In a previous blog post, I mentioned a book I genuinely enjoyed, Health at Every Size. However, there were two other books I had previously read which had opened my eyes to a new way of eating called intuitive eating.
Honestly, calling this method new is a misnomer. Intuitive eating is the way all babies and very young children feed themselves. It is not a method because this is the approach we were designed to follow. I fathom intuitive eating is “new” to most of us because this way of feeding is neither cultivated nor encouraged in our society.
The first book is Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David, the second, Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss by Dr. Sandra. Aamodt (a neuroscientist). I have no recollection of how I discovered the former. As to the latter, I heard Dr. Aamodt on a Ted Talk.
Diets Ruin Lives
I saw part of a documentary—today as a matter of fact—about a “transformation” from fat to fit. While I am delighted for the woman concerned and I applaud her determination to reach her dream, this path does not work for everyone.
I—for one—hold zero desire to count calories, calculate macros, do grueling workouts, and watch everything which passes my lips. Neither do I wish to eat by watching the clock. I am at a point in my life where none of this has any appeal.
Does this way of living work for some?
Sure, it does.
Could it work for me?
I don’t even have a desire for “it” to work for me nor to find out if “it” would. I simply don’t care.
My goal is rather simple: I want to be well in mind, soul, and body for as long as I can*. Additionally, I believe that driving my body hard will have its own repercussions in time. I want to make peace with my body rather than try to control it, subdue it or make it submit. I wish to live in a state of flow, a goal which, I believe, is possible.
If your goals vary from mine, I have no problem with that. However, what I have to say probably won’t appeal to you.
* I recently discovered that the Lakota Sioux do not have a different word for mental, spiritual and physical health. For them, the mind, soul and the body are inseparable. In my opinion, this is a much wholesome view of wellness than the one touted by our society in which parts are treated individually instead of the person as a complete whole.
Intuitive Eating Tips
I discovered an acronym which embodies Intuitive Eating well—also called mindful eating. The acronym is BASICS. Keep in mind these are not rules. Instead, BASICS refers to guidelines which may be helpful especially as you re-learn to listen to your body’s cues.
B is for Breathe and Belly
A is for Assess your Food
S is for Slow down
I is for Investigate your hunger and satiety before you eat
C is for Chew your food thoroughly
S is for Savor your food.
I will delve into each guideline in more depth.
Breathe and Belly
Before you eat, it is wise to check in with your body. First, take a few deep breaths and check in with your belly. Are you hungry? How hungry are you? What foods sound tasty to you? Are you thirsty rather than hungry? Are you emotional? Sad? Upset?
This step is about getting information from your body. It is not a test, there are no right or wrong answers.
As a rule of thumb, only eat when hungry and stop when 70% full. The 70% suggestion is made entirely because it takes twenty minutes for your stomach to send satiety signals to your brain. If during these 20 minutes, you eat until full, you may inadvertently overeat.
Assess your Food
Take it in. What does it look like? Is it appetizing? Does it smell wonderful? Is it natural and unprocessed? Or is it fast food? Do you really want it? Would you rather eat something else?
For example, drinking a green smoothie in the morning solely because “it’s good for you” when you don’t care for its appearance nor its taste, it is in truth of no great benefit to you. Some research has shown that if the food you eat is not appealing, you are unlikely to extract all the nutrients out of it.
Slowing down—or mindfulness—has two primary purposes: it helps you to enjoy your food more fully as well as notice when you have had enough, and you are satisfied.
Let me share a few tips to help you in this process: put down your fork between bites, pause and take a couple of breath between bites, and lastly chew your food thoroughly before swallowing and taking another bite.
Become a mindful eater by checking in with your body throughout your meal. How does your food taste? Is it still pleasurable? Are you still hungry? You may want to divide your food into portions, after eating one, stop, take a breath, and check in with your body. At this point, give yourself permission to stop or continue based on your body’s cues.
It is okay to leave food on your plate.
As a child, at school, I learned to eat quickly because they were two different services for lunch and cafeteria personnel wanted to get us through for the next wave of students. I still eat too quickly if I eat mindlessly.
Thorough chewing not only helps us to slow down. Additionally, it assists our bodies in digesting more efficiently as well as in extracting all the nutrients from our food. We digest best in a state of calm or when our central nervous system is in parasympathetic mode. Moreover, mindful chewing assists you in recognizing feelings of satiety sooner, making you less likely to over-eat.
Smell the aromas of the dish before you dig in. Take them all in. Enjoy all the flavors of your food as you chew.
Eating should be a satisfying and multisensory experience. Savoring your food is a way to honor your body and its needs.
Enjoy the Process
My eight commandment is all about enjoying the process. Intuitive eating is foreign to most of us; it is a way of eating which we must be relearned. Enjoy the process without self-judgment or criticism. Relax and fully revel in the practice of mindful eating. Perfection is not possible on this side of heaven, and that is okay!