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
Sarah Gold is an intuitive eater, dietitian, chocolate lover, and dog lover,