A huge piece of Intuitive Eating is the ability to tap in to your internal hunger and satiety cues. To know, for real, if and when you're hungry or full and to honor those feelings.
It sounds simple, but it's an incredibly difficult piece of the puzzle. We've been influenced sometimes from infancy to rely on other factors when we eat and how much. We're given snacks at all hours of the day as little children - often sugary sweet ones that disrupt our internal cues and our emotions. We're told in school and at camp that being in the Clean Plate Club is the best way to go and that by not eating the food on our plate we're wasting it.
The break from our internal cues for any number of reasons but it's important to know that those cues do actually exist. They may be long-forgotten, ill-used and need some reworking, but they're there. Under all of the influence, education, pressure we've internalized from external factors, we still all have the ability to tap in to our natural hunger and satiety cues.
There are so many ways and each may speak to you differently but these are the three main ones that come up for my clients and women I work with:
1. Limit or eliminate distractions.
In our society, it's completely normal to eat while working, watching television, scrolling Instagram. The thing is, eating is a sensory activity. It's not simply an animalistic act of consuming calories. We need to engage in all of our senses when we sit down to eat a meal. If our sight and hearing and emotions are engaged in other activities while we're eating, it's impossible to truly know when we're full and when we've had enough. Most people who eat distracted report that they barely remember the meal they've just eaten just minutes later. Even if it was filling and delicious, they're reaching for more food soon because their other senses were strained and they don't feel satisfied.
2. Focus first on yourself.
One of the other principles of intuitive eating is self-love and acceptance of your body. I think it often gets overlooked in favor of honoring your hunger and feeling your fullness, but it's a huge part of getting to that place. If you don't love your body or trust yourself you'll never be able to truly connect with what you're body needs. You'll still be staring at your plate thinking about calorie counts or the fat in your thighs and that's still a form of distracted eating. My favorite way to begin to trust yourself and repair your relationship with your body is to ditch your scale. It NEVER shows the whole picture anyway - weight alone is hardly an accurate indicator of overall health. It's just a tool to make you feel bad about yourself. Ditch the scale and start feeling your body.
3. Practice feeling full.
We often stop eating because our plate is clear or the bag of Peppermint Joe Joe’s is empty (#guilty), but that doesn’t mean we’re full. Often, we eat to excess just to finish our plate or we finish our plate and neglect to go back for seconds when we’re still hungry because we don’t want to look like a glutton. Try this: On an empty stomach, fill 3 large glasses of water. Drink them all in 5 minutes. The feeling of all the water in your belly will mimic the feeling of fullness. Sit down and think about how you’re feeling. Write down any sensations, thoughts, emotions, feelings that you have. Keep this list near you when you’re eating for a couple of weeks to remind you of how ‘full’ really feels. When you get to that point in a meal, stop eating.
We have to stop relying on outside cues like the clock or our plate size or the scale to tell us how comfortable to feel. We have to re-learn to engage in our own senses and internal cues to feel our fullness and satiety in order to truly reach our healthy goals.