I’m not sure what is going one but I have gotten many more questions and emails lately relating to nutrition and eating plans. Maybe it is that time of year when folks are coming off vacations and summer time schedules and want to get back to health and wellness, or maybe it’s just a coincidence. I appreciate the questions and the trust that people instill in me to help navigate this area! I also know that if I am not the person with the answers, I am pretty good at helping them find the right one. Fortunately, I find that oftentimes it only requires small changes to bring big results. One of the biggest issues with food and diet and eating seems to be simply HOW people eat. That HOW covers a lot of territory, so if you are interested, sit back because this post will cover some good material.
Why Are You Eating?
In a perfect world, like back in the Garden of Eden, we would eat all natural foods as fuel for our bodies in a perfect balance of nutrients, only eating when hungry and when we need. If you are like me, this just isn’t always realistic. We all eat for many different reasons.
Often we eat because we are thirsty, or we are bored, or because the food just looks and tastes so darn good. Sometimes we eat because it is just sitting in front of us, like all that food on the conference table at your work meeting. Sometimes we eat because everyone else is eating, like at a Superbowl party or some such event. Sometimes food is our reward or used to celebrate or to fill some emotional void. I bet you could think of even other reasons we eat.
Eating for any of these reasons is not always a bad thing. However, if you feel like you are eating for some, or many, of these reasons more than you are eating because you are hungry, and if you are having a hard time with your weight, then it is time to take a look at your relationship with food.
People can have differing relationships with food, some tricky, some completely healthy and others downright detrimental. Confession here, I used to have one of those not so healthy relationships with food. It was an unhappy period, took up vasts amount of thought and time, wasted energy of guilt, negative thoughts and poor self-esteem. Thankfully, over the years I have been able to let go of that unhealthy relationship and replace it with a relationship that works in my life, nurtures my body, allows me to live and breathe and help others, while still loving food.
I am not a proponent of any particular diet, but prefer to eat intuitively on a regular basis. I am not perfect by any means, so at times do test the waters with different eating methods and programs, but always come back to a normal intuitive way of eating and managing food. There are really no real rules, but more of a holistic way to make choices and gauge hunger quotient, typically between 1 and 10 (aiming to keep it around a 6-7 at all times) and focus on clean eating, while allowing for treats. There is definitely no deprivation.
With patience and practice, you can go from being a little ridiculous with food, or staying in a deprived state, or being a constant emotional eater, to basically eating when hungry, eating mindfully and finally enjoying food without any guilt.
HOW DO WE BEGIN EATING INTUITIVELY?
1) Do the Inside Work First
First of all, you have to be willing to actually pay attention to what your body tells you. You cannot start by just buying the right groceries, prepping the perfect foods and copying recipes. That is outside work. You have to do the inside work . . .find ways to manage stress, stop any negative talk, take a minute to see if you are actually hungry and replace the eating with something else, if not. You have to stop the mindless munching. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, I know. That is why I said it takes patience and practice. You know the old saying, “Something has to change for something to change.” So, you have to decide if you are really ready to make that change and put an end to the unhealthy cycle. You have to be ready to do the inside work first.
2) Get Back in Balance
If you have been on a yo-yo dieting cycle or if you have been depriving yourself of certain foods or have been loving on lots of junk food, it might be really hard to actually listen to what your body is telling you because your hormones and metabolism are so out of whack. This is so common these days with the hurried, processed food, crazy lifestyle we seem to be living. So many people are walking around trying to keep their energy up with so many unnatural products that their bodies are in a constant state of survival. Your body does not need to constantly wonder when its next real, nutritious food is coming to the rescue.
Restricting calories puts severe stress on your system and spikes the hormone, cortisol, making cravings crazy, and elevates ghrelin, the hormone that tells you that you are hungry. It also reduces leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating. So, if you are calorie restricting or over-eating, your body can completely ignore the real hunger signals it needs to function properly.
So, how to get back balanced? EAT REAL FOOD on a regular schedule and think about eating for your health only. Typically, eating for your health will make you feel better, help balance your body and hormones, and a wonderful by product? When needed, weight loss.
3) Be Aware
After you have done the inside work and begun eating real food to help balance your hormones so you can listen to your body, you need to simply be aware. That means knowing the difference between whether you are actually hungry and whether you just want to eat. Hunger v. Appetite.
When you are hungry, you actually need food. Your appetite for food is merely your desire to eat it.
The perfect example of this is my Third Son. I am not sure whether he has ever been really and truly hungry. I love that he loves food, is interested in its preparation, enjoys the celebration and appreciates good food. He has a large appetite for food. He often eats far before he gets an opportunity to actually need food.
If you can make a habit of determining whether you are actually hungry or just have an appetite, then you can make an appropriate food choice. You will eliminate much of the mindless eating, junk food and munching that adds extra empty calories and causes your body to miss out on its real signals.
If you are ready to begin the journey out of an unhealthy food relationship and into a healthy relationship through eating intuitively, I have created a little Cheat Sheet to help you get started:
Also, if you are interested in Nutrition Coaching, Check out my Coaching Page.
Enjoy Your Day!