Intuitive Eating: Why You Should Eat Like a Child Again
Do you trust yourself around food?
In our society, we let everyone else tell us what we "should" eat or "shouldn't" eat. We watch the nightly news or Dr. Oz to inform about the newest diet or fat-burning food. Everyone has an opinion about nutrition and the newest thing to try, and they are not hesitant to share their thoughts.
Thankfully, we do have nutrition professionals (or I would be out of a job), but at some point, you have to take control of your health and nutrition. Diets take away your trust in food.
Think about it. You read a diet book making huge promises - flat abs, 10 pounds in 10 days, slim your shape.
Diet books give you meal plans and lists of what to eat and what to avoid at all costs. Oftentimes, this detailed diet works, and people do lose weight. Then, what? In just as much detail, you plan your "cheat" meal once the diet is over.
You're either on the diet or off. There's no habit-building, trust in yourself, and steady confidence-building changes. You get scared when you go off a diet because you think you're going to balloon up. The fear that eating one bowl of ice cream will lead to weight gain is very real and scary for some people. Or the fear that once you start eating a food again, you'll get out of control and won't be able to stop.
- Can you eat without counting every calorie?
- Can you enjoy a cookie without feeling guilty after?
- Is it possible to eat what you truly want without fear, guilt, or other emotions?
Yes! Kids do it all the time.
Kids are natural intuitive eaters.
They have the ability to listen to their hunger and fullness cues and balance their food intake based on what they need for their activity and growth. One day a toddler may eat close to nothing, but the next, they may devour everything on the plate. Over a week, it will likely all balance out.
When kids eat a food for the first time, they truly get the mindful eating experience. They look, smell, play, and taste it for the first time. If they don't like it, they may spit it out, declare it "gross," or if they like it, they will ask for more. Each bite is contemplated and enjoyed.
Adults on the other hand tend to be members of the "clean plate" club. Meals are always finished to avoid wasting food or out of habit, regardless of how hungry or full you are before, during, or after the meal. Even if you're hungry at 10:30, lunch is eaten at noon because that's lunchtime. Food is eaten on the go, and there's a lack of pleasure (Vitamin P) during meal-times.
How can we re-learn intuitive eating?
Intuitive or mindful eating is a journey.
You're not going to wake up tomorrow and be an intuitive eating pro. View it as a journey, and build your skills over time. Don't expect to be perfect or learn everything overnight.
Tell yourself you're not on a diet, and give yourself permission to eat WHATEVER you want.
When you restrict foods, that's all you'll end up wanting to eat! The only rule is you have to sit down, and eat it with your full attention. Inject pleasure into your meal. Pay attention to the appearance, smell, scent, texture, and flavor of the food. Eat it slowly. Let it melt in your mouth. Pay attention to how the food makes you feel over the next few hours and days. Is it energy boosting or depleting? How does it affect your mood?
Make an assessment of that food FOR YOU.
Did you truly enjoy it? Maybe you realized that the M & Ms didn't really taste great, and you're just mindlessly popping them in your mouth because you're bored. Maybe you only needed a square of chocolate to feel satisfied. Maybe the steamed broccoli you eat to "stay healthy" tastes plain and gross, and you prefer it with a little butter.
Try out this experiment once a day with a meal or a snack.
Sit down, and slowly eat with your full attention. Put away your phone and computer, turn off the TV, and even hide the books or newspaper. Just eat, and listen to what your body is telling you. Eat until you're satisfied, and then be done. Enjoy the experience, and eat with pleasure. Feel free to let me know about your experience in the comments below!
These concepts are from one of my favorite books - Intuitive Eating. I use it myself and all the time with clients! Truly amazing book.
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