Intuitive eaters choose to live in a way that listens to their body. The body is what drives their decisions for eating and caring for themselves. I call it a practice since that is how you live it – you practice every day. There is no perfection or finish line. The goal is to find a way of eating that feels comfortable for your body and mind. It is a practice that asks you to let go of self-judgment and shame and work for self- acceptance and love. I have a developed a practice of body scans, nourishing meals, journaling, and movement that I think is nice and I would like to share with you.
Wake up and do a body scan. I repeat body scans before each meal and at the end of the day. On stressful days I do them more often. Body scans take a minute tops. But when you are first learning them it may take a bit longer if you aren’t used to connecting with your body. Getting in touch with your body is imperative in intuitive eating and these scans help me to listen to my body.
The way I do a body scan is I start with my toes and go up each part of my body until I reach my head (e.g. toes, ankles, calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, head, face). I note how each part feels. Do I feel tightness, pain, and/or looseness? Do I have a headache; am I hungry? I notice whatever information is available. If I am tight I will actively try to relax those muscles. If I am breathing shallow and stressed I will try to take a few deeper breathes to help slow myself down just a bit.
As I notice my physical feelings I also notice my mental feelings. If you can’t name feelings print out a list from the Internet. Practice sitting with all your feelings: even the ones that are uncomfortable. They don’t need to change. Just feel and accept them as ok. Feelings are just feelings – not facts. It took me a bit to figure out feelings since I had a bunch show up at once. For instance, I might feel happy, mad, sad, and nervous all at once. On days I am more mentally stressed I try to make sure to take extra loving care of myself.
Eat a meal that nourishes my body and soul
Think about what sounds good to eat (when I am with others I ask them as well and we mix up the meal to include something everyone would like. When my children were at home this usually meant that the meal would include chicken nuggets and I was usually the one picking out a vegetable! Another option is to have each person take turns picking out meals).
Take time to prepare it just as you like it
Serve the food in a nice area that you are comfortable eating in (have children help set a pretty table with folded napkins, fun place mats, and or a nice table cloth. They can even make paper flowers for a centerpiece)
Serve the food so it looks pretty (we do eat “with our eyes”)
Take your time and enjoy the moment (being present is a gift to yourself and others)
Eat without distraction and with positive conversation (this is not a time to discipline or do daily “homework”).
When first starting intuitive eating it is interesting to try writing out what you really like about each food as you eat it. (E.g. I love the tartness of the orange and how the little orange pieces are so crisp and juicy and burst in my mouth. I love the smell of the orange as I peel it and the texture of the outside skin in my hands.) I learned a lot and this practice changed my thinking about some foods.
Remember these rules while eating:
You are allowed to eat when you are hungry
You are allowed to eat foods you enjoy
You are allowed to enjoy eating
Do not judge yourself or ask for perfection
After breakfast I get out my computer and journal. I create a daily document to write out a list of what I am grateful for, journal for three pages, and set my intentions for the day. When I am really busy I journal later. I like to write to be more aware of what I am thinking, what is going on with me, and problem solve creatively. This information will usually show up, as I am journaling. Without this practice I tend to be less aware.
At some point in my day I practice joyful movement (exercise to most people). I call it joyful movement because I try to be active doing things I love. My favorite activity is dance but a pretty close second is talking walks with family and/or friends. If you don’t have an activity you like I suggest you keep trying new things until you find something that works for you. I learned to do stand up paddle boarding a few years ago and really love it but would have never known if I hadn’t tried.
This daily practice of body scans, “nourishing” meals, journaling, and joyful movement really supports my Intuitive Eating practice in a positive way. I hope any or all of these ideas will help you start a practice of Intuitive Eating that works for you.
written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
Intuitive Eating is a book and process developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Learn more at intuitiveeating.com
There is so much to love about this time of year but my favorite thing is a holiday meal. I imagine our big family all gathered around the table in a home filled with delicious smells waiting to eat our favorite dishes. In my head it looks like a Normal Rockwell painting: the one with the big happy family sitting around the table with the head of the household holding up the big turkey (Freedom from Want 1943).
But that description doesn’t give Norman Rockwell the credit he deserves. There is far more to that painting than you might see at first glance and I think the “unseen” part means the most to me.
Let me explain.
To jog my middle-aged memory, I looked up the painting online. Interestingly, it was created during the Second World War in a time of horror and need when many people didn’t have much. I looked again at the photo and besides the overly large turkey there is actually not a lot of food on the table. There is water in the glasses, a bit of celery, a small amount of cranberry sauce, fruit, a covered dish, and just a few pickles. Not much food for the 12 people (photographer implied) sitting around the table.
To me, this painting shows abundance and lack simultaneously. In a time of great despair and loss there sits a family to share whatever food is available and more importantly support, love, and enjoy one another.
This perspective of loss speaks strongly to me. My mother died this time of year 29 years ago and I can still find myself sad. Others around me have suffered great loss as well. Often when we are most happy we feel loss of those we have loved the most. Life doesn’t spare any of us from great sadness. Many others continue to need even the most basic of items. This time of year can be very hard for many people.
But a meal allows us to share and support one another. Share our lives. We talk, laugh, support, and even drive each other crazy. If your table is like my table not one person is quite like the next. We are different religions; some are rich, some poor, some Democratic, and some Republican. We even have Sox fans and Cubs fans in the same room. Needless to say sometimes we have good conversations and sometimes they can get quite heated. But we are all there for each other. We do our best: even if it is difficult. Sometimes we invite friends and people who don’t have a place to go. We share food; sometimes it tastes good, sometimes not so much. This last Thanksgiving I managed to burn the brussel sprouts and forgot the cranberry sauce in the fridge. We laugh. We cry.
Interesting, my favorite thing is the family meal but I didn’t talk much about food? See- it’s not about the food. Sure that tastes good. But my favorite thing is the love and support – the human kind.
Wishing you and yours a holiday season filled with love, support, and good holiday meals.
Written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
Sarah Gold is an intuitive eater, dietitian, chocolate lover, and dog lover,