I've written a whole post about Intuitive Eating, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into connecting with your body and actually listening to it.
So Why am I talking about Listening to Your Body & Intuitive Eating?
Well, when we begin to listen to our body and give it what it wants, we begin to transform our relationship to food and our body. We are able to know when we are actually hungry for food vs. hungry to fill a void or distract ourselves. We are able to know when we are full and actually stop eating because we know that our body is satisfied. We are able to notice when we are feeling sad, mad, or happy and move through those feelings without the use of food. A huge benefit of listening to our body and eating intuitively is that we can finally stop looking to outside sources for the answer and start looking within. We can ditch dieting for good and nourish our body in ways we've forgotten were possible.
At first it can seem quite simple, and you may have thoughts such as, "of course, I always listen to my body and it usually wants junk food!". These were my exact thoughts when I got started on this journey, so I totally get it.
The reality is our body wants to thrive and feel good, but we've become so good at numbing ourselves with food to avoid our feelings and we've lost connection with our physical sensations.
When starting out on this journey my clients often say they don't even understand what it means to listen to their body. Really, all it means is to pause and actually tune in to the physical sensations and ask, "How am I feeling? What do I want?" Perhaps your chest feels tight or your stomach is growling, but you are so used to going through your busy day and ignoring your body's sensations that you don't even notice what your body is trying to tell you.
So often I hear from clients that can't even tell when they are hungry or when they are full. They are so used to restricting food or binge eating that these natural body cues have been lost.
When I first got started trying to listen to my body, I really believed I was already doing quite a good job at it. When my body wanted pizza I gave it pizza. When it wanted a cupcake I went to the store and got it a cupcake. Occasionally it wanted a salad and so, I gave it some salad. Pretty good, right?
The thing is it wasn't actually my body wanting these things. It was my mind, my anxiety, my stress, and my exhaustion. I wanted the boost of energy from the sugar or the comfort of a warm cheesy pizza. I wanted to forget my troubles and I used food as a way to distract me.
Overtime, as I started to pause more and really tune in to my body's needs and desires, I began to realize I didn't actually want sugar, but instead I needed a good night of sleep. Or when I was feeling anxious and stressed, I realized that my body actually was craving movement and my mind needed to rest.
You can truly learn a lot from just taking a few seconds to ask your body what it wants. At first it may be a challenge and I recommend trying to journal about it. Notice the sensations in your body and ask yourself what it wants and write down your thoughts and feelings. If you commit to this practice daily for a week you will start to notice sensations and desires you may not have noticed before.
If you are ready to start listening to your body and eat intuitively, I've compiled 5 tips below that really helped me when I was getting started.
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5 Tips to Listen to Your Body & Eat Intuitively
1. Inquiry - This is a concept I learned from Geneen Roth in her book Women, Food, and God that you can read all about here. It's about taking the time to pause, sense your body, ask yourself what you are sensing, and associating your sensations with a memory or feeling like sadness or anxiety. Inquiry is about being present in the moment and noticing your direct experience of what you are feeling. You will notice thoughts that will come up. It's best to be curious about them instead of attaching yourself to them. Inquiry is an on going practice to discovering who you really are. Each time, you will learn more and more about yourself.
2. Feel Your Feelings - If you are feeling sad, feel sad. Notice and name the feeling. Journal about it or try meditating on it. Let the feeling pass through you instead of lodging it somewhere deep inside your body. When you feel sad, mad, tired, or even happy, try to really honor the feelings and try to not use food as a way to comfort, distract, or deal with the feelings.
3. Eat What You Want - Seriously. If you are going to give this whole thing a shot, you need to actually give yourself what it wants. When you start to notice that you are hungry, ask your body what it wants? Then, eat that. Let go of any self-made restrictions and just eat what you desire. Make sure to eat mindfully, savor the food, and release any judgment of your choice. Stay in tune with your body while you eat and notice when you are satisfied - and then stop eating.
4. Move - One of the best way to connect and begin listening to your body is through movement. Whether you dance in your kitchen, go to a yoga class, walk in the woods, or do a HIIT workout notice the sensations in your body and how you feel before and after you move.
5. Connect & Nourish - Find ways to connect with your body and truly take care of yourself. Take a bath. Get a massage or give yourself a massage. Get a mani/pedi. Have a nourishing meal such as a vegetable soup or stew. Write a thank you letter to your body for all of the amazing things it is able to do. This is all about honoring your body for all that it does.
Now, this can all take a while to get the hang of and it's important to remember that it is a daily practice. Remember to have some grace and self-compassion as you start out on this journey.