What parent has time to sit down and meditate before a meal? Is it even possible to chew slowly, taste all the flavour profiles of a curry whilst simultaneously stopping a child from flicking rice across the room? How exactly do you identify you are full when you are wrestling a toddler back to the table for one last bite of broccoli?
If you’ve never heard of intuitive eating before, let me briefly fill you in. Intuitive eating is a set of guidelines that help you tune into your body signals to identify when you are feeling hungry, what you feel like eating, when you should stop eating and how satisfied you are after eating. It’s a strategy proven to help you step off the dieting train, throw the food rule book out the window and let your body take the lead in telling you what you actually need.
If intuitive eating is new to you it can be quite scary to think your body knows what it needs to thrive. Your body is so much more capable than you probably give it credit for. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we are quite often told we need to suppress our body cues in order to be healthy, small, beautiful, worthy. After a while, your body gives up trying to talk to you or you lose your ability to listen. Intuitive eating is taking the time to let your body speak to you again and to actually listen to what it is saying.
As a health practitioner working in the intuitive eating field, what I hear most often is “I’m too busy to listen to my body”. When I dive deeper into this statement what they are actually saying is – I don’t have the time, energy or patience to do intuitive eating perfectly. If we unpick the package we can usually find areas they are already practising intuitive eating, but because they can’t manage to do it for every meal they feel that they aren’t eating intuitively.
Intuitive eating is similar to parenting. Some days you will have the time to sit down, do a full-body scan, identify that you are feeling about a 3 on the hunger fullness scale and choose the lasagne over the salad. Other days you will be lucky if you have time to slap some peanut butter on a slice of toast whilst trying to get pants on your child and running out the door. It won’t ever be perfect, but that’s also part of the beauty of it. Diets demand perfection and when you can’t live up to that you inevitably fall off the wagon.
The reality is that your body cues will vary from day to day, what you feel like eating will vary, how much it takes to satisfy you will vary and your ability to have the time, energy and patience to tune into all of that will also vary and that is OK! Intuitive eating is a journey, a learning experience, not a one size fits all approach. General awareness is key. Be kind to yourself and keep strolling down that perfectly imperfect path to body cue discovery.