How Eating Intuitively is the Beginning of Eating for Life

When you & I were born, we ate when we were hungry.  We stopped when we were full.  This pattern continued through our toddler years because no one has to tell a baby or toddler when he or she is hungry or full.  It’s intuitive.   

Somewhere along the way however, we lost this instinctual nature.  The one that listens to the voice inside our own body to eat when we are hungry & stop when we are full.  Somewhere along the way, other voices became so loud in our head, we forgot what it feels like to satisfy hunger with food without reaching the point of feeling over-stuffed or stopping ourselves while our stomach is still growling.

Those voices that drowned out the intuitiveness of our food consumption are the creators of the diets which have overtaken your ability to determine how much & how often you get to eat. 

But there is hope.  Even if you have forgotten what it feels like to choose to eat whole foods when you feel hungry or stop eating when you feel full {not stuffed like Thanksgiving Day}, I’m here to help you. 

If you are tired of all the rules, the charts, the scale & every other measuring tool the diet world wants you to use, then this is the place for you to start.

Let me be clear, there is a place for guidelines, scales, numbers, calorie & macro counting in the world of food, but it might not be for you.  Too many people want to go from 0 to 100 overnight.  People think if they are off track in their eating patterns, then the first step must be to “obey” the rules for calories & portion control. 

Different health goals require different levels of eating discipline.  Someone who is overweight, with out of control eating habits whose goal is to achieve more lean muscle mass & great eating habits, must start with foundations of understanding what intuitive eating feels like.  By starting with a calorie plan or too many guidelines & measurements, people often become overwhelmed with the process. 

Being overwhelmed in the process generally leads to falling back into old habits.

But if we start at the ground level, the basics of intuitive eating & then begin to work our way forward, the foundation will be set so you can progress to other goals.

A wise man built his house on the rock: the rain descended & the floods came &   the winds blew & beat on that house & it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But the foolish man built his house on the sand:  the rain descended, the floods came & the winds blew & beat on that house & it fell.  {Matthew 7:24-27}

The first step to relearning the skill of intuitive eating is to keep a journal of feelings.   

This may seem illogical at first but what you will find is over time you will notice patterns in your mood that dictate patterns in your behavior.  For instance, if I don’t get enough sleep, my body will tell me I need carbs to keep myself going during the day. 

And truly when I am tired, I do need carbs. 

My initial desire to fill the energy void is to grab an extra large bag of chips & eat the whole thing so that I am left feeling over-stuffed & sick.  But if I have an understanding of what is driving me to physically need carbs, then I can mentally evaluate that I want to stay on the whole food track, so instead I choose to eat an apple with some almond butter & notice that I feel full.

It’s the noticing of the emotions around food that will begin a path of healthy choices.

If I stop to record that craving for carbs & then record how I respond to what my body is telling me, eventually I will know intuitively what to do when that situation occurs.  This method works for any situation, including, emotional eating, binging & becoming “hangry”. 

Check out THIS journal for help in deciphering food cravings.

By eating whole food, our body not only physiologically knows how to process the food, but our brain does too. 

But what exactly does whole food mean?  Think of it this way:  if it walked, grew, swam or flew, it’s a whole food.  Another way to think of it, is if in its original state, it doesn’t come with a nutrition label, then it’s a whole food.

My recommendation to anyone trying to adopt an intuitive eating lifestyle would be to only consume whole foods for at least a 21 day time period.  This amount of time allows your body & brain to reset itself.  It gives your body time to clear out all the chemicals that come along with processed, packaged food. 

It’s a lot easier to recognize when we are hungry if we consider eating a serving of carrot sticks.  If I am hungry, then carrot sticks will fulfill my hunger.  But if I think I am hungry & I only want a stack of cookies, then maybe I’m not actually hungry but instead hooked on eating high carb foods. 

If I eat the carrot sticks, I will stop when I am full.  But if I choose the cookies, I probably won’t stop until I reach the point of feeling over stuffed.

A commitment to only eating whole, unprocessed foods for a time will help you learn your body’s own cues again.

Check out THIS guide for portion control of whole foods

Again, it may seem strange to consider what’s going on around you when you eat, but it plays a huge role in how your brain processes “feeding time”.

Eating slower does several things for us.  First, it gives our body time to process the process.  What I mean by that is that our brain must be fully engaged in eating in order to feel satisfied with food.   

By taking time to eat slowly, our brain realizes that our taste buds are being satisfied.  The most pleasure you get out of any meal comes in the first 3 bites.  After that the endorphins your brain sets off in your body begin to wane. 

So slow down & enjoy every single bite.  Think about the taste, the texture, the pleasure of the food. 

 Slowing down increases our intuitive nature in eating.

Practically, eating intuitively is the first step in a solid foundation of sustainable eating for life.  It’s the only way to get off the diet train & get on the road to complete food freedom without rules & restrictions.