March 03, 2021
Intuitive eating is the opposite of traditional dieting which involves counting calories or macros.
Instead it is a nutrition philosophy based on the idea of becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals. In short, eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.
Intuitive eating is an eating style that promotes a healthy attitude towards body image and fans believe it is a more effective and effortless way way to attain a healthy weight by listening to what your body really needs.
As mentioned in our breathwork blog, our bodies are designed with in-built programming that aims for homeostasis.... or healthy balance. The Intuitive eating approach brings you back to what you used to do when you were a child before the idea of dieting got involved and, also importantly, before the body's signals got out of balance through chemical stimulation from overly processed foods.
Intuitive eating is really about getting back to your nature and to the bodies connection to natural nutrient dense foods and eating. I personally lost over 30kg from intuitive eating after struggling with my weight and an eating disorder from childhood to adulthood and endless extreme yo-yo dieting.
WHAT IS PHYSICAL VS. EMOTIONAL HUNGER
To eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:
WHAT IS NUTRIENT DENSE FOOD?
People talk a lot about how nutrient dense food can help your success at intuitive eating, but what exactly is a nutrient dense food? Why are these important in a healthy diet?
Simply put, a nutrient dense food has lots of 'nutrients' packed into its calories. When people talk about nutrient dense food they generally mean to look for foods that are rich in a combination of vitamins, mineral, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Choosing nutrient dense foods can help you pack in the most nutrition while not blowing out your overall calories.
For example aa apple is very nutrient dense with all types of vitamins, carbs, fibre, minerals vs. Apple flavour Gummy Bears which mainly just are carbs in the form of sugar with little else. An apple will feed your body for hours while the gummie bear will jsut spike your insulin and leave your body searching for more nutrients (food).
A simple rule of determining if a food is nutrient dense is that the closer it is to it's natural form the more nutrients with will have. So when in doubt make sure you meal or snack includes portions of whole unprocessed foods.
10 KEY STEPS TO INTUITIVE EATING SUCCESS
1. Accept & Love Yourself - The Most important step is to come back to yourself. Accept it you are who you are. Rather than criticising your body for how it looks and what you perceive is wrong with it, recognise it as capable and beautiful just as it is. We all have different genetics and body compositions – it is just as unrealistic for you to expect your body to change it's natural shape as it is to grow a foot taller. In step one, make a promise to yourself that you are going to treat yourself as someone you deeply love...no matter what.
2. Stop making food the enemy.Most of us who have struggled with weight and food see food as they bad guy. It isn't and eating isn't the problem. We need food to live, our body and minds need it to function optimally. The idea of “less is more” will set you up for trouble down the line. Forget restricting calories with small meals with no/low carbs, they will just lead to uncontrollable cravings and potentially a binge which then spiral into guilt and shame. Make nutritionally dense meals filled with the all the nutrients your body needs and you will be surprised how happy the body is by feeling 100% satisfied !
3. Keeping your body fed consistently all day long.Letting yourself get to the point of feeling overly hungry will leave you scrambling for everything in sight potentially leading to over eating or a 'binge'. This is the body's natural instinct when it is faced with the idea of starvation caused by you wilfully ignoring earlier hunger signal. If you are hungry it is time to feed your body! Make your meals nutrient dense so that you are satisfied. Any sign of hunger – have a nutrient dense snack such as fruit, vegetables, natural dips like hummus, boiled eggs or nuts.
4. Know when you are full.Be mindful by paying attention while you are eating. Slow down and consciously taste your food, feel your food in your mouth, chew your food completely. Watch for signs of fullness and take it slow and put your fork or food down between bites. Pauses and really listen to your body - it will tell you when it feels satisfied and full.
5. Don’t use food to compensate for bad feelings. Too often we use food to numb or distract us from bad feelings. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom and anger can be strong and overbearing but food will only numb these for a short period and then intensify them after. Find comfort and distraction from another activity that will feed your self-esteem - reading, yoga, drawing, going for a walk, calling a friend.
6. Don't use exercise a punishment. Find ways to move your body that you enjoy. Shift the focus of exercise as a way to lose weight to a way of feeling energised and self expression. Dieting uses exercise as aprogram to remove caloreis. with this intention going to the gym becomes punishment for eating. How soul crushing is that?! Do movement you enjoy - walking the dog, dancing in the living room or a line dancing group, a walk down your favourite window shopping area, a class or sport you genuinely enjoy - even sex- just get moving! Make your entire day full of activity not just 1-2 over the top, strenuous hours inside a gym!
7. Let go of socially ingrained habits. Let go of the social programming that you have to eat at certain times of the day. If you really give it some thought, traditional 'meal times' have nothing to do with the body and are really artificial benchmarks that were designed for the body to fit into the industrial work day. This may be the biggest surprise you will experience with intuitive eating. That your body gets hungry at times outside of 'meal times' and that it will also not be hungry during traditional meal times. I myself discovered that my body doesn't wake up hungry (most days) and that I didn't 'need' to eat breakfast to get my day going. I found that my body was it's hungriest during the middle of the day anywhere between 10 pm- 2pm and that's when I eat my larger meal. in the evening i feel like having a lighter meal of yoghurt, berries and granola to end my day.
8. Listen to your body, learn from your cravings & don't quit. It's inevitable that during your intuitive eating your mind will take over and crave foods that are considered 'bad' and no amount of logical thinking or will power is going to save you. The best advice I have is to allow yourself to have the thing you crave, but do it as mindfully as possible. For example if your weak spot is MacDonalds, a bucket of KFC or Ben and Gerry's Ice cream to go and buy 1 full portion of what you want. Then start to eat it very mindfully with the intention that you are going to sit and enjoy it slowly savouring every single bite. You will find that two things happen, first that the negative emotional charge around the food lessens along with the feelings of needing to punish yourself. The second is that you will find that as you listen to your body, it will start to tell you exaclty how IT feels abut your 'comfort foods'. the reality is that what our mind thinks of as comfort foods are uncomfortable for the body to digest! They will leave your body feeling queasy, bloated, shaky, flushed and a whole bunch of other unpleasant sensations. When you really allow yourself to feel the real feelings of eating these types of foods, you start to become more motivated to listen to what your body really loves to eat and over time you may find reaching for the 'healthier' alternative becomes effortless because the idea of what is actually a 'treat' to eat has changed dramatically.
9. Be Patient - No more quick, easy, fast weight lossIt has become so clear that fad weight loss diets do not work and never will – this iws why fad diets ome and go. When you change your lifestyle with intuitive eating is may take a bit of time to get into the swing of things and to see big changes, but studies have shown that lifestyle changes will last.
10. Keep an Abundance Mindset - The most important intention with intuitive eating is to eat in abundance. It is not about restricting and making yourself go hungry. Keep it simple by eating unlimited whole food meals until you are satisfied. Then get on with enjoying your day!
WANT MORE INFO ON INTUITIVE EATING?
Check out this video by two of our fave high vibe tribe experts Natacha Oceane and Renee McGregor talk about Intuitive Eating and how to figure out if it is right for you.
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