Hi friends, happy Friday! How was the week that went by?
When I was writing it, I was not sure what I should write. I did not want to talk about food in terms of protein, carbs and fats. Everybody’s requirement is different…and each nutrient is super-important!
Always counting these macronutrients is not necessary unless you have a specific goal or seek disease management. Food is way more than these macronutrients. If you are eating clean and mostly whole foods…with a lot of variety in your diet in terms of grains, veggies and fruits, you are sorted for life.
And am glad that no one asked me about how much protein to consume every day and how much fats. There are general guidelines for that too, yes. But am glad that some of you asked me to write more about intuitive eating instead. I mentioned intuitive eating in my last blog and if you missed the post, you can read it here.
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Now, coming back to today’s post and intuitive eating, let’s see what it is.
In my opinion, it is a part of staying mindful package. Mindfulness about when we feel hungry and when to stop eating is intuitive eating. It sounds super simple, isn’t it? Unfortunately, most of us struggle with this part the hardest. However once achieved, it stays lifelong because our body refuses to accept it any other way once it gets used to mindful eating, or mindful consumption in general.
In my experience as a Nutritionist and a Health Coach, intuitive eating is a very hard part to reach but it’s the key to everything that we want. It is easy for me to tell you how much protein and how much fats and how many calories to take…and you would be able to apply it immediately. The hardest part is staying mindful about eating and that needs to come from within us.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
It is basically a philosophy that asks us to listen to our body and the hunger signals it sends. The body knows the whole process very well (it is a very, very complicated process, trust me) and as a baby it is very common to see. A baby cries when she/he is hungry and is happy when her/his tummy is full. Simple, isn’t it?
As we grow up and in the whole process of growing up, we start faltering and sometimes get too busy to be mindful of our own body.
Intuitive eating is also known as “anti-diet eating” as we are not restricting ourselves from eating anything but eating ONLY WHEN our body asks us to…by sending hunger cues.
I often also get my cues in terms of cravings. Last month, for 7-8 days what I kept craving is buttermilk! I like buttermilk but I am not crazy about it. That week I went crazy for buttermilk….I had almost a litre of buttermilk everyday! I didn’t think about it much. If my body is telling me to have buttermilk then I shall have buttermilk !
Is It Easy?
For many of us, it is not. It is a whole re-learning process and we need to understand how to listen to our body and trust it.
We need to trust our body…and the body needs to trust us back that we are not going to starve it or deprive it of nutrients (even carbs and fats), when it needs.
Getting this whole equation in place is a delicate job and requires effort on our part. It isn’t easy.
How To Work Towards Intuitive Eating?
First we need to understand that when our body craves a particular food, it can be:
- Physical Hunger – The body has a very neat system in place for almost everything. When it needs nutrients for replenishment or energy-requirement, it tells us explicitly to eat. Our stomach growls, we become irritable when we do not eat soon and we feel weak. Internally, lot of things happen too.
- Emotional hunger – Many of us eat when we feel anxious or because our favorite foods bring us comfort. The whole reward system that our brain creates, to feel happy and release happy hormones…brings momentary happiness often followed by varying degrees of guilt or even more anxiety!
- Lack of certain nutrients – We crave sweets when we cut carbs too much. We might also are low in certain vitamins when we crave sweets or chocolates. Many a times, it is our brain reward system in action too, so we need to know it’s not that, first.
There are a few principles of intuitive eating as the concept is very old. Various books have been written and researches have been done in past, since early 1970s. The key principles of this approach to food are simple but require a good effort on our part:
- Not being scared of food
- Eating as per our health requirements without being scared of eating. One day eating healthy and next day eating pizza, won’t change anything. It needs consistency but to know that one meal won’t make a difference any which ways
- No cutting of entire food groups from diet
- Choosing cleaner and healthier versions of food
- Do not go on fad-diets or starve yourself
- Eat when the body tells to without much delay
- Stop as soon as you are full. A very important part is to understand the comfortable fullness when eating
- Enjoy the food. Sit down to eat, eat without distractions and chew slowly enjoying every bite
- Learning to separate our feelings from food. The hardest part in my opinion! This can be achieved by channelling our brain to other activities that bring the same pleasure that we otherwise tend to derive from food
- Staying physically active. This helps in so many ways and it is sad to see it so underrated
- Loving oneself. If something worries us, we can take corrective action. However, we need to be proud of this great gift, this great miracle called a healthy body, given to us. It is so precise, so well-made that it inspires awe and definitely not shame. It is not the body’s fault if we ignore its health, for any reason.
It is important to eat intuitively for our physical health and mental/psychological health, both. It is a sustainable lifestyle habit and it improves our self-esteem. Not that it is easy but then which good thing in life, comes easy?
Hope you found today’s post interesting and useful.
Till next Friday
Love, Health & Peace