Each person has a unique biochemical makeup and is individual in what works best for them nutritionally! Some days, weeks or months certain foods won’t sit well in our bodies and won’t feel nourishing, and other times those foods might feel great.
Intuitive eating is a process of learning to tune into our bodies and ask what type of nourishment we need in that moment. It’s about being mindful with food and appreciating how it affects our bodies on a physical, mental and emotional level. It’s about being kind and compassionate with ourselves when we feel that a certain food doesn’t serve us anymore, or when welcoming back / trying a new food.
It’s also about learning to trust yourself and becoming empowered when it comes to food. We’ve been taught to listen to everyone else except ourselves when it comes to food and nutrition, and that it’s a one size fits all approach (hello diet culture). This is harmful because we start to believe that we don’t know best and that we can’t trust ourselves – but here’s a secret – we do, and we can!
Here are a couple of key ways to build your intuitive and mindful eating “muscle”:
Be patient and compassionate with yourself
This is not an overnight shift; it takes time to build the intuitive eating muscle.
Eat to satisfy physical hunger and nutritional needs vs. emotional hunger
It’s OKAY if you do eat emotionally (as you absolutely will, especially when you’re first learning intuitive eating), just make note of these times and what was going on for you – awareness and self-compassion is key.
Mindfulness / seek satisfaction with food
Pay attention to the taste, aroma, texture, appearance, and temperature of your food. When you slow down to eat, you are able to listen more carefully to your body’s signals. Ways to slow down include: 10 deep breaths before your meal, removing distractions, chewing thoroughly, and not eating on the go.
It’s important to ensure your nervous system is in “rest and digest” mode so you can actually digest and absorb the nutrients you are eating.
Pay attention to your hunger signals
If you wait too long to eat and are starving, you are more likely to overeat or reach for something that won’t make you feel great after. Keeping healthy snacks on hand (see point 6) that are full of healthy fats, protein and fibre is helpful.
Pay attention to fullness
Listen to your body’s signals telling you when it’s no longer hungry. Slowing down at meal time will help with this. Take 10 deep breaths before you eat, as well as half way through your meal.
Keep your fridge / pantry stocked with nutrient rich foods and plan ahead
It’s hard to eat intuitively when you don’t have healthful foods on hand at all times. Prep your veggies ahead of time (wash & chop them as soon as you get home) and always have snack options ready. Some great snacks to keep on hand are:
– homemade granola bars
– bananas and sunflower seed butter (or almond butter)
– avocado and brown rice crackers
– pre-made smoothies
– homemade coconut yogurt / berries / chia or hemp seeds
– hardboiled egg
– nuts / seeds
– homemade hummus / chopped veggies
These snack options will help to keep your blood sugar balanced (due to healthy fats, protein and fibre), which mitigates the afternoon energy crash, mood imbalance or other “hangry” symptoms.