I’m going to be very straightforward with you – I literally hate the word “diet”. I don’t know what it is about the word, maybe it just doesn’t have weight behind it (no pun intended, seriously!). I have the type of personality that doesn’t like to keep track of things. I just do them (or don’t) until it feels right. I’m hoping that in my two-part explanation of intuitive eating, you can understand how it works and use it to your advantage. For example, yes I count reps at the gym, most of the time. Other times I just keep going until it just feels like I’ve done enough to work the muscles hard enough then I kick a few extra reps in for that good burn.
It’s the same thing with food. I’ve never really been a consistent “overeater”. It does happen, but I really cannot stand the feeling of being overstuffed. Over the past few years especially I’ve learned to listen to my body and hear what it needs and doesn’t need. It’s that little voice in the back of your head saying “Okay, I’ve had enough now!”. For example, I’m really enjoying this entree, it is hitting the spot and I’m savoring every bite. But then, maybe when I have about three bites to go, all of a sudden it just doesn’t taste so great anymore. That change in taste is my brain telling me “Enough already!”. I’ve interviewed many people who struggle with overeating, and they often don’t listen to or even hear that voice. That, in itself, is a major key to intuitive eating. It’s there, I promise. You just have to listen.
Another aspect of intuitive eating is listening to what your body needs at any given time. For example, my throat feels a bit itchy, my nose is acting up a bit and I have a slight ringing in my ears. For me, this means I may be coming down with a cold, or maybe I have a build up of histamine in my system (inflammation caused by ingesting foods which trigger the immune response). I know then, to avoid sugar and processed foods at all costs, and to maybe kick up my Vitamin C intake, along with my immune booster of choice. It doesn’t always have to be focused on healthy intake, though. I, like every other female human being on earth, has her cravings. Whether it be chocolate, or anything else that will satisfy that sweet tooth. Do I deny myself these treats once in awhile? Absolutely not! Do I eat an entire box of cookies or bar of chocolate? Definitely no. Again, the principle of listening to your “gut” and stopping before 10,000 calories are consumed is key. Once you have that first experience with it, you will know what to listen for and how to respond. It does take practice.
The other side of listening to your body is not letting yourself get TOO hungry. It is very easy to get caught up in a project or work and forget to eat. Then, when we realize that “starving” feeling, overeating is inevitable. Planning out your meals, and having small, but satisfying snacks available is key to avoiding the hunger rage mentality. I know it all too well. My hands will shake, I’ll get moody, and I’ll eat anything I can get my hands on, whether it’s healthy or not. Being prepared is the key to breaking this type of habit. I love to keep a protein bar in my bag, or a jar of roasted almonds in my car. A few handfuls later and I have curbed the hunger just enough to get me through to my next meal.
Combining just these three key elements is a great start to intuitive eating. I hope that you can start to notice what your body is telling you, and that the information stays in the back of your mind. To sum up the basics:
- Listen to your body telling you “enough is enough”.
- Pay attention to the warning signs that something is wrong. There are always little telltale indicators that will tip you off.
- Be prepared. Have small portioned food items with you so you don’t get into a “hunger rage”. Small controlled portions are best to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Last but not least, don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right away. The most important thing when it comes to adjusting your lifestyle is to be kind to yourself. New habits take time and old habits are hard to break. I always tell my clients that the first two weeks are going to feel like hell. Get over that startup, and you’re going to notice that things will slowly change for the better. In regards to intuitive eating, double that time. You need to rewire your brain, and that takes longer than getting rid of lactic acid buildup. So, be kind, be determined, and be positive!
Next month I will post a follow up to Part 1 of intuitive eating and introduce other helpful tips to incorporate this into your life!