Intuitive Eating: The Key To Good Health

Hi friends, happy Friday! How was the week that went by?

My blog last Friday was part 3 of the Weight Loss series and the third tool that I shared with you was Diet Composition. Am happy that so many of you found the whole series useful.

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.

You can also join me on Instagram here, if you wish so:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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:

  1. Not being scared of food
  2. 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
  3. No cutting of entire food groups from diet
  4. Choosing cleaner and healthier versions of food
  5. Do not go on fad-diets or starve yourself
  6. Eat when the body tells to without much delay
  7. Stop as soon as you are full. A very important part is to understand the comfortable fullness when eating
  8. Enjoy the food. Sit down to eat, eat without distractions and chew slowly enjoying every bite
  9. 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
  10. Staying physically active. This helps in so many ways and it is sad to see it so underrated
  11. 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

Part 2: How To Improve HRV

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? All good at my end, thank you. Humans are quite resilient, aren’t they? They quickly adapt – physically and mentally.

Most of us can work all day under mild/moderate pressure and then we unwind at the end of the day. We relax, sleep and wake up the next day to start the whole process all over, again! Not all days are same but we quickly fall into a rhythm and do well. And make the most of it too!

Some people who work under high pressure and find themselves unable to detach easily when it’s time to relax, usually end up with chronic stress and anxiety issues. Sleep issues crop up and coupled with unhealthy lifestyle habits, the body becomes susceptible to frequent infections, chronic illnesses and exhaustion.

Among these, few lucky ones realize the gravity of the situation on time and are able to make necessary lifestyle changes, taking help of experts if needed and make a U-turn towards good health. The rest have to suffer the consequences of poor lifestyle habits as well as unhealthy choices and that is what keeps the medical industry in good business.

Now, the big question is

  • How do we know/measure if we are healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally?
  • If we are trying to make a progress, how would we know it’s working?
  • How do we know whether we are being mindful or not?
  • How do we know that we are chronically stressed and that we need to slow down?
  • How do we know that we are resilient and can adapt to our environment?
  • How do we know that we have a balance established in our body and that our nervous system is strong?

There are many ways to know. The body itself tells us so much only if we care to listen. Then there are many lab-tests that could be done. There are these home-devices and wearables that enable us to keep a track of what is important for us. The bio-marker called HRV could help immensely, too.

In my last post on HRV part1, we got to know of this great and easily trackable biomarker/biofeedback that tells us about the required balance in our body and if we could achieve that balance, we can make huge progress in terms of our overall health.

How Can HRV Come Handy?

HRV is a simple and non-invasive way of identifying any imbalances in our body. It can tell us how resilient we are. It is a good indicator of our lifestyle habits.

If you are always in flight-or-fight mode or are constantly stressed, the variation (HRV) would be low. If we are relaxed and balanced, the HRV would be high.

A low HRV is an indicator of high stress, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of death. A high HRV indicates good cardiovascular fitness, good stress-handling capabilities of our body, a younger biological age and good general overall health.

How To Change HRV

HRV can change and since HRV regulates our BP, breathing, digestion and heart rate etc., all these things change with a change in HRV. Positively impacting all these physiological factors without medication in indeed good news!

HRV data can also tell us how strong our nervous system is and how our current mental health is. It can also tell us a lot about our emotional health. We can improve upon our HRV by:

  • being more mindful and practicing active relaxation
  • a few breathing techniques
  • eating better (a well-balanced, healthy diet)
  • sleeping better and on time
  • exercising more

How To Check HRV?

The most accurate way to analyze HRV is through a electrocardiogram (EKG) at the doctor’s place but today, some wearables and apps can read HRV with a fair amount of accuracy. A forehead or chest-strap heart monitor would be great for someone who wants to track HRV with more accuracy. I have downloaded a free version of an app which gives me a fair idea about my HRV. I am thinking of buying the paid, full-version now, for more features.

The ‘resonant frequency’ breathing that I have gotten certified in recently, happened because I was interested in HRV and this particular breathing technique so far, has made a positive impact for me and my clients so you can try it too.

Should We Bother about HRV?

Low HRV scores indicate heart-health issues and other concerns such as diabetes and hypothyroidism. Heart patients generally tend to have low HRV scores and doctors tend to keep an eye on it.

Exercise and sports have a positive impact on HRV. Cardiac patients should definitely check with their cardiologist to add breathing techniques to improve upon HRV.

Also, if you are:

  • trying to make healthy lifestyle changes including in diet and/or trying to be more mindful, it would be a good idea to measure your HRV
  • trying to overcome stress, it would be a good idea to measure HRV. It can not only show you your progress but can keep you motivated as well
  • trying to schedule your physical-training and recovery rhythm

Do understand that it is a tool for us to get an idea of what’s going on in our brain and nervous system and how it is all impacting us, in other ways. We need to learn to adapt better to the physiological, mental and emotional environment around us and HRV can help.

In the end, do know that there is no good or bad HRV scores. It depends on our personal circumstances and our current status. We need to compare our progress individually. But it sure would be reassuring and motivating to know that the breathwork or the mindfulness I am practicing, is having a great impact on me and my overall health (and my clients’).

Do follow me on Instagram for regular motivation, health, nutrition and fitness trivia and updates on the link below:

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace