Are you sick of the fad diet roller coaster? Approaching what you eat with new mindfulness could be the solution, says exercise physiologist, nutritionist and author Kathleen Alleaume. Here are her top tips for learning exactly what your body is hungry for to completely change your relationship with food…
Intuitive eating (also known as eating mindfully) means listening to your body and tuning into your natural hunger and fullness signals. It’s not a diet (in fact it’s the complete opposite), rather it’s truly a way of life – an intuitive eating way of life.
At the core of intuitive eating is learning to listen to the inner whisperings of your body and learning to be very honest about what you are actually hungry for.
Once you are able to listen and accept, the messages can become quite clear: you stop automatic unconscious behavioural patterns and start paying full attention to what you’re eating and how you’re eating it, encouraging you to make better food choices and foster a healthy relationship with food and your body.
1. Adopt an ‘unconditional permission’ to eat
Eating to your every gastronomic desire is obviously not the point of intuitive eating. The point is the exact opposite: to honour your body and its true desires. Be it a hefty appetite or craving, feed your body wholesome foods that it naturally desires and yes, this includes ‘forbidden’ foods, in moderation. Remember, no foods are off limits when you eat intuitively. It empowers you to be the expert of your own body and realise there’s no perfect diet.
2. Get real with your hunger
Hunger is our primal need for food and is caused by the brain reading changes in the levels of hormones and nutrients in the blood, such as when your blood sugar levels dip hours after eating. ‘Real’ hunger, however is very different from ‘perceived’ hunger which is often an indication of boredom or a symptom of procrastination.
If you’ve just eaten within the last two hours, chances are you are not physically hungry. The bet way to rate your hunger is to think about how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10. One represents ravenous, five is comfortable, and 10 is full to the point you’re totally stuffed! You never want to reach either end of the scale. The trick is eating somewhere in the middle, so as to avoid overeating or eating out of control.
3. Honour your feelings
Often we may turn to food as a reward or manage certain feelings. Although eating should be enjoyable, it shouldn’t be your main source of comfort. If you find that too many stressful days in the office or a tiff with your partner means a remedy of an entire block of chocolate or a bottle of wine, consider introducing coping mechanisms other than food to your repertoire. Go for a walk, phone a friend or paint your toe nails. Whatever it is, do something other than eat to cope with the emotion and your eating habits will take a turn for the better.
Kathleen’s intuitive eating mantra: “Eating is a necessity, but eating intuitively makes all the difference’