Have you heard that kale is “super healthy,” but you really, really don’t like it? Or that sugar is bad and should be extricated from your diet completely? What if there was another way to eat in balance and harmony with what’s right for your body?
Intuitive eating helps us get back to our instinctual cues that were present when we were born – I’ll eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full and not second guess or feel guilty about my choice to consume more or less. As small children, there was no worry about looking a certain way. Nor was there a negotiation between eating something and then having to “burn it off” with more exercise – we simply ate when hungry and allowed our natural movements to balance our energy input and output.
This approach is about focusing on behaviors and choices that make you feel good – overall. It is not motivated by a scale or a certain size of jeans.
An important component of intuitive eating is letting your hunger guide you. Now, this might mean that you’re not eating until 10 a.m., and that’s in the middle of your work morning – are you willing and able to adjust your schedule to put your body first? Slowing down enough to be able to truly listen to the cues of your body becomes an essential practice. It also means responding to your body within moments that you notice hunger – not putting off eating because you’re in the middle of something else. Delaying food when we’re hungry sets us up to overeat when we do actually eat – reaching for more calorie-dense foods or larger portions than what might actually satisfy our hunger.
Something else to consider is your setting. Eating lunch at a table with silverware and a napkin is very different than scarfing down the same sandwich in your car or at a desk. This environment is much more conducive to you paying attention to the flavor, the texture and the experience of the food you’re consuming. This connection to the moment allows you to notice when you’re full, rather than just when your plate is empty. Putting your utensil down between bites is a great moment to reflect on if you really want more food.
Another important paradigm shift is giving yourself full permission to eat anything at all – truly, anything! The reality of this is that most of us don’t feel good if we eat a giant bag of candy for dinner. But, when we allow ourselves to have this experience, we get direct cues from the body about what would truly feel good next time. When you know you can have whatever you want – that it is truly an unlimited choice – what we find is that one cookie is enough, or that we do feel better having protein at dinner, or eating late at night disturbs our sleep, etc. This becomes intrinsic knowledge – and wisdom that comes from ourselves is far more powerful than anything we might learn from the outside world.
This might take some experimentation for it to all balance out, so the key is self-compassion no matter what. If you choose the wine and popcorn for dinner option, can you tell yourself, “I love you anyway,” while eating that food? Are you willing to claim your choices – and yourself – no matter what?
What I love about intuitive eating is that it’s a model that is truly trying to take the judgment out of all foods – moving away from “good,” “bad,” “cheat” and other food descriptors, because all food is on the table, it’s really about coming back into connection with yourself and choosing from a place of alignment. Is this really what I want right now? What if I say yes to what pleases me rather than what I “should” eat? Will this food nourish me on all levels?
This is also an invitation to connect into your emotions or other drivers behind eating choices. Before you open the fridge, take a moment to ask yourself what you really need right now? Or even take a few breaths and connect into your heart and simply notice what’s present. Without having to fix or change it, just let yourself know this feeling is here and it’s OK. Then you come back to what you might (or might not) want to eat.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.