Intuitive Eating Improves Your Relationship with Food
In this article, we look at what intuitive eating is and how it can help pave the way for a healthier relationship with food.
Many people have a complex relationship with food, with food addiction being common and difficult to overcome. When a person compulsively overeats, they are not in control of their food consumption. Even taking a mouthful of a so-called ‘bad food’ can escalate into a full-on binge.
Beat Eating disorders UK estimates that 1.25 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the UK. Approximately 25 % of whom are male. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common of the three recognized eating disorders, followed by Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa. Aside from traditional therapies used to treat overeating, additional mindful practices can be very handy tools to have.
Achieving successful treatment involves identifying and treating the underlying cause of the illness; however, shifting focus from emotional avoidance and comfort to nutrition and balance can be challenging.
As someone who has had a very unhealthy relationship with food in the past, I was interested to learn what our mindset coach and nutritionist Melissa Kuman has to say on the subject. Here, Melissa advises on how intuitive eating can help to improve your relationship with food and how to practice it.
How to eat intuitively
All too often many of us can be guilty of grabbing food when we are bored, mistaking a feeling of uneasiness for hunger. This can lead to making rash choices about food without even thinking it through. Being intuitive means being in touch with your mind, body and emotional state. It means really listening to your body's needs, rather than an emotional desire to eat.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an approach to health and nutrition that focuses on listening to your body’s cues, rather than following restrictive diets or external rules.
Intuitive eating encourages you to be mindful of your physical, mental and emotional state when it comes to food choices and when it comes to eating.
The confusing feelings of emotional eating
Before eating, ask yourself if your body is hungry, or if your hunger coming from an emotional place. Are you bored, upset, restless, anxious or angry? If your hunger is coming from an emotional place, try to identify the feeling and discuss it with someone you trust. Other things you can do to ride an emotion out is to take a walk or do some exercise. Exercise boosts the brain's feel-good chemicals. Eating on an emotion will not resolve it, it will only provide temporary comfort in the form of a distraction.
Emotional eating often compounds the original feeling and can lead to overeating as you continue to try and distract from and resolve your underlying emotional issue. This is where being intuitive about your eating can really help to break the cycle of an unhealthy relationship with food.
Melissa’s tips on intuitive eating
To be open to learning how to eat intuitively, you must first disregard the diet culture - completely. Diets involve restriction and when we fail at a diet, we become angry at ourselves, seeing ourselves as failures. Intuitive eating is about embracing all of you, it is not about following restrictions or a set of rules decided by someone else.
Make peace with food
When we label foods as good or bad, we inadvertently label ourselves for eating them. Intuitive eating is about giving yourself permission to eat without guilt or restriction. When you tell yourself you cannot have a particular food because it is ‘bad’ it can lead you to crave it even more and eat far more of it when you do ‘give in’
Savour for satisfaction
When you are eating, savour each mouthful. Focus on the texture, the taste and the smell. Slow down your eating so you can mindfully appreciate the food you are consuming, rather than just shovelling it in whilst thinking about something else.
Remove distractions at meal times
Many of us are guilty of sitting in front of the TV with a meal on our lap. Oftentimes, we can also be distracted by technology. Being distracted stops you from being in touch with your body, mind and soul. It also means you can eat up to 25% more in a day. By removing distractions at meal times you can be more aware of when you feel full or satisfied. This may take some practice and may feel alien at first, but there is a lot to be said for remaining mindful and present whilst you eat.
Disregard conditioned beliefs around meal times
Many of us are conditioned to finish everything that is on our plate, even once we are satisfied. Intuitive eating means disregarding conditioning and stopping when you are full. If you don't want to waste food, try starting off with smaller portion sizes, and eating more frequently if your body signals it. Honouring your body involves listening to your body cues for hunger and fullness and acting accordingly.
Show your body kindness and love
We are all genetically different, with different metabolisms, shapes and sizes. Rather than constantly trying to change the way you look, trust that if you are eating intuitively that you are just how you are meant to be. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your health, this is very different from your anaesthetic appearance. In fact, some people who would be considered to be aesthetically ‘perfect’ by society, have extremely unhealthy relationships with food.
Finally, please be patient with yourself and allow yourself grace. Intuitive eating doesn't come naturally for a person who has dieted, binged or restricted all their life. You will make mistakes. However, by showing yourself patience you can learn from these mistakes. Getting in touch with your intuition becomes easier with practice and time. If you have no idea of portion size, aim for a handful of starchy grain foods, a palm-sized portion of protein and 2 handfuls of vegetables or fruits. Try to eat three balanced meals a day. Listen to your body for hunger and fullness cues. Someone who exercises a lot or has a demanding manual job is likely to feel hungry more often than someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle.
Honour your body, mind and soul with good nutrition
If good nutrition is something of a minefield for you, Melissa has plenty of videos and recipes you can learn from that incorporate healthy and balanced nutrition. Melissa is a self-confessed ‘foody’ and qualified nutritionist and you can access her amazing content within our Wellness Hub. By subscribing to our Wellness hub, you will also benefit from guided meditation, mindset coaching, yoga and fitness classes.
Make this year, the year you reach your goals with the help of our wellness team of experts.
How many people in the UK have an eating disorder? https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/get-information-and-support/about-eating-disorders/how-many-people-eating-disorder-uk/