Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body and trusting your gut.
It’s a natural human skill you were born knowing how to do.
You cried when you were hungry. Turned your head away from your mom or your bottle when you were full. You slept when you were tired. Played when you had energy. And you were intuitively, 100% present—and connected with how you felt.
Unfortunately, you grew up and intuitive eating became extremely hard to practice—especially with diets and the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of diet culture.
Let’s briefly define what intuitive eating is (and is not), then give you 5 Essential Steps to quickstart your natural Intuitive Eating abilities to trust your body again!
INTUITIVE EATING DEFINED
WHAT INTUITIVE EATING IS NOT: KETO, PALEO, VEGAN, CLEAN EATING & OTHER DIETS
“I had a mental breakdown,” my client confessed.
A packet of oatmeal. Breakfast time. A spoon. And the decision: To eat or not to eat.
This client had been following a popular diet known as the Whole 30 for 18 days straight—sticking to the strict protocol 100%—and she caved.
“I just wanted some freakin’ oatmeal,” she said.
So she did. And then she cried. She had “failed”—at least according to the diet’s standards. And she had to wash her hands clean and start all over again at day.
A few days later, another client of mine confessed, “I feel so guilty…I ate some berries.”
This woman in particular had “gone keto”—no carbs (at least no more than 20 grams). All fats, proteins and leafy greens. But she wanted some berries, gosh darn it. So she caved. She ate a handful of berries—and was disgusted with herself.
One more gal admitted she needed help—“I don’t know why it comes over me every night, after dinner, but I just get snacky, and unless I am distracted or have something else to do, peanut butter, ice cream or popcorn happens. Even if I am not hungry.”
Enter: The #1 problem with diets, food rules or food plans (even healthy ones)—disconnection from our bodies. Not always. But often.
In our diet and image focused culture, intuitive eating often gets thrown under the bus, as “listening to your body” often means things like:
- Cutting the carbs to get into ketosis
- Busting your butt in an Orange Theory workout
- Practicing willpower to keep your spoon out of the peanut butter jar
- Eating a whole pint of Halo Top Ice Cream (instead of Ben & Jerry’s)
- And saving up your calories to eat chips and queso with your margarita at happy hour
However, humor yourself for a moment and imagine:
What would it be like to truly listen to your body?…
WHAT INTUITIVE EATING IS: LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
What would it be like to:
- To eat when you’re hungry. Know when you’re full.
- To run your heart out when you have energy to run, and stretch during yoga when you’re body needs to be more chill.
- To eat a big hearty salad with lots of avocado, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes and salmon one day, and to eat a grilled cheese and homemade chicken noodle soup the next on a cold day.
- To eat a few bites too many of your mom’s homemade spaghetti (because it tastes really good and you enjoy the warm comfort of a home cooked meal), and to choose a smoothie or broth one evening for dinner instead of a full meal because you ate a later lunch that day.
- To crave chocolate—and allow yourself to eat some chocolate; or to crave a crisp apple, and eat the apple.
- To STOP thinking about your next meal, and to be fully present with your work, your blog, your painting, your to-do list, the book or podcast you’re listening to, or anything else at hand.
Oh my, how the tables would turn.
INTUITIVE EATING MADE EASY: 5 ESSENTIAL (QUICKSTART) STEPS
Listen up: Intuitive eating is 100% possible as an adult—especially when you use these 5 essential steps to QUIET the noise your head (or the noise from diet culture), and instead begin listening to your gut.
Step 1: Tune it Out
First things first, if you want to truly get back to your natural language of listening to your own body—and less to rules—be pro-active in tuning out the noise and distractions.
Your thoughts are not always true.
Repeat: Your thoughts are not always true.
With many food and diet rules in particular, we’ve trained and conditioned our brains to believe rules that are not always 100% accurate (sometimes for as long as we can remember) and we STOP questioning truth.
Is eating a banana really “bad” for you—or is that something you read in a magazine? Do carbs make you store body fat? Or is that a fear that keto podcast put into you? Is animal protein really toxic—or is there a difference in sustainable versus conventional meats?
There is a lot of noise out there, and it certainly can be difficult to decipher what is truth, and what is myth, but an essential ingredient to intuitive eating is choosing to tune out the “diet mentality” in general, and instead, assess for yourself how you feel, what science says and re-define what “balance” means to you.
