I have always been 'healthy', I grew up eating a good balanced diet which I can thank my Mum for. I remember my counterpart to the 'vegemite sangas' or 'fairy bread' was organic home made peanut butter and grated carrot sandwiches on sprouted bread for lunch and my snack would be some home made nut and seed museli bar or fruit salad while the other kids ate their pack of smiths salt and vinegar chippies. When Halloween came around - the kids that trick or treated started avoiding our house because the extent of candy we had were uncle tobies choc chip museli bars - ha ha. As I moved into my teens, I still maintained my healthy diet however I developed a regimented and tortuous relationship with my plate and my body image. Up until about two years ago - I used to eat exactly at 12pm because it was 'lunch time'; I ate until I was bursting full because I thought I had to finish everything on my plate, every meal was regimented and I ate because I thought I 'had to' not because that is what my body was actually wanting. Of course I still maintained a healthy diet, but I just had the wrong intentions and relationship with my plate. Add to this I got caught up in media diet hype - I often ate certain foods according to some stupid diet myth I had read in a trashy magazine - think along the lines of the whole 'high protein low carb diet' and 'no carbs after 3pm', you know the drill. Now a days, I eat whatever I want, whenever and I have never felt better about my relationship with food and my relationship with my body. It just so turns out that what my body wants all the time is wholesome delicious and nutritious foods! I kid you not, I actually crave things like roast veggies, quinoa, spirulina, coconut water and raw treats made with cacao, nuts and dates. So I never ever feel 'deprived' of anything. I eat what I want, when I want and according to what my body wants. I know when I am full and when these signals rise I stop eating. If I feel extremely hungry one day I will graze on nutritious foods throughout the day, and likewise if I am feeling 'full' I will simply not eat just for the sake of it just because it is 12pm 'lunch time'. This is the phenomena of 'intuitive eating' - which kicks unhealthy and short term fad diets to the curb and replaces them with an approach that embodies good health, practicality, longevity and a positive relationship with food.
Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body; where you ultimately become the expert of your own body. You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. It's also a process of making peace with food-so that you no longer have constant "food worry" thoughts. It's knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as "bad" or "fattening”. The underlying premise of Intuitive Eating is that you will learn to respond to your inner body cues, because you were born with all the wisdom you need for eating intuitively. On the surface, this may sound simplistic, but it is rather complex. This inner wisdom is often clouded by years of dieting and food myths that abound in the culture. For example, “Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full” may sound like basic common sense, but when you have a history of chronic dieting or of following rigid “healthy” rules about eating, it can be quite difficult. To be able to ultimately return to your inborn Intuitive Eater, a number of things need to be in place—most importantly, the ability to trust yourself!
So how do you become an intuitive eater you may ask? Here are 10 helpful tips extracted from Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resche's book 'Intuitive Eating' 2nd edition, 2003:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, binging. 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Honor Your Health-Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds 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.
So there you have it some tips to get you started on your intuitive eating journey. If you wish to gain some further clarity and assistance I am more than happy to help out by guiding you through some strategies and developing an eating plan via my holistic health coaching. Happy health. xoxo