Imagine a holiday season where you could fully enjoy EVERY bite of DELICIOUS food while making it to January 1st LOVING your BODY, it's shape, size, and how it feels inside. If this is an idea far away from your reality then you're in luck because you're about to meet 'Intuitive Eating.' Intuitive eating is the practice of building trust in your body that it knows what to eat, how much it needs, and when to eat it. Intuitive eating isn't a miracle pill or a diet. It's a practice; a promise to yourself that you will listen to your body and your mind and wake up and pay attention to the many messages it tells you through out the day.
How many times have you gone into the holiday season with anticipation of the holiday treats, parties, family gatherings, dinners to your favorite restaurant, only to leave with the feeling of being over fed or that you didn't enjoy your food due to judgment about your clothes not fitting or fear about your body weight and size. Maybe this self-judgment even came up during the parties and gatherings to a point where you spent your time thinking about how you weren't going to eat dessert or this food or that instead of using that energy to connect to friends and family around you. Fear of your body and restrictive or binging thoughts and behaviors takes up MENTAL space. It prevents you from feeling nourished by relationships and your FOOD!
So often in the conventional model of dieting and exercise it is common to practice restricting certain foods or exercising from a place of fear of gaining weight or your appearance. This fear allows the mind to ignore innate cravings for food, movement or rest that are the body's methods of communication to tell us what it needs. This brings the body into the starvation response that leaves you feeling unnourished, constantly hungry for rest, comfort, and food. When given the opportunity to let go and eat without restriction or as some may call it a 'free day' when dieting, the body then goes into overdrive to nourish itself wanting to eat to a place of discomfort because it may not know when it will receive nourishment again and the cycle of restriction begins again. This practice of fear is why you may have found yourself making the same New Year resolution year after year to start your new diet January 1st. As you may be experiencing, this yoyo diet habit and living from a place of fear of your body and food is not only unsatisfying, but may be causing your body more harm than good.
The first step to Intuitive Eating is to recognize the need for letting go of fear and stepping toward LOVE. Just like entering a new relationship, at times you may feel scared, insecure, and ungrounded yet underlying all of the uncomfortable sensations is this growing experience of love that drives the relationship forward. Beginning the practice of intuitive eating can bring up all the same sensations because you are starting a new relationship with YOUR BODY.
What a perfect holiday gift to begin to give to yourself right NOW. You don't have to wait until the New Year to begin a new diet or exercise regime because those choices are again made out of fear instead of love. Begin today by simply paying attention to the sensations in your body. You can ask yourself these questions:
How does this food make me feel? How do I feel when I eat too much? How do I feel when I haven't eaten enough? How do I remember this and modify my choices so that I feel more nourished next time these sensations arise? What does it mean to crave a food and how does my body talk to me when I'm hungry in this way? When I eat for emotional reasons, what part of my being is satisfied? How does this feel? How does this nourish me?
This may be all that happens in the early stages of the Intuitive Eating practice. You may not even change anything in your behavior, but the dialogue with your body changes. When you start to have answers to some of the above questions, you then have the space and the CHOICE to change your behavior simply for the reason of wanting to feel good IN your BODY. Intuitive eating is a PRACTICE, you may make choices that don't make your body feel good. This is OK! This is where the deepest learning arises because you are listening to those sensations and you can remember for the next situation that presents itself how you would like to change your behavior to enhance that feel good feeling. Over time your knowledge 'database' of your self-care grows and you will begin to find that you FEEL GOOD in your body more often. This is how the practice flows.
Unlike self-judgment and fear, Intuitive Eating is a practice that is best to be shared with others. Talk to your loved ones about your changing relationship with YOUR BODY and FOOD. Create COMMUNITY around you that helps build this trust in self. Your neighbor most likely needs support to find self-love just as much as you. WE ALL DO.
I wish you all a holiday season filled with SELF-LOVE that allows you to experience NOURISHMENT from your FOOD and your LIFE. If you have read this and feel that you need further support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and read my post on Health at Every Size.