“What in the world is intuitive eating?”
This was a burning question I kept asking myself as I sat down to eat one of my first meals at Green Mountain.
Does it mean I should think about my food?
Because let me tell you, I never stop thinking about food.
Does it mean I should become one with my food?
Because trust me, I definitely plan on doing that.
Does it mean that I should instinctively eat – cavewoman style?
Because that’s never really been a problem for me.
Defining Intuitive Eating
Yes, yes, and well yes. Intuitive eating does require that you think about your food, while tuning into your meal and becoming one with the moment. And yes, until we learn otherwise, intuitive eating is instinctual – we’re born knowing how to eat and part of that is eating until your body is satiated.
But, as members of a food- and weight-obsessed society…our “non-natural” instincts have changed from “eat until we’re full” to “eat until there’s no food left.”
Many of us, myself included, have (at one point or another) stopped listening to our bodies…and started letting time, emotions, and societal influence dictate our eating behaviors.
Intuitive Eating – What’s Time Got To Do With It?
We’re uncomfortably busy, the world is alarmingly fast paced, time is money, the clock is always ticking…and the formal 5 o’clock dinners of the 1950’s have been exchanged with “anytime meals” that are inhaled while standing, working, cleaning, doing back flips …you name it.
And I am no exception…I am guilty, folks. I am the absolute WORST example when it comes to taking official lunch breaks at work. I am the girl who eats at her desk….while I continue to do work.
And sometimes, I look down and POOF my lunch has disappeared… and I don’t remember taking a single bite. That, my friends, is not intuitive eating at its best.
TIP: If you’re at all like me – remember that you are owed that time…legally! And truly, you owe it to yourself to take a break and to eat sans distraction.
Find Your Best Time To Practice Intuitive Eating
At night, I’m much better at putting the concept of intuitive eating into place. I make myself put my computer down. I sit (with a plate!). And I pay attention to my meal. I eat until my body is full. And most importantly, I ignore the clock.
It doesn’t matter if you eat dinner alone (like I do most nights) or if you’re juggling pots and pans on every burner, creating a three-course meal for family members or friends. Intuitive eating (when we get good at it) is possible in any food-related situation.
TIP: Remember to take a few moments to think about your food before you start eating it and to really pay attention to your body as it starts to feel full and satisfied.
Intuitive Eating – Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster!
I used to use food as an answer to EVERY possible emotional problem. Today, I still struggle with the idea that eating while I’m stuck in any heightened emotional state isn’t really a good idea for me. I eat most intuitively when I’m calm, focused, and relaxed.
If you put a plate of food in front of me when I’m overly anxious, sad, or even happy…my emotions usually end up doing the eating – not my body.
I find it incredibly difficult, but I try not to look for emotional support in the kitchen (unless there’s another human in there!). I KNOW how food can feel like the softest safety blanket, warmest hug, or even your best friend in times of celebration.
TIP: If you’re feeling excitable (in any sense of the word), try to center yourself before inviting food into the moment. Use the principle of intuitive eating (listening to your body and eating until you’re satisfied) to take charge of your next bite.
Intuitive (Mindful) Eating – Shame On You Society!
Let’s head back to the dawn of time…the creation of woman! You know, when we used to have to hunt and gather (and all of that good stuff). We looked at food for what it truly was – a means of gaining and maintaining energy.
Today, we see the act of eating much differently. And our views are largely shaped around what we’ve learned from the society that we live in. First of all, portion sizes have changed – for the bigger, not the better.
This idea of supersized portions makes its way into our kitchens as we fill up our plates with far more food than it takes to fill up our bodies. While working to develop a healthy relationship with food, it can be challenging to practice intuitive eating when we’re in diet recovery. Sometimes I have an awfully hard time saying no to seconds before I’ve even finished my firsts.
Mindful Eating Helps You Counter Messages From Media
Then there’s the media stuffing our eyes with images of other people overstuffing their bodies. We’re taught that excess equals happiness, but when the quantity of food is portrayed as being more important than that the quality…we’re left confused and frustrated.
I’m not saying that intuitive eating can’t be practiced with any food or any amount. It’s just that it takes concerted attention to think differently when everything else seems to be telling us more, more, more.
But remember – leftovers can be brought home and today is not the last day you’ll ever get to taste something delicious. If we can erase the idea that it’s “now or never!”, maybe we can stop letting society dictate our “diets” and finally let our bodies do the decision-making.
This brings us full circle, back to the concept of time. This fast-paced world encourages us to eat unhealthy portions on-the-go and it’s nearly impossible to intuitively eat when you’re thinking six steps ahead instead of living in the here and now.
Practicing Intuitive Eating By Taking Your Time
Eating intuitively no longer comes naturally to a lot of us, myself included. What was once innate is now something we must teach ourselves how to do. At Green Mountain, before most meals, we would take a few seconds to settle into our environments before we began eating.
We sat with ourselves, smelled our food, and centered ourselves. It sounds so easy, but as a girl who loves to eat, those seconds sometimes felt like hours! There’s food…right here…for me…and I can’t eat it yet!?
But as time passed and I started to use this strategy more and more, I even began to appreciate food as energy in a way I never had before. In my opinion, this is even easier to do when you know that what you’re about to eat is going to nourish you, not just feed you.
Start Your Intuitive Eating By Fully Experiencing The Moment
If intuitive eating is new to your vocabulary and new to your life, start with that singular moment before you eat. I find that I’m less likely to trigger a binge if I eat slowly and with purpose.
If you can, try to escape your surroundings as much as possible, even for that first bite. Close your eyes, tune out the world, take a deep breath, and thank yourself for feeding your body and for ignoring the pressure of time, the weight of emotions, and the pull of society.
We got this!
Until Next Time,