If you checked our Intuitive Eating Fundamentals series, you know that ditching the diet is all about learning again how to listen to your body. I say "again" because, believe it or not, you're no stranger to following your intuition when it comes to making eating decisions. That's exactly what you used to do as a child. You know, before you learned that dieting is a thing and that, apparently, there is a "right" way for a woman's body to be.
The good news is that you now know that it is possible to trust your body. You've done it before, even if you can't quite remember how that worked. So you can do this, okay? The important thing is not to rush. After all these years of dieting, reconnecting with your body will take some practice. Don't pressure yourself into getting it "right" all the time. That will turn Intuitive Eating into another black-and-white rule in your life.
The name of the game is learning. Tune in to your body, do your best to understand what it needs, and learn from your experiences. That isn't to leave you to your own devices. There are things you can do and keep in mind that will help you befriend your body again. Think of those as conversations starters. You know, stuff you can do just to break the ice until this relationship gets going.
Get in Touch with Yourself
All of yourself. Mind, body, and spirit. The chances are that you spend most of your time in your mind. Life is happening. You need to make decisions, come up with ideas, negotiate with co-workers, wrangle the family, yadda yadda yadda. Day in and day out, this is where your attention, focus, and energy are going.
Step number one: Ease your reactive mode. Try being in your mind in a different way, one that encourages reflection and response. How do you the different things that happen in your day make you feel? Are letting your emotions pile up unattended? Lacking awareness of your thoughts will make it a lot more tempting for you to use food as a coping mechanism.
Step number two: Get out of your mind. Pay attention to your physical feelings. What are they trying to tell you? Hunger and fullness can be quite nuanced sensations, especially if you've been ignoring them for long. You can pave your way there by listening to other more explicit messages your body sends you. Are you sleepy? Or maybe easily irritable? Notice those feelings and honor them. Slow down, if you feel fatigued. Dance around the house, if you feel extra energetic.
Give Yourself Mini-Breaks
I know, I know. You have a lot going on in your life. You can't afford to be taking multiple breaks every day. But hey! Stick with me for a little longer.
I'm not suggesting you stop everything you're doing to take 30-minute breaks five times a day. You'd be surprised by the difference that getting even two minutes for yourself can make. Can't afford two minutes? That's fine. Close your eyes and take three deep breathes. That will do it.
What's the purpose of that? Those interruptions will help you 1) get out of that reactive mode we were just talking about, and 2) help dissipate any stress you've been building up without realizing. Stress has a much more significant impact on our bodies than we can tell from the surface. It puts the body in a state of alertness that makes it hard to listen to our needs and wants.
Use those mini-breaks to notice your physical sensations and immediate impulses. The contrast from concentration to relaxation will make it easier for you to observe your feelings, so that's a great practice if you're out of the habit of listening to your body. The less mind noise, the clearer you can hear yourself. It makes sense, right?
Notice and Note: Start a Diary
Tuning into your body means understanding how your body communicates. It's important to observe your sensations over time so that you're able to notice patterns in how you experience different physical states such as hunger and fullness, but also sleepiness, soreness, thirst, etc.
Your best friend here is a diary. Use to take note of where in your body you feel the effects of a particular physical state. You can even pair this practice with your mini-breaks. Use these interruptions to observe the sensations in your body and then try to name the general message they're sending you.
What do you need? What did you have too much of? That doesn't have to be about food, though if you can recognize your hunger and fullness that's awesome. Maybe you need a glass of water because your mouth is dry. Or perhaps you've been staring at your screen for too long and your eyes hurt. See what I mean?
Whenever you use your diary, take note of your sensations but also of the circumstances around you. What are your thoughts? What are you doing? What have you eaten? Your records will help you better understand what your body was trying to tell you at different occasions.
Other Ways to Practice Listening to Your Body
If you feel like going the extra mile, practices like meditation and yoga can be super useful for this journey. For example, you can use a mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace to help you scan your body first thing in the morning or before you go to bed. Similarly, more gentle practices of yoga like Yin or Nidra can help you tap into your physical sensations.
If you already practice some other kind of movement, that's great too. Next time you get moving, try to pay attention to the muscles you're engaging, how your breath changes, and how you feel when you stop. Those are all strong physical sensations that you can observe with more ease. Think of it as a 101 course in listening to your body.
Wrapping It Up: Be in a Conversation with Your Body
We didn't talk much about hunger and fullness today. I wanted us to get started with some simpler ideas to get you in the habit of noticing how you feel. Your body signals a lot more than appetite and satisfaction. It spends the whole day sending you messages through feelings and symptoms to let you know what it needs to continue best serving you.
Choose one or more of the ideas we talked about today, and commit to giving them a shot over the next week. Do use them to understand how you relate to eating, but don't limit yourself to that. One thing that you should know now that you're ready to jump off the diet wagon is that your health is about much more than calories in and calories out.
To expand this practice to work on your relationship with food, get the mindful eating checklist so you can start being more present with your meals. This will help you to tune into your hunger and fullness signals, and it's a powerful practice when it comes to unwanted eating behaviors. Get my checklist below to get started today!
Over to You!
How familiar are you with your hunger and fullness cues? What about other sensations in your body? Are you usually able to listen to your needs before burning out?
Let me know how your body tells you about those feelings. Chances are we can get some hints from each other to help you better understand your body's language.
Join the Conversation
One more thing, if you want to hang out with me and other smart women determined to feel and do their best, make sure to join the Food Freedom Tribe, our free Facebook group.