When we hear about healthy eating, we immediately think that it is necessary to go on a diet or eliminate certain foods from our life, when actually eating healthy can be much easier if instead of focusing on what we cannot eat, we focus on what that we can, what nourishes us and makes us feel good.
Diet mentality is thinking about restricting foods or counting calories, thinking food in terms of good or bad, or qualifying our days based on what we eat, as in we had a bad day because we ate badly. To be constantly thinking about the number that the scale shows us every day, and how you feel about not achieving your “ideal weight” is a mentality that makes us feel bad about ourselves and our bodies.
If you wonder how can we change this mentality, how to live freely without feeling constrained or tied to food and scales. Believe it or not, there is a very effective way to achieve it, and it does not mean that you are going to eat everything and get fat, rather you are going to get rid of those ideas of diet, emotional eating and unfounded restrictions. You see, diets cause great effects in your mind and your body, even when we do not recognize them, they are there.
One of the methods that have worked best for me, both in weight and in the way I feel about myself and how I react to food is Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive eating is not a diet or a program based on caloric or food restrictions, it is a strategy that helps you improve the relationship you have with your body, with food and teaches you to be more aware of the reasons why you eat what you eat and how you eat. This will undoubtedly lead you to have a healthier relationship with your body, with food and to eat naturally healthier.
Although the main objective in intuitive eating is not weight, it can help you achieve a balanced weight because you learn to eat better, and enough to nourish your body without excess. Additionally, you will realize that many times you eat to satisfy your emotional needs and not because you are really hungry, intuitive eating will help you to be more aware of how to handle those emotions in a healthier way and without food.
What Intuitive Eating is?
- It goes against the culture and diet mentality
- It promotes the fact that you eat and enjoy food without guilt
- It respects all body shapes and sizes, the ideal weight is the weight that makes you feel good not a weight pre-established by fashion or by society
- It helps you reconnect with your body by recognizing and respecting your hunger and satiety cues
- It helps you create a better eating and health habits based on what makes you feel good and not on what the “experts say”
- It helps you recover from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating.
- It frees you from trying to control food
- It helps you realize that food should nourish you and make you feel better and it should not make you feel tired or inflamed
- It helps you workout because you want to move and because you love your body, not because you want to lose weight or because you want to eat more
The guide to healthy eating based on intuitive eating
This is a summary of what intuitive eating is, and although it sounds very simple it might get some time for you to get used to this new way of thinking, trusting your body and yourself, and forgetting about those rules you have around food.
Therefore, I give you some strategies that will help you to start your path into the intuitive eating habit and finally free yourself from all the restrictions and diets to really enjoy your food and, above all, be happy with yourself and your body.
How to start Intuitive Eating?
Forget about diets and restrictions
Break the rules
Honor your hunger
Imagine that you can forget and be free from counting calories, free from eliminating carbs from your diet or free from restricting the quantity of food you eat. Imagine that you forget to weigh yourself every day and that the number on the scale doesn’t define you anymore. Imagine that you can finally feel good about your body, that you have more confidence in yourself and that you are finally free to be happier.
Obviously removing all these rules, restrictions and ideas about what you should and should not do will make you feel much freer, it will allow you to focus on the good things, on how you feel. As a result, you will also see that the relationship with your body begins to change because you are no longer focused on the negative, rather you learn to accept yourself and recognize how wonderful your body is, even if you haven’t reached your ideal weight.
It’s time for you to realize that the rules and restrictions do not help you to improve your health, in fact, they only help you maintain a restriction mentality and make you crave those foods that are “prohibited”.
I can tell you that I used to restrict all the carbs in my life when I was on a diet, and obviously what I craved the most were the bread, the cookies and the pasta. We tend to think, and I was one of those people, that we are addicted to carbs, that is the way we are and we can’t do anything to fix it.
Today I have no restrictions or eliminations of certain foods, that makes me feel much better around food and I no longer have those cravings for carbs or for cookies, I can even say “no, thanks” when I feel satisfied. Something I rarely did before, I even considered a sin saying no to a cake. 😉
Realize that eliminating certain foods and the fact that you want to eat them more is a side effect of the restrictions and a normal and natural response of your body and mind.
Before, we thought that not being able to maintain a diet for a long time meant that we did not have will power, today it has been proven that this is a side effect of the period of starvation you have subjected your body to. Even when you think it is for a short period of time and that you are still eating, your body doesn’t respond to it the same way, those restrictions and that elimination of certain foods cause an effect on your mind and your organism.
Break the rules
Make a list of all the rules that you have and that you follow around food. Write when, why, what and how much you eat each day.
Begin to break each of these rules, start slowly, pick one rule at a time, and try to work on them each week. Go little by little, pay attention to how you feel each week and continue at the pace that is most comfortable for you.
Through this time you can develop the ability to listen to your body, recognize when you are hungry and when you are already satisfied.
