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Am I Eating “Bad Food”? How Intuitive Eating Can Help

Intuitive Eating Is Your Key to HealthEveryone is born with the intuitive knowledge for eating. As a baby, you cry when you are hungry, and you stop eating when your need is satisfied. Eating is as natural as breathing.

If Eating Is So Intuitive, Why Is It So Hard?

But as people grow older, we often lose the intuition of what foods our bodies need. Family culture, school and work demands, and the many voices telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat can all cause us to disconnect from this intuitive knowledge. When we decide that we want something different from our health, we try to take steps to change ourselves without the intuition we were born with.

Dieting, restricting food intake, overeating, and binging all push us to ignore our body’s innate signals of hunger and fullness. The more we depend on outside sources to decide what we should eat or what we should look like, the more we ignore our signals and lose our ability to eat intuitively. But it is possible to retrain ourselves to know what food we need, when, and how much.

How Do I Retrain for Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is listening to your body’s hunger and fullness signals and honoring them. It is allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry and stopping when you feel satisfied. While practicing intuitive eating, you pass no judgment on any foods you eat. It means giving yourself permission to have all foods.

“Giving yourself permission” sounds scary—you don’t have to look far to see examples of what happens to your body when you eat with abandon. But intuitive eating is not eating with abandon. It’s giving your body the opportunity tell you when it needs sodium, or protein, or fat (yes, fat), or any combination of many minerals and nutrients.

But to do that, you have to give up some of the things you think about food. This means kicking “food rules” to the curb. Take the power away from food. Give yourself permission to have foods you are afraid of. When you allow yourself to have all foods without judgment, you may find yourself feeling more satisfied and content afterward.

Intuitive Eating Begins with Mindfulness

One practice that goes hand in hand with intuitive eating is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you to be more aware of your body and surroundings.

Before eating, ask yourself, “Why might I be hungry?” Is the cause of the hunger because you haven’t eaten in 3-4 hours, or is it because you had a stressful day? Are you eating to fight boredom, or are you in need of more energy?

Take that next step by listening to your body mindfully and providing it what it needs. If you haven’t eaten in 3-4 hours, you are likely feeling physical hunger and should have something to eat. What do you notice about the texture, taste, smell, and appearance of the food? On the other hand, if you ate one hour ago you may not be physically hungry. The hunger might be caused from something else, such as a stressful day. If that is the case, you may want to practice self-care by taking a warm bath, petting your dog, or listening to some calming music instead of having food.

By practicing intuitive eating, you are honoring your body’s innate wisdom. When you are feeling hungry, you honor your body by eating, and you stop when you feel satisfied. It does not involve rules or strict diets. All foods are fair game, and you eat to satisfy the biological need to energize your body.

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