The concept of intuitive eating has only just started crossing my radar.
It sounds like an interesting idea – but at the moment, it also appears to be from another planet.
For me, intuitive and eating do not even appear in the same sentence, let alone alongside each other. With normality a lifetime ago, I still think in hospital speak ‘1 protein, 1 carbohydrate and 2 veg’; weigh out one of three ‘nutritionally enhanced’ breakfast cereals at 7am, come hunger or not; and couldn’t tell you if I like or loathe peas. I do not fancy cake, nor experience satisfaction; and I rotate my food groups to make sure that I’ve got a tick in each box –
In touch with my eating, I most definitely am not. So, I’m making a little introduction:
From what I can gather, intuitive eating is about getting the relationship between mind, body and food sorted. It’s about distinguishing between physical and emotional feelings; listening to your body and being able to respond appropriately to what it needs. It’s not about dieting, and “good” or “bad” foods, and complicated menu plans, but about recognising when you’re hungry – or full; taking care of yourself; and giving this temple that we inhabit a little respect. Or something like that.
Because I am still quite angry at food – or at myself – this is all easier said then done, and there’s a big voice that asserts “well, at least I’m eating”….
but there’s also a little one that questions whether it has to be like this; and, it’s this one that I’m helping along. In order to give intuitive eating a chance, I need to start chipping way at a few long standing barriers:
1. It’s okay to like food.
I find liking food quite hard: firstly, because I’m not sure whether it’s me – or my anorexic head – that likes prawns and salad and brown rice; and, secondly, because I have buried any acknowledgement of a taste preference deep down in a chamber somewhere, and forgotten which particular compartment I put it in.
I like what I “should” like and have scripted myself to remember this; so, when I’m asked whether I enjoy pasta – or cake – or thai green curry, the closest I can get to an honest answer is “I don’t know” – and that’s if the practiced message hasn’t already jumped in.
Determining what I do and don’t like without factoring taste in is probably not a good sign for any intuitive eating, so pressing pause on this message is a first good step; and giving myself a chance to find my tastes out is the next important thing –
2. Removing the clutter.
In order to avoid thinking about what I am eating, I have ramped up the distractions around mealtimes so that they are full of a whole host of other things, with food lurking on the peripherary somewhere. Breakfast is computer time; lunch comes with a side of work and multiple interruptions; and, supper is consumed in front of a newspaper, whilst completing a crossword, and with the TV on.
I know what’s on my plate; I just don’t engage with it.
This is probably not conducive to intuitive eating and it is a million miles away from anything that could be considered mindful – which is probably the next thing I need to factor in.
3. Mindful Eating.
Mindful eating is basically (I think) about paying attention to what’s going into your mouth – in every single way. In terms of taste, and feel, and smell, and how your body then feels.
This is a bit tricky. I have invested a lot of time in trampling over these signals; and, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a little bit squeamish about food. This means that I am going to have to work doubly hard to focus on the more useful learning …like the fact that eating something hot can keep you warm, or peppermint can soothe a sore stomach, or fizzy drinks tend to make me burp.
So, checking in with my feelings sounds like an interesting idea (or at least the basis for a scientific like project); and the only thing I’m missing out then is remembering to listen to the hunger signals in the first instance.
This may well take a bit of time.
4. Mixed messages.
Having gone from total starvation (without feeling hungry,) to bingeing to the point of nausea (without being full) – and every stage in between, it is no surprise that my hunger dial has lost its sense of direction. It is like a compass which has been tossed, repeatedly, into the Bermuda Triangle and no longer recognises north.
This makes identifying hunger or satiation a bit problematic – and that’s on top of the mistakes that are quite easy to make.
Tiredness that is disguised as frustration (or hunger?); bloatedness that means I’m fat (or full?); agitation that is because I’m nervous (or haven’t had enough to eat?)….you catch the drift.
Confusing. But at least I’m starting to be mindful that something’s going on in there!
As you can see, my eating is, at the moment, far from intuitive; but, because I think it might help and I hope that this might one day change, I’m ready to begin the journey….
I’ve got a few ideas in mind (exploring the different senses; focussing for five minutes and building it up; hunger ratings; a spot of food testing) but this is unknown territory and I’d love to hear your suggestions – because it’s been a while since I respected what my body had to say –
And even longer since I was open to listening.