LET'S TALK ABOUT INTUITIVE EATING
I want to do a post about learning to eat intuitively because I think that this is a topic that doesn't get addressed enough in Western medicine and that it largely overlooked during visits to doctors, often to a patients' detriment. Because honestly, when do you EVER go into a Dr's visit and address something like this?
Now, some people are born and live their whole lives eating intuitively. These are the people who eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full, and for them the process of eating is relatively straightforward, and not driven by emotion.
However, for many other people, especially for those in ED recovery, learning to listen to hunger and satiety cues can be challenging, After years and years of suppressing urges to eat, ignoring hunger cues, and them - most likely - alternating with binging when not hungry, you can be left feeling overwhelmed when recovering and trying to learn to eat in a more consistent way.
The first key to learning to eat intuitively is to listen to your cravings. This can be especially difficult as part of ED recovery, but I urge you to dig deep and listen, and then eat accordingly. If you are craving ice cream, go ahead and eat the ice cream! Or if you are craving mashed potatoes, eat the mashed potatoes. You may find this difficult at first because you've probably had some of these cravings on a list of foods that aren't "safe" to eat, but this is a step in learning to listen to your body's cues and getting in touch with this part of your mind-body connection. Part of this process will be to stop labeling foods as "good/bad" or "safe/unsafe" and just allow yourself to eat what your body wants. Try to look at all food as "on the table" with nothing off limits.
The second part of this process will be to eat when you feel hungry. Again, this is probably obvious for people who don't have any sort of ED. But if you are coming from a place where you were not allowing yourself to be hungry, this will be a challenge. But this is the best thing that you can do for yourself is to have a conversation with your mind, and tell yourself that it is OK and NORMAL to be hungry! It is not only okay to want to eat, but it is a good thing to want to eat. When you get these hunger signals, tune into yourself and ask what you are hungry for, and let that steer you to your meal. Whatever you are craving is something that your body wants and needs, so feed that. Sometimes you’re going to want things that are more complex and flavorful, and sometimes you are going to want things more bland and plain. There is nothing wrong with either. Get in touch with all of those feelings and sensations.
Some hunger cues are also prompted by dehydration. What happens when you're dehydrated is that your body wants a water source so your brain sends you signals that you are hungry so that you eat food (which contains water). So if you suspect that you're dehydrated, drink up and eat foods with high-water content like watermelon, tomatoes, celery, romaine lettuce and cucumbers.
Now there will also be times when your body is craving something like cookies, candy or ice cream. And here is where you have to start looking at whether or not you're craving sugar in a way that's not healthy. If you are sleep-deprived your body is looking for quick energy and sends signals that drive an urge to eat sugar. If you know that you got a poor night's sleep, try to skip a cup of coffee in the morning which will just create blood sugar imbalance and make the drive to eat sugar that much stronger. Instead try a cup of green tea, and make sure to eat nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate meals throughout the day. You can also eat some 80-90% dark chocolate, and some roasted root vegetables which will trick the brain into thinking it got the sugar its craving, without actually eating the refined sugar your body is craving. But you know what, it’s also ok to sometimes just eat the cookie with the salad because that’s what sounds good to your tummy :-)
I hope that you have found this post helpful. I always welcome your dialogue and comments around all areas of the mind-body connection, health and nutrition.