Intuitive Eating: Harness Your Mind-Body Connection for a Healthier You
By Michele Mauer
Modern life is busy. The expectation on ourselves to do many, many things and do them well (whoa, that’s another topic for another week!), means that eating is often a utility-oriented pitstop. A quick calorie consumption to intake and carry on, rather than the mindful nourishment of our bodies. Does that ever feel a little disconnected to you? Do you find yourself eating on “auto pilot”? Why do we crave food when feeling discomfort?
What Does Mind-Body Connection Even Mean?
You are experiencing the mind-body connection when you feel butterflies in the pit of your stomach right before standing up in front of a crowd to speak.
When you are so anxious that you cannot sleep or concentrate.
When your mouth waters as you smell the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread.
Sometimes the mind-body connection is good. Like smiling because you feel happiness.
Other times, it can have negative effects. Like in times of high anxiety you seek food for comfort rather than for nourishment.
A Healthier Look at How You Eat
The experience of food and eating is satisfyingly sensory and the taste and smell of food in the mouth is an easy, quick way to reawaken your mind’s connection to your physical body. But with our fast-paced and stressful lives, what we choose to eat is often a reaction rather than a conscious choice.
Becoming more in tune with your body and emotions can shift your need for food from comfort to nourishment. When you feel grounded and mindful, you make better choices about what you eat. Mindful, rather than mindless eating comes from our mind’s connection to our body. This is where intuitive eating comes in.
Intuitive eating is the philosophy of eating that focuses on the mind-body connection. It is the ability to read, interpret and follow your internal hunger cues and makes you the expert of your own body. It is the opposite of a traditional, restrictive diet – there are no rules – and it promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image.
What Does It Look Like?
The premise of intuitive eating is simple: you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are full. Sounds simple, but many of us have lost our ability to recognize those cues.
Ignoring hunger signals and restricting intake of food can trigger an impulse to overeat. Becoming aware of and honouring hunger can help, which sounds simple but can be extremely challenging.
To foster this ability, I encourage you to have a dialogue with yourself about your hunger.
“what’s my hunger level?”
“am I truly hungry or am I bored or anxious?”
Reacquaint yourself with the feelings of hunger: your stomach is growling, you’re experiencing a drop in energy or feeling fatigued.
When eating, practise the 3 S’s: Slow, Savour and Sensual.
Give yourself time to notice the enjoyable qualities of your food and recognize when you are comfortably satiated. Pay attention to the taste, texture, aromas and temperatures of your food. Put your fork down between mouthfuls and pause between bites to assess your hunger.
Top Tips for Eating Intuitively:
- Don’t just be mindful when you’re eating, be “body-ful”. Take your entire being into account. Your body feels everything your brain encounters, we just forget to check in with it at times – especially when eating on auto-pilot or in a rush.
- If you struggle with emotional eating, try to notice all of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, relationships and environmental cues that come up.
- To encourage self-reflection, keep a journal to write down those feelings in addition to the food you tend to reach for.
- Create a program of self-care for yourself that may include things like meditation, yoga, connecting with nature or talking to a trusted friend to help you soothe your emotions rather than turning to food for comfort.
- Lastly, try to foster a healthy relationship with food. Rather than seeing it as a way of losing weight or fixing your body, view it as healing nourishment. Instead of seeing food as good or bad, emphasize the value of healthy eating – choosing whole, natural nutritious foods that will improve your overall health and help you feel happier, calmer, more focused and better at problem solving.
Fostering a better mind-body connection and learning to pay attention to and to trust your internal hunger cues, will help you take charge of your eating habits and help you build a healthier, more sustainable relationship with food.