THE ART OF INTUITIVE EATING

“How did you recover from your eating disorders?” I’m glad you asked.

My short answer: “I practised re-connecting and listening to my body.”

Here’s my long answer:

In our world that is flooded with fad diets, we have a pre-conceived notion of what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat. We have picked up ideas of what foods ‘help’ us – to look better, feel better, work better, sleep better, sex better.

The day the idea of ‘sinful food’ and ‘guilty pleasure’ entered my mind was the day that my relationship with food morphed. It morphed into something so complicated, at times shameful, something that I felt like I wore physically, and something that exposed all my weaknesses to the world, just as how Adam and Eve’s relationship with God morphed into shame and sin when Adam ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge.

When I was living with anorexia and bulimia and their in-betweens, I always wondered if I can ever eat like food is just… you know, food. I’m about a year out of the pain of recovery and I’m happy to say that breaking the cycle is possible and we can eat food like it’s just… you know, food!

Backtrack to 1995, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined the term ‘Intuitive Eating’ in their book of the same name. They have listed ten principles of intuitive eating:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honour your hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Respect Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Honour Your Feelings without Using Food
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
  10. Honour Your Health

Moving Towards Intuitive Eating

As I struggled day by day to recover, I wasn’t consciously thinking ‘I want to be an intuitive eater’ – I didn’t even know that it existed. Some days I wondered if what I was doing would end up doubling the size of my body. I was helluva scared, but I chose to go ahead anyway – to trust in the process, in my body’s inner wisdom to balance itself and set my sight on reaching a happier, more fulfilled and productive state.

Depriving myself from things I love made me neither happy nor fulfilled. I said ‘f*** off’ to every negative thought in my head and very much also wanted to say ‘f*** off’ to people and things that triggered me or suggested that I shouldn’t have something because it is ‘bad for you’ or it ‘makes you fat’. I rejected the diet mentality and the food police. I threw them out each time they crept back to me, and each time I did that I got a bit stronger, they got a bit weaker.

Exercise, Experience, and Be Educated

Pursuing various certifications in fitness required me to learn about nutrition and how various foods affect our body, mind and emotions. Being educated in nutrition and exercise helped me to understand that

  1. Food is required for my brain and body to function.

If I want to achieve big things, I need to feed my body and brain.

  1. Carbohydrates and fat make me feel full and satisfied.

This knowledge held me through periods of stuggle, and I started to see food not as enemy, but as a helper and an experience to enjoy.

Going beyond my mat and studying the philosophy of yoga, I learnt to

  1. Make the conscious decision to always reconnect back to my body, mind and heart

I experience how my body, mind and heart feel before, during and after a certain activity or meal.

  1. Honour my emotions, acknowledge my thoughts and take care of my body

I remind myself that all my emotions and thoughts are legitimate. They exist and I cannot deny them. My body is unique and it is what carries me, flys me on my yoga mat, it keeps me going.

Learning to be an intuitive eater doesn’t require perfection, but requires you to connect with and trust yourself and your body.

I kid you not, even today I’m not completely free of negative, self-defeating thoughts. Social media doesn’t help. There are times when I see a successful Instagram page with tons of following, I find myself getting affected – questioning what I’m doing with my life, and wondering why I’m not as happy, beautiful or successful.

Then I click on my own Instagram page, and I see the truth – I try to keep my social media posts as real as humanly possible, but it is not the full picture. I don’t post my struggles, my arguments, the way I screw things up, the complete mess that I sometimes feel that I am… No one does.

 

Be Here Now: 3 Steps to Clarity of Thought

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We have an average of 48.6 thoughts per minute. 10% conscious, 90% subconscious.

Silence allows us to witness our thoughts, which helps us to see what’s happening in our minds more accurately and logically, without being caught up with the noise and chatter. Our course of action then becomes more mindful and less haphazard, more responsive rather than reactive.

It’s easy to get caught up in emotions and end up catastrophising the situation.

Your heart rate increases, breath shallows, mind is clouded and you want to take action, or your completely freeze! Now, this is when you really need to hit pause. This is when you really need to breathe. This is when stillness and your breath can work their magic.

Find a quiet, safe spot. Take a seat. Carry all your emotions, thoughts and desires with you; you are human. Be kind to yourself.

1. Sit up tall

Create space for your lungs to move as you breathe. You might also find it more comfortable to sit on a cushion.

2. Take deep breaths in and out through your nose.

As you inhale, visualise your breath flowing smoothly into your nose, to the crown of your head and down your spine, then coming back the same way as you exhale.

3. Count your breath. ‘Inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two. Inhale, exhale three…’ all the way to ten. Then start over again.

If you get distracted (it is normal!), start again from one.

Keep doing step 3 until you feel your mind getting clearer and less cluttered.

Setting an alarm to your desired time is also a good idea, just so that your mind doesn’t keep drifting to the clock. When I first started making this practice a daily routine, I set only three minutes each morning, yet the payoffs were tremendous. I slowly increased my quiet sitting duration minute by minute. No pressure, no competition.

There’s nothing else to do. Just breathe and enjoy the silence.

So set your timer, sit, pause, breathe and simply be.

For more meditations, check out the rest of my Be Here Now Mindfulness Series.