Everything discussed in this blog series is derived from Intuitive Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook. As you read these posts, I strongly encourage you to purchase and read both. This series will not be as thorough and informative as the principle books. Each month we will focus on one at a time. Allow yourself the space to simply look at that one principle. My desire for you is that these posts will 1) allow you to dig deep into understanding your relationship with food. 2) that kindness and compassion for yourself will grow. 3) that you will experience real flourishing as you develop trust with your body.**
If you’ve been following along with these monthly blog posts on Intuitive Eating, you are well aware by now that Intuitive Eating aims to heal our relationship to food and our bodies. We’ve discussed what it means to become aware of our bodies’ internal cues and how to respect our individualized food preferences. We’ve worked through ways to notice where we might be stuck in shame and conversely how to offer our bodies the dignity they deserve. We’ve discussed what it means to make peace with food and shake off any rules we might have about eating.
As I’ve mentioned in each of these posts, there is no right or wrong way to go about this process. Perhaps you need to camp out with one principle for months before moving on to the next. Perhaps you find it easier to learn each of the principles before diving into your own Intuitive Eating journey. Whatever approach to Intuitive Eating you take, I recommend embarking on this last principle—Honoring your Health with Gentle Nutrition—after you’ve had some experience with the previous nine.
As you begin to read this post, ask yourself if you feel at peace with your body and the content and manner in which you eat. If you aren’t there yet, that’s ok! You are perfectly acceptable as you are. Linger with the previous principles until you are able to feel more at home in your own body. Take as long as you need and come back when you feel ready.
As a clinician, one of the things I value most about Intuitive Eating is the emphasis on cultivating interoceptive awareness. That is, having a keen sense of what it feels like to inhabit your own body. Unfortunately, much of what Americans regard as nutritionally sound advice comes from diet culture and works to distance us from our interoceptive awareness cues. We buy into eating what we “should” in order to be “healthy” regardless of how that food might actually feel in our bodies. We are trained to watch our portions and eat our vegetables but often we are not taught how to eat for true satisfaction and enjoyment.
Through honoring our health with gentle nutrition, we can work our way back to how different foods make our bodies feel. We want to regain the intuitive connection to our bodies we were born with.
I made homemade brownies for lunch every day. They were rich and decadent and everything I had forbidden myself to eat for over a decade. In that season, I needed to know that no food was off-limits. However, if the only food I ever consumed was brownies, I would probably wind up with daily stomach aches. Likewise, if I only ate brussel sprouts for the rest of my life I’d probably have similar digestive issues.
Sometime in that early process I stopped solely eating brownies for lunch. I don’t remember it being a big deal—I simply didn’t want them for lunch anymore. In time, I started to eat a wider variety of foods because that’s what made me feel alive in my body and gave me the most energy. Today I eat fruits and vegetables most days. I also eat chocolate and white bread most days. I don’t eat cake, red meat, spinach salads, or sweet potatoes because I have a strong distaste for those foods. Both broccoli and fried foods are guaranteed to give me a stomach ache, so I eat them with caution.
When we incorporate gentle nutrition into our diet, we attune to the needs of our body and allow food to be both enjoyable and a part of obtaining health.
1. Our “why” in choosing more nutrient-dense foods comes from a place of honoring our health; our food choices reflect our appreciation and love of our bodies.
2. Because we don’t feel so extreme or rigid around food, we don’t see yourselves as “good” for eating more nutrient-dense foods and “bad” for eating foods with lesser nutritional value (play food). We eat a wide variety of foods that honor both our taste buds and our health.
Lastly, it is important to note that gentle nutrition should be individualized to YOU and YOUR NEEDS and will be an ongoing process that changes in different seasons of life. I want to remind and encourage you that you know your body better than anyone else. You know what feels good inside your body and what doesn’t. I sincerely hope and pray that this principle empowers you to trust your body and embrace all that it does for you.