This Year, Let Your Internal Compass Be Your Guide


Make this the year you try something new. And I mean actually, truly, new. Instead of choosing just another route (a different diet) in an attempt to reach the same destination (weight loss), try choosing an entirely new destination.

One where you eat in a way that is pleasurable and health supportive, and won’t lead you to the same dead end you’ve encountered over and over again (no change) or send you on a detour back to where you began (weight loss followed by weight regain).

This year, get off the road that has repeatedly left you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated (dieting and deprivation), and begin a journey toward self-discovery, reclaimed body awareness and trust, and true well-being.

Where to Begin

You can start by digging out and dusting off your internal compass (your personal eating intuition) and letting it be your guide when it comes to making food decisions.

That might sound a little scary, but the reality is that all those food rules you’ve been trying to follow, you know, that stack of maps for this never-ending road trip you’ve been on, are what’s really responsible for keeping you stuck and getting you lost time and again. So, pack them up and put them in the attic, because they don’t get to join you on this journey again.

You see, the problem isn’t you, it’s all of these maps that promise to lead you to a destination that doesn’t exist – at least not in the way you’ve been made to believe.

Letting Your Internal Compass Be Your Guide

So what exactly is your internal compass? It is your natural capacity to self-regulate your food intake and it is in there somewhere. It just may take some time to find it and to get it back in working order.

To get the needle moving:

  • Practice pausing and noticing. Before, during, after, and between meals, pause to check-in and assess how you feel.

Before you start eating, ask yourself things like: Am I hungry? How hungry? If I am going to eat, what might be the most satisfying? How much do I need to feel satisfied? How will eating that food make me feel? The Green Mountain Hunger & Satisfaction Guide can be a helpful resource when you are learning how to read your compass again.

As you eat, notice how the food looks, tastes, and smells. Are you enjoying it? What about the temperature and texture? Does the food make a sound as you chew?

Pause between bites and notice how this meal is making your body feel. See if you can notice when the flavor becomes less intense, the hunger sensations subside, and fullness begins to set in.

After you finish, how do you feel? Still hungry? Just right? Too full? Use this information to help you fine tune your navigation skills in the future.

  • Practice patience. As you re-learn how to use your compass, you may occasionally misread it and find yourself headed in a direction you didn’t mean to go. THAT IS OKAY. You may eat to the point of feeling too full, you may not know exactly what to put on your plate to help you feel the most satisfied, you may eat something that looked really good but doesn’t feel so good in your body.

When you are learning, or re-learning, a skill, it takes practice. So, approach this process with sense of curiosity and a desire to explore instead of aiming for perfection and look for an interesting landmark (the learning opportunity) at every unintended turn.

  • Enjoy the ride. Instead of focusing on the destination, find the beauty in the journey, in this process of self-discovery. Take new roads, try new foods, open yourself up to new experiences so you can learn how you can truly nourish yourself in a way that is satisfying and health supportive without being rigid or restrictive.

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Some General Principles

And while there is no single set of instructions for learning how to use an internal compass, because they are all a little different, here are a few general principles that you might find helpful.

  • Aim for balance in your meals. This basically means, aiming to incorporate a mix of carbohydrate, fiber, protein, and fat at each meal. This balance of nutrients helps to not only ensure your body’s nutrient needs are met, but also helps to regulate appetite hormones and blood sugar levels and promote prolonged feelings of satiety, which can ultimately help to manage food cravings and regulate overall intake.The Green Mountain Guide to Supportive Eating plate model can serve as a helpful framework for informing how you might approach incorporating balance into your meals. It is not an exact prescription for how you should eat, but it is a helpful starting place for those of us who aren’t quite used to relying on our internal compasses.
  • As you eat, do so mindfully. That is slowing down, removing distractions from your environment, and focusing on engaging all of your senses. The more present we are during the eating process the more aware we will become of how that food is making our body feel, whether or not it’s enjoyable, and at one point we feel comfortably satisfied.
  • Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This may sound counter-intuitive. You may even be thinking, “this is exactly what’s gotten me in trouble in the past.“ However, it’s really the self-imposed restriction and deprivation that has likely been at the root of previous overeating. We want things we feel like we shouldn’t have, simple as that. The more forbidden a food becomes, the stronger the desire to have it grows. Granting permission to eat is an important step in truly discovering what we want or need in any given moment.

This year, it’s all about the ride as you make your way into unfamiliar territory. Armed with nothing more than your internal compass (and a few reminders on how to use it) you are ready to begin navigating your way to this new destination (food freedom).

It may be foreign, but it promises to be beautiful and peaceful. And the journey, well it is sure to be a liberating one, full of exciting discoveries and new opportunities.

Here at Green Mountain at Fox Run we believe in living life fully now and not waiting until some perceived ideal comes. We encourage our women to BE HER NOW. Stay tuned for more information in our #BeHerNow email series. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

4 responses to “This Year, Let Your Internal Compass Be Your Guide”

  1. janice says:

    Sometimes I am afraid to eat because I cannot stop

    • Dana Notte says:

      Hi Janice – thank you for your comment. I know that’s a feeling many of the women who walk through Green Mountain’s doors experience, and probably one that many people reading this post share. And why we seem to consistently overeat certain foods is complex. Ultimately, it has to do with our thoughts and beliefs about certain foods, how previous experiences with those foods shape and reinforce those thoughts and beliefs, how we try to manage our intake of those foods (do we restrict them?), what is behind our desire to eat (beyond physical hunger), and so on. Learning how to trust ourselves around these foods again and eat them in a way that truly feels good, is a matter of peeling back these layers and really understanding what is at the root of our eating behavior.

      You might find this blog: & the Sugar Addiction webinar available here: to be helpful resources as they provide some strategies you might experiment with. We also have many more helpful resources available on our blog.

  2. Marianne says:

    This approach really appeals to me. I am already doing a couple of the actions suggested and I’m looking forward to adding the rest. Thank you for sharing this.

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About the Author

Dana Notte, MS, RD, CD

Dana has dedicated her career to helping individuals establish a balanced and healthy relationship with food. She has extensive training and experience in coaching for behavior change, mindful eating, and motivational interviewing. Dana has spent years leading group-based behavior change classes, developing and leading interactive workshops for worksite wellness programs, and providing nutrition counseling to individuals struggling with eating, weight, and chronic health conditions. Her practice style is client-centered, compassionate and empowering, with the goal of helping individuals develop the confidence to achieve their health and wellness goals. Dana is the Nutrition Lead at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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