Intuitive Eating: How To Use Your Own GPS
"What's your current approach to eating?"
Yesterday a friend of mine asked me this small yet powerful question. A question that took me by surprise, and opened a few realisations and new exciting explorations.
It made me see just how far I've come. How much my understanding of myself and my body have changed. How much of a shift has happened between my old way of thinking and my current approach. And how much easier and healthier my life has become.
Until a few years ago, my eating habits had largely been driven by my fears and insecurities. By my ego's need for success, perfection, for getting it right. By my desire for a beautiful body, bigger biceps, and a year-round 8-pack.
Inside, I was crying out for peace, connection, love - which I was certain a better body would resolve. And so my eating habits turned into a strict succession of tightly scheduled feeding frenzies. I became obsessed by timings and grams. Driven by protein-to-carb ratios.
I marched to the beat of my protein intake. To the drum of my vitamin pills. My head, full of noise from all the magazine how-to's and external knowledge I was listening to, was overriding my body's instincts. I was oblivious to the obvious cries of pain and overfeeding coming from deep within.
As time has gone by, I've gone deeper into myself, my mind, my body and my heart. I know my body far better. I understand its needs, its likes and its dislikes. And have become far more intuitive with what I eat.
I can feel it's reaction to certain foods and recognise it's language. From the caffeine stomach groan to the gluten moan, via the sugar buzz and the dehydration crash.
OUR BODY'S INTELLIGENCE
Recent developments are showing us how our bodies are far more intelligent than we think. They are in fact the physical representation of what goes on in the inner world (our mind, energy and emotions). Posture, movement habits, illness, weight gain: these are all external signals of what is going on within.
Our bodies are part of one single integrated system. A very wise, powerful and intelligent one. Yet somehow they are the last place we go to for advice. We have forgotten how to listen to them.
We listen instead to our culture, our upbringing, our friends, the latest fad diet, or our own projection of who we think we should be. We ignore their whispers and control them from our minds: the way they move, the way they feel, what we think they need to eat or drink.
We loose touch with our body's intuition, it's whispers, it's impulses. We override them with our ego assumptions, our beliefs, our thoughts and feelings.
GETTING BACK IN TOUCH WITH YOUR BODY'S GUIDANCE
Your body's wisdom is always there, ready to be accessed at any given moment. Learning to listen to it is a daily practice, a choice to create a healthier system by moving away from what you think you know to allowing the reality to emerge. Take notes. Try different things. Be adventurous. See it as an exploration, a journey towards clarity. And look for the joy within the process.
Your own inner GPS
The way your body reacts to food is your first point of study. Listen out to the subtle changes in posture, feeling and energy when you approach or think of certain foods. Does your body feel open and alive - or closed and numb? Is your stomach grumbling and fuzzy or receptive and expectant? Learn to recognise your body's own way of communicating, its own language. Over time, you'll be able to identify what "rings true" in the body, i.e. when your body says "Yes, please!".
Your body is in constant communication with you. After each meal, tune-in again to how you are feeling. When you've eaten or drunk what your body needed at that specific point in time, you'll get a "Oh yes! Thank you!": sensations of lightness, energy, satisfaction. However if you went against it's whispers, overate or indulged in foods that it didn't actually need, you may recognise other, not so nice, sensations: bloating, fuzziness, lethargy, anxiety.
Remember your first ever reaction
As children, we are far more connected with our bodies and far more intuitive. Even when it comes to food: we get a strong reaction to things that our bodies find harmful. Remember your first ever cup of coffee or alcohol? Our early taste buds are often a powerful filter system. I hated the taste of coffee with a vengeance until I overrode my body's response to it during University. My taste buds then changed and I became a regular coffee addict - until I realised my body's intolerance to caffeine! Do some detective work: ask your family and your intuition. What did you not like as a child? What foods did you have a negative reaction to? These memories can often be a powerful indicator of what your body ACTUALLY needs.
First choice, best choice
Your intuition can also be useful when ordering at a restaurant. Observe which item you first set your eye on. Studies show that we intuitively look at what we need, but that generally our thoughts override our initial choice. Then we tend to compare the other items on the menu with that first item. So next time you're at a restaurant, notice where you instinctively look: on someone else's plate, part of the menu, a specific food. And learn to trust your instincts, instead of your thoughts.
Of course, learning to listen to your own body for eating is a practice. I'm still learning too, and often find myself asking "why on EARTH did I eat that?". But I can feel and notice the progress, and have become far more instinctive and intuitive.
I'm also learning to use the mind as it's designed to be used: as a tool. For planning, preparation, and analysis. I'm seeing the nutrition knowledge I ingested over the years as a gift, which has given me a healthy foundation. But I am now choosing to support this foundation with a more connected, insightful and intelligent voice: that of my own heart and body.
Love & Health,