Eating should be a fun experience, not an ever-present source of stress and unhappiness. Coming out of the pandemic, it has been so exciting to go out and share a meal with friends and family again. But for so many, it's difficult to enjoy the social experience of eating because food and dieting is a very sensitive subject. Unfortunately the effects of social media and society's growing fatphobia have caused many to lose the joy in eating.
If this is something you struggle with, this guide to intuitive eating is for you to find the motivation and information you need to begin healing your relationship with food and practice eating intuitively.
Listen to your body
The first most important tip I have when it comes to intuitive eating is to listen to your body. Give yourself some credit, your body is in fact very smart. An extremely important aspect of intuitive eating is being able to trust yourself to make the right decisions for what your body needs.
"Body trust is about reconnecting to our bodies and it allows us to deepen the roots of trust to our bodies that have been weakened by diet culture and fatphobia." -Aaron Flores, RDN
Keep a journal or take notes on your phone of how foods make you feel physically and mentally, then meditate on those feelings. Be mindful of the foods that cause you any discomfort.
Do some research on different foods and the many benefits they can have on your body and mind. Compare your research to the notes you took earlier on how food groups make you personally feel. You'll find that many foods have medicinal benefits and have been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety, ADHD, depression and lots more.
If you're cutting foods out of your diet, consider your reason for restricting. There are many valid reasons for regulating what goes into your body. For example you could have an allergy or intolerance to something.
Really think about the 'why' behind your food choices. Are you restricting for the purpose of reaching a specific standard or goal weight? Are you eating that salad because the fresh veggies genuinely sound good and your body is seriously craving it?
Once you start asking yourself these questions and analyzing how you use food to not only fuel you but heal your body and mind, you may find it easier to repair your relationship with food and effectively practice intuitive eating.
Talk to a professional
It is not unethical to use dieting as a way to achieve weight loss, but if you are considering doing this make sure to first speak to a certified dietitian or medical professional about what the best practices are for your body. There are many physical dangers of dieting and fad diets can be harmful to your health.
A common misconception around weight loss is that what you eat is the most important factor that affects the number on the scale. The truth is there are so many factors that have an affect on body weight, such as genetics, stress levels, hormones , movement, etc.
Stay inspired by following influencers and bloggers that share recipes and actively encourage intuitive eating. If you're struggling with body image, find influencers that represent more normal, diverse body types. The idea is to separate how you look with how you eat. If everyone were to eat the exact same thing all of the time, our bodies would still vary in shape and sizes.
While media consumption (like anything) is okay in moderation, make sure to be conscious about the media you're consuming as social media and influencers have largely contributed to society's unrealistic beauty standards and a surge in eating disorders globally.
Be kind to yourself
There is no need to strive for perfection when trying to eat intuitively. There is no such thing as being perfect when it comes to food. It's very important to try not to punish yourself for making "unhealthy" eating choices. Same concept with exercise. Avoid using exercise as a punishment for eating choices and vise versa-- don't use restriction as a punishment for missing a workout. This mindset can lead to extremely unhealthy thought patterns and disordered eating. Instead, focus on how working out makes your body and mind feel and use that feeling to motivate yourself to get up and move your body.
Be appreciative of what your body can do and how far you've come. Food is a unique experience that brings people together. By practicing mindfulness with food, you can also translate this mindfulness to being more present with those around you and improve your overall quality of life.