I have decided to write a slightly different post today to my usual Sport Nutrition.
I have spent the last 6 weeks working at a clinic for girls suffering with eating disorders and it has really got me thinking about eating intuitively, what does being intuitive actually mean...as ultimately in regards to food and our relationship with food, is that one of the goals we thrive to achieve?
It has had me thinking about whether I'm 100% intuitive? How intuitive are all the clients I work with that don't have eating disorders? and how intuitive are all those 'foodie' people on Instagram?
I've decided to therefore list some contributing factors that I feel most affect being able to use the term 'intuitive eating' for you to look through and see if any apply to you.
Are you eating because you're hungry? Have you actually taken a minute to think about how your body feels before you eat a meal, or are you eating out of habit or because it's the 'right time' for lunch for example? Yes, our bodies adapt to routine and generally we have set meal at certain times, but how hungry are you? Ravenous?... so hungry you can't function?...or actually just mildly peckish and eating because its your routine. Being intuitive is being able to be in touch with your body honouring when you're hungry and when you're not. This is not only eating when you're hungry but also stopping when your body is full. That might mean not finishing your plate of food.. or not having some pudding after dinner because it's habit, but actually because you've paused for a second and realised your body is full.
2. Checking Labels
Are you able to pick up something in a supermarket/shop and not check the packet? Not see how many calories is it in, or how much protein it will provide you with. Picking something up and basing your decision to buy it should be based on anything other than the calorific value... what's the cost, can you have it for dinner and do you have something it can be eaten with?
Are you in touch with what your body fancies? Do you really want that chocolate muffin with your latte and if so, why aren't you choosing it? Being able to understand our bodies and what they crave is being able to be intuitive, restricting yourself or not allowing things you want will lead to you feeling 'guilty' when you do give in to forbidden cravings.
4. No 'thought process' around food or having 'good' and 'bad' foods
Have you labelled food good and bad or have some 'naughty treats' in a cupboard? Enabling a mind-set that separates foods into good and bad categories has created a distorted relationship with food. No foods are bad and nothing should be completely cut out of your life, especially if it's something that you enjoy the taste of. Make peace with food, restricting bad foods can lead to bingeing and feelings of shame when they are consumed. Make choices based on taste and that make you feel good. A prefect diet isn't all bout being the healthiest, but having the healthiest mind-set.
5. Punishing yourself for eating food
Did you have a piece of someone's birthday cake at work and now thinking about it? Are you now going to punish yourself by compromising on what you eat for your dinner or going to the gym to 'burn it off'? Creating a reward type system with food is unhealthy and can lead to restrictive behaviours or an ongoing cycle of binging.
6. Emotionally Eating
Do you use food to cope with a certain feeling? Boredom? Anger? Sadness? Stress? Food is satisfying and can be comforting, however it's not a problem solver. Being intuitive with food, isn't using food as a coping mechanism, but enjoying it for what it is and the nutrition it provides.
There are of course a ton more! But I think this gives a good insight into whether or not you are an intuitive eater or not.
I fear a lot of people who follow certain diet trends or counting macros/calories think they might be being intuitive because they can fit a donut into their daily allowance or they will 'balance it out' with other foods or exercise - but this has created a really bad relationship with food. If you have to really think about what you're eating or over analyse what you're eating, you're not being intuitive. We need to be able to eat food without giving ourselves permission! We have enough rules and regulations in our day to day lives to not make food become one of them! Trust yourself and go with how your body feels.