Intuitive Eating

I’m thinking about Intuitive Eating this morning. Many people, including myself when I first heard the term, thought it meant breaking every diet/healthy eating plan rule and stuffing your face with cake, candy, donuts, a bottle of wine or any other food or drink that you’ve been denying yourself for years. So, that may happen at the beginning, especially if you’ve been strictly limiting the food you eat (low carb, low fat etc.) for a while. But, the beautiful thing about intuitive eating is that, once you’ve let go of all of your eating restrictions, once you’ve let go of believing an outside force knows your body better than you do, something magical happens. You start to listen to your body and really allow yourself to sink into and feel your body. And that’s when your intuition will kick in. When your intuition kicks in, you are able to receive signals from your body regarding what it needs to nourish itself. Sometimes that may be a grilled cheese sandwich with pickles and lots of ketchup and other times that may be a fresh, crisp green salad like the one in this photo. It can feel scary to trust yourself and your body’s signals, especially after many years of diet doctors telling us that we shouldn’t. But, if you can move past the fear and the initial craving of everything you’ve been denying yourself, there is a beautiful place of self-awareness and self-love waiting for you.

Advertisements

Harder Than You May Think

So, my first few weeks of intuitive eating were tougher than I thought. The first hurdle was having huge difficulties trying to rid myself of my diet watchdog mentality and desperately wanting to run back to the bland safety of my quinoa and grilled chicken. Then when I finally did just eat whatever I wanted, I found myself eating way too much of certain things like chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, bourbon sours (well, that’s not a food but I had way too many of them) and ribs. And I don’t even eat pork. So, let’s just say that I went a little crazy for awhile.

But, after a couple of weeks, the novelty of being able to eat and drink whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted finally started to wear off and I began to really listen to my body’s signals. All of a sudden I want the odd carrot along with my cookies. Or the juicy, fresh crunch of an apple instead of the loud, greasy crunch of sour cream and onion potato chips. The novelty of having chocolate every single day wore a little thin until I was completely chocolated out. And, most importantly, I really started to listen to what my body was telling me. And it had all kinds of things to tell me; when I was actually hungry for, let’s say, spinach and also when I was really full, when I had enough to drink or didn’t really want anything to drink in the first place (I never really listened to that signal before), when I just needed a good cry or a chat with a good friend instead of any kind of food, when I was feeling so uptight that it had to be addressed before I even thought about food. And I found out that my body had a bunch of other stuff to tell me as well. Whenever I eat cheese, my face breaks out in a sweat ( yes, my face actually sweats). It’s been happening for years and, other than commenting half heartedly that I must have a dairy sensitivity to whomever may be around to witness this cheesy, sweaty outbreak, I did my very best to ignore the situation. Well, if I’m truly listening and doing what’s best for my digestive system, I can’t really ignore my cheese situation any longer. So for the next while, I won’t be eating any food that my body reacts badly to. As a friend of mine said when I told him about my reaction, the only beings that should be eating dairy are baby cows. Well, if you put it that way…

relax1

Also, I’ve become a big social media addict in the past year or so as I mentioned in this post. Studying digital marketing will do that to you. But I’ve realized that it’s time to take a break from my constant Twitter, Facebook, Instagram checking and spend a lot more time in the real, natural world around me, soaking up the sound of the waves, the smell of the trees, lying in a bed of flowers every so often and just being a little more present in my life. Setting my own pace instead of trying to match the sometimes frantic pace of city life. I’ve never understand the great reward of being frantically busy anyway. Doesn’t it just mean your life and the amazing moments in it pass you by while you’re too busy to notice?

So, this is where my experiment has left me right now. And I’m learning to be aware of physical signals that I’m uncomfortable (physically or emotionally) instead of trying to shut those signals up. And I’m starting to listen to what I’m really feeling instead of trying to medicate any of those feelings with food and alcohol. Sometimes it feels like I’m moving very slowly but, even if it’s slowly, it’s in the right direction. And that means a lot.

Shhh…Listen to This

Listening to your body isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if you’ve spent a lifetime becoming quite skilled at not listening to your body.

And, when I finally do listen, I’m starting to get the message that my body is a maybe a bit pissed off. My teeth are clenched more than seems normal. My shoulders are, how you say, the opposite of relaxed, my digestive system gets upset on a pretty regular basis, my skin is broken out in little red bumps on my cheeks and I have a deep frown line (or two) on my forehead. I think it’s pretty safe to say that now may be a really good time to start listening to what my body is trying to tell me.

ll listen 2

How did this avoidance of my body’s signals begin? Well, I remember growing up feeling that the only comfort from my chaotic family life was food. Lots and lots of food (with a big can of coke and big bag of BBQ chips being my fave snack). And that was the start of my love of emotional eating and my war against my (ever expanding) body. I also remember my mother never being happy with herself and always being on some kind of diet or weight watchers eating plan and looking at herself in the mirror and frowning a lot. Since my out of control eating was already affecting my weight as a young child, I followed closely in her footsteps. I started to ping pong back and forth between emotional eating and compulsive dieting until my relationship with food became one big, long, frustrating struggle that lasted decades.

I’ve been on countless diets, far too many to list. I’ve been anorexic, bulimic, binged eaten until I was 30 pounds overweight. I’ve obsessed about my body’s shape and what and when and how much I was going to eat for years. And I’m getting weary of this. I don’t want to live my entire life classifying every single piece of food that passes my lips as “good” or “bad”. I don’t want to dine on lettuce when what I’m really craving is a slice of hot, delicious, mushroom pizza that I won’t let myself have. I don’t want my body to be my enemy and I don’t want some stranger who wrote a random diet book dictating what I put in it anymore.

What I do want is to actually listen to what my body wants. I want to eat food that I’m craving, even if it is cheesy mushroom pizza or a rich, dark chocolate bar. I don’t want to eat a ton of lettuce every day, only because it’s good for me. It’s not good for me if I’m resentful eating it. And, more than anything, I want to finally learn how to make peace with my body.

This is my motivation for my experiment with intuitive eating. Learning how to trust myself and listen to my internal cues and finally be able to sink into myself. A pretty radical concept in the ever changing world of Paleo, South Beach, low carb, high fat, low fat, “Eat like a French person” world.

So, here we go…

ll listen (2)

Intuitive Eating Step by Step

Intuitive Eating Principles from intuitiveeating.com

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
  2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
  3. Make Peace with Food. Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
  4. Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
  5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
  8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
  9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
  10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

intuitiveeating.com

intuitiveating

Until next time xo