or density? Allow enough space and time to thoroughly experience the quality of it. Is there an emotion that comes with it? What is it saying to you? Keep asking until you feel a shift, or at very least, fell like the sensation has passed. Write in down in your journal and practice, practice, practice. After time, this process will become more natural and fluid, allowing your intuitive wisdom to guide you skillfully and compassionately in your everyday life.
Step 3 - What are you hungry for?
Now that you’ve started connecting to the food you eat, now it’s time to talk to it, and your body. Ask yourself before each meal, why am I eating this? Where am I on the hunger scale? Is this what I’m hungry for? This is how we start to un-link the associations with food and increase our ability to understand where our hunger is coming from. The 4pm slump when you reach for the chocolate bar - are you really hungry for this, or do you need some fresh air or a deep breath? You’re nervous ahead of a big meeting - do you really need the snack, or are you feeding your nerves? You see where I’m going here. Keep this in your journal and note any emotions or thoughts that come with it.
Step 4 - Use your Senses
Bring your attention to all bodily sensations when you eat. Take one meal when you can create a calm space and sit quietly without disruption. Sit with your food and engage your senses - smell it, touch it, look closely, and then take one bite and chew it 100 times. Listen to the sound of your food nourishing your body. Taste every mouthful. You’ll find a new-found respect for food and allow your mind and body senses to connect deeper to it. Try this for at least 5 mouthfuls and then chew at least 20 times for the reminder of your meal. Once you’ve tuned into these bodily sensations, see if you can sense what emotion(s) are being expressed in the experience. Don’t get hung up on trying to name the emotion; just trying to tune in is enough. Identifying the feelings becomes clearer with practice. Write your experience in your journal.
Step 5 - Break the Food Rules
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack at 4pm. Who knows where this regime came from but it’s far from using our intuition. Start to eat in-line with when you’re hungry. Use your hunger scale. You had a big lunch and you’re not hungry at 7pm - do you really need dinner or something light? Then look specifically at the foods you’re eating. On a diet, you might look at a potato and ask yourself: How many carbs or calories is in it? If I eat it, what will I have to not eat later? Should I only have a salad for lunch now I’ve eaten carbs? Am I being good today or bad? If I’m being bad already I may as well add some cheese and then go in for desert. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow. Sound familiar? With intuitive eating, you simply look at the potato and ask: Do I want it? Is this what my body needs? You might naturally consider other factors as well (more on that in the course), but it all starts with this question and creating your own food rules.