It is important to tell you that if you have been dieting for a long time or if you have a history of an eating disorder, it may take a little time to recognize your body cues. I know it sounds very easy and obvious that you eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are satisfied, but I assure you that if you have been dieting for a while it might not be that evident.
Respect your hunger and your fullness
Be patient with yourself, try to connect again with your body and determine what sensations you are feeling in your body when you are hungry. For each person it is different, it can be in the stomach or it can be a sensation in the mouth or loss of concentration.
Maybe at the beginning of your journey, you question or doubt yourself and your body, for example, “Why am I hungry if I just had lunch? But it is important that you respond to those signals because if you wait a long time you will be hungrier and it will be more difficult to control what you eat and to recognize when you are satisfied.
Eating when you start to be hungry will help you enjoy your food even more.
At this time it is also important to develop the power to recognize when you begin to feel satisfied. When you are not focusing on rules and restrictions it is easier for you to recognize when you are satisfied and to stop eating, even if it is your favourite food.
You also develop this ability to really taste your food, enjoy this moment of eating, and therefore you will realize that there are many things that you currently eat just because they are prohibited, and not because they are delicious. Once you focus on enjoying you’ll probably realize that it does not taste so good after all and you’ll lose the desire to eat it.
Modify the relationship you have with food
Use a Food Journal
Use the hunger and fullness scale
Practice mindful eating
Keep a food journal
Using a food diary is not something you are going to do for the rest of your life, it is only a temporary tool that will help you to be more aware of your body cues like if you are already satisfied if you feel good after eating or if you ate because you were bored.
Be careful when choosing one, because usually food journals are used to record the amount of food or the number of calories you have consumed, I must tell you that being very meticulous in this process can also generate eating disorders. Instead, try for an intuitive eating journal that could help you record another kind of information that will help you change your diet mentality, focus on how you feel and recognize your hunger and satiety signals.
Intuitive Eating Journal
- It helps you record the time, date and food you ate
- The focus is not on the negative but on what you can learn based on your eating habits
- How hungry were you before you ate?
- How did you feel before and during the meal?
- Did you enjoy every bite?
- Did you still eat even when you were not hungry?
- How satisfied did you feel after eating?
- What emotions did you have after eating?
- What physical sensations did you have after eating?
Use a scale of hunger and satiety
When we are hungry our body sends us certain signals that make us realize that we need to feed ourselves. As I mentioned before, after doing so many diets it is hard for us to recognize these signs. Each body is different, and for you, feeling hungry may feel different from when I feel hungry, so it is important that you write down and identify how your body indicates that you are hungry.
Why is it important to identify these signals?
By realizing in time that you are hungry it will be easier for you to control what you eat and the quantity, as well as really enjoy those foods.
When we stay in a range of the scale between 3.5 and 7.5 we are in a range where we can properly manage the way we eat. Try to write down your symptoms when you are in these ranges so it will be much easier to keep in the acceptable ranges.
Practice mindful eating
Conscious eating is important to allow you to enjoy and live in the present moment, it will also help you to recognize the sensations of your body and your emotions. When you develop a higher awareness of how you feel, what you do and how your body responds it will be easier for you to feel more satisfied with what you eat because you eat with all your senses. Eating with all your senses helps you to feel more satisfied and to handle your emotions in a different way.
Also, being aware of how you feel will help you discover that you eat when you are not really hungry, and what you are really trying to do is satisfy some kind of emotion. All this has an impact on what you eat and how much you eat. Also, it has the great benefit of helping you develop emotional intelligence.
- Cook or prepare your own food (maybe you can’t do it every day, but the more you do, the better)
- Focus on eating and in enjoying your meal
- Do not do other things while you eat, try putting your cell phone somewhere else.
- Turn off the TV or Netflix or anything else that distracts you
- Do not eat in your office or at your desk
- Pay attention to your food, its texture, its smell, its taste.
- Analyze the flavours, enjoy them.
- Ask yourself if you’re enjoying every bite
- Take a moment while you eat to ask yourself what is your satiety level
Small changes lead to a healthier lifestyle
Do not try to be perfect
Your goal should always be to feel good about yourself and your body, do not try to be perfect and follow all the guidelines of nutrition and healthy food. Trust that little by little you will be able to create better habits, leaving sugar and refined food behind. But everything is a process, first you have to trust yourself and your body, and eventually, you will make the best choices in terms of food.
Remember the point is to have no guilt or restrictions, the goal is to feel better. If one day you could not eat well, don’t feel guilty, rather write down your reactions, how you feel and try again the next day.
One step at a time.
Do you want to start your journey with Intuitive Eating?
With this kit, you will find an intuitive food diary that will guide you at each meal to detect your emotions, your level of hunger and satiety.
In addition, you will have your scale of hunger and satiety that will help you to be more conscious.
Guide to start intuitive feeding, the 10 principles of intuitive feeding, questions to develop awareness, meal planning, weekly planning and intuitive diary.
Sources and interesting articles:
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Why Intuitive Eating is the key to a happier and healthier life?