There can be a lot of confusion out there about food plans, with as many diets as there are days in the year. It’s great to have knowledge of nutrition, digestion, and healthy lifestyles, but all that knowledge can sometimes say opposing things. How do you know what’s right for you?
Intellectual eating, disconnected from heart and body wisdom, can change every time you hear the latest diet fad or recommendation from a health professional. It can become confusing and make it hard to know which recipe for health to follow. While the food plan may be good for the person who designed it and for some followers, it may not be right for others. Food plans also may be good for a time, but not forever. Tracking calories, or limiting one type of macronutrient, requires a lot of thinking and doesn’t allow for changing nutritional needs.
Intuition, on the other hand, is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. It comes from your gut wisdom and inner truth. Intuition can be informed by what you know, but it doesn’t need knowledge to know what’s true. It’s your body halting even though your intellect says, “go!” It’s that quiet unwavering whisper that gets louder if you don’t hear the message right away. Intuition speaks in dreams, symbols, and gut feelings.
Intuitive Eating as a Guide in Making Food Choices
Intuitive eating is not the overindulgent aspect of personality that feels good in the moment but pays the price later. Nor is it running through different food rules from various diets. It’s the knowing that says, “That might be tasty, but we’re going to pay for that with some indigestion later.” It may speak this message in a small gut contraction and a subtle curling in of the chest. As we say at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, intuition is always there, if we listen.
Generally, intuitive eating is practiced by listening to one’s body for hunger and fullness cues, cravings for sweet or salty or savory, and types of food that is best for one’s body at this moment in time. It lets our bodies be the source of wisdom, rather than some outside source. This style of eating is contraindicated for people in the early stages of eating disorder recovery, because one’s hunger cues and intuition may be shut off or out of balance.
Steps to Using Intuitive Eating
Notice Notice if you’re hungry. Is your belly rumbling or getting tight? Are you having difficulty concentrating? Is your energy dwindling? Or do you just notice you are thinking about eating a particular food? Are you just a little hungry for a snack, or ravenous for a five course meal? Are you actually just bored or lonely? If so, is biological food what you want? If you’re hungry for food, eat. If you’re not, don’t.
Check in Ask your intuition about what it’s craving. Is it something harmful or beneficial to your body? If you’re not sure, imagine having this item, or take a bite and track the sensations in your body. Is your body contracting or expanding, happy or anxious?
Honor your body Select foods that fuel your body. You may not know this right away, but the more you follow your intuition, the more trust you’ll develop in your body’s signals. You’ll start to have a shorthand, and you’ll know what your body needs. Give your body the foods that heal and nourish, rather than destroy. Listen to the cravings, but learn to discern what is a craving from wholeness versus a craving from a condition like Candida or parasites.
Stop When you have had enough, stop. In order to hear this message from your body, you’ll need to go slowly enough to listen. If you’re not sure, stop for a moment and check in. Bodies function best when they aren’t starving or so full that digestion is impeded, so stop when you still have a little room left.
Move For proper digestion, the core muscles need to be activated. Movement helps lymph circulate and keeps our bodies organs toned. Move for pleasure, not pain or gain. A 10-minute walk is enough for some. A little movement will help deepen a connection between brain and gut.
Enjoy Finally, enjoy! Eating food is a pleasurable experience. As we know from Dynamic Eating Psychology, when we give ourselves permission to take pleasure in our food, our body feels good and our mood elevates. When we are not cringing with guilt, we can remain open to our body’s signals. A lovely feedback loop develops that tells us when we are on the right path to pleasure, or the wrong one toward pain. We get quicker at noticing which path is which, and we select the path of nourishment and pleasure more readily.
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