Intuitive Eating- For something that sounds so natural, it takes a lot of work.

By Jenna Nelson, Trainer at Milestone Fitness

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Intuitive eating sounds so natural. The way it should be. Listen to your body. Eat when hungry. Stop when full. The common sense approach.

So why is it so hard for people to do?  

For starters, most of us have been affected by our extreme diet culture since a very young age. Magazines, articles, media images all with a very clear message of what we should look like. Endless tips on how to exercise and what to eat if we want to strive for perfection.  Companies prey on our insecurities and than sell us a supposed solution to the problem. 

On top of that the food industry has turned into a science lab. The supermarket has dozens of aisles, filled with endless options of products that have been created for us in a lab. Foods that sometimes contain ingredients that lead you to crave more. Foods that promise to be “light” “low fat” “fat free.” Foods that have been altered, sweetened, colored, modified, etc. It’s hard to eat intuitively when foods have been manufactured to make you crave more.  Have you ever noticed that when you are eating your veggies your body has no problem telling you when it’s had enough? Now what about when you are eating an ice cream cone? Do you stop because your mind/body tells you it’s satisfied? More often than not the answer is no. When it comes to sugar the body says more, more, more! It can’t get it enough. You’re not going to never eat a treat, but when you don’t have a good relationship with food it can be very hard to know what to eat, and how much is enough for you.

Lastly, eating is very emotional. A lot of people are able to find a sense of control when it comes to food when they are unable to control other aspects of their life. Or to the contrary, some people eat excessively when they are unable to control certain situations. We all have a relationship with food. What I usually tell people is this is the type of relationship that you should be in control of. You need to have hand in the relationship.  It’s not something that happens overnight. It takes years of practice and habit building.

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If you are tired of being stuck in the hamster wheel of chronic dieting, I’d like to help by offering suggestions on how to work on & improve your relationship with food. Taking the time to heal your relationship with food gives you a fighting chance to stop the chronic dieting and learn to successfully eat intuitively.

1) TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD - So much easier said than done. Daily reminders that your food is supposed to fuel your body is important. Are you making choices that will help you feel satisfied and energized? Are you eating until you feel stuffed or do you naturally stop when you are starting to feel full? Do you have feelings of guilt when eating certain foods?

ACTION STEP: Truly take the time and pay attention to where your mind goes during meal time. Practice taking away negative thoughts, words, and emotions that you cling to when eating. Instead, focus on how the food is making your feel. If it’s delicious, enjoy it! If you are starting to get full, stop eating. I can’t stress enough how important this step is. Take time with it! 

2) TAKE NOTICE OF YOUR LANGUAGE REGARDING DIET- Do you label foods as either good or bad? Do you get treat foods, or rewards when you have eaten healthy for a certain period of time? Do you have cheat days? Do you say “screw it, I’ll start over on Monday”?  If you are in a constant state of starting over when it comes to eating healthy this is an important step for you to focus on. 

ACTION STEP: No more good or bad days, and no more starting over. The biggest action step you can take here is to actually enjoy a treat when you are having it and then make sure that at your next meal you get back to what you know is a better choice for you. Don’t wait for the next day or the next week! Stop starting over at future dates. That mindset of constantly starting over is self sabotage over and over again.  

3) SLOW DOWN – You can’t focus on intuitive eating if you don’t take the time to slow down and focus on a few important factors.

→ How do you feel after each meal? Are you satisfied, still hungry, bloated, energized, sleepy, etc?
→ Did any negative emotions come up during your meal?
→ Did you enjoy your meal or rush through it?

ACTION STEP: Put the phone away, shut the tv off, put aside distractions and when you are eating, simply eat. When we have all these distractions around us its impossible to focus on the food we are eating or how its making us feel because we have so much other stuff going on. Slow down, chew, enjoy the flavors, be present in the simple task of enjoying a meal.

4) GRATITUDE & PERSPECTIVE- Bringing daily awareness to what you are grateful for could play a pivotal role in improving your relationship with food. Being grateful for what your body is capable of instead of what it looks like.  Being thankful for your health, family, friends, your home, etc. Bringing awareness to your privilege and the fact that your “body image” and “diet” is one of your top stressors should make you feel thankful that you are safe and healthy in your day to day. Bringing some perspective to the situation daily is important as you are working on changing your habits.

ACTION STEP: Take a moment to give thanks before each meal. Thanks to the animal. Be thankful you have such an abundance of healthy food and treats you get to enjoy regularly. Give thanks for a delicious meal enjoyed with family and/or friends. Take a moment to thank your body for all it does for you and then refuel so that it can continue working hard for you.

This common sense approach to eating takes time.  I wish everyone could easily eat intuitively but that’s not the case. We have a lot of work to do to reverse the effects of chronic diet culture that leads people down a path of deprivation, insecurity, instant gratification, and the never ending search for “perfection’. Pick 1 of these 4 action items and start working on it today…not Monday

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