Step 2: Love Your Gut (Health)
The gut is the gateway to health. If you want a fast track to being able to TRULY listen to your body, your gut health is essential. There’s ALOT of buzz about the “gut microbiome,” probiotics, apple cider vinegar and other “gut friendly” tactics—and for good reason.
Your gut bacteria and gut health dictates how you think, how you feel, your emotions and decisions.
In fact, 90% of your serotonin (feel-good brain chemicals) are produced in your gut, and your vagus nerve—the nerve responsible for digestion—is directly connected from the top of your gut to the frontal lobe of your brain (the lobe responsible for decision making).
Additionally, did you know that your gut bacteria—not your brain—are often the culprits responsible for sending mixed signals your way that you “need” to eat that Ben & Jerry’s? Gut bugs crave foods your body and gut are intolerant to—namely sugar, processed or refined foods, a high consumption of carbohydrate-based foods, chips, and even “healthy foods” your own gut may be sensitive to (like yogurt, sweet potatoes, nuts).
In short, if you want to rewire your brain to “listen to your body” accurately, gut love is essential. Some basics include:
- Taking a soil based probiotic
- Eating fermented foods and pre-biotic foods
- Sipping 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar with meals
- Testing and treating any underlying bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), food intolerances, parasites or unhealthy bacteria you have in your gut with a functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist
Step 3: Ask
One simple question to ask yourself (and your gut) when the question of “what to eat” or “what to do to workout” or even how to spend your time: “How do I feel?”
Closing your eyes can often help here, and even placing your hand on your gut. Ask your body (and your head and your heart) what it is you truly want. (And have no judgment).
A balanced body is not ALWAYS going to say chocolate…or ALWAYS going to say salads…or ALWAYS going to say coffee…or ALWAYS going to say CrossFit…or ALWAYS going to say “sit on the couch!
A balanced body needs yin and yang. And the more you practice this art…the more trusting you will become.
Step 4: Go With Your Gut Feeling
Often times, you ALREADY know your answer. Or your gut does. Your intuition. Trust it.
Challenge yourself—even for one meal, or one day—to simply “listen to your gut.”
Think short term and small picture here. Instead of saying you ALWAYS have to listen or go with your gut…practice in small doses—like putting your toe in the water.
Similarly to Step 3, going with your gut feeling or trusting your gut, will become second nature.
Step 5: Keep Your Eyes Forward
No turning back. Once you’ve made a decision about what to eat, or even eaten a meal…or whether to work out or not…just do it. Make the decision. Move forward and refuse to dwell on the past.
INTUITIVE EATING: IN PRACTICE
Intuitive eating won’t happen over night.
Practice (and consistency) makes better. However, with time, you will find that things like “keto guilt” over eating a piece of fruit, “paleo fear” over eating some sushi with rice, or “vegan legalism” over wrapping your identity in how you eat (more than how you feel)
If you want some practice with intuitive eating (before you get to “show time” or meal time), try this intuitive eating and mindful eating exercise that will force you to think about your body and food a little bit deeper.
Supplies: Piece of fruit, veggie (like a baby carrot or cucumber) or a raisin
- Grab a piece of fruit, veggie or a raisin.
- Admire the color, shape and texture of the fruit/veggie
- Close your eyes and envision: “Oranges (apples, carrots) grow on trees (in the ground, etc.) in warm climates. Close your eyes and imagine where your fruit grew. Can you feel the warm sun? Smell the blossoms? See the fruit/veggie on the trees or land?
- Open your eyes and smell the fruit/veggie
- Roll the fruit/veggie firmly between your finger tips, allowing to release the fruity/veggie essence and feeling its texture.
- Smell the fruit/veggie again, taking time to enjoy the aroma, texture and color.
- Place a segment in your mouth, close your eyes and bit down. Pay attention to how the juice bursts in your mouth and fills it flavor.
- Chew slowly and experience the texture. Experience how it gets broken down into “slush” in your mouth and how swallowing it, begins to deliver its nutrients to your body cells.
- As you chew, pretend this is the last orange (raisin, apple, carrot, etc.) on earth—it’s all yours.
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