The definition of intuition is a phenomenon of the mind, describing the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. Sometimes a coach or psychologist might have a “hunch” about something, not necessarily based on absolute fact. He or she will follow that intuition and many times, this allows the professional to make progress in the treatment of the client or patient. Intuition has also made its way into our health. We have gotten used to absolute numbers. Do you count calories? How many calories can I eat per day and still lose weight? If you are exercising, how many calories have I used in my session along with my activity?
When it comes to eating, particularly if we are looking at weight loss, we obviously need to eat less and burn more calories in order to lose weight. However, there is a whole new school of thought about eating that seems to go against that thinking. It’s called Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body—where you ultimately become the expert of your own body. You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts. It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as “bad” or “fattening.”
The simple question—am I hungry?—lies at the heart of intuitive eating. It’s eating according to responses from the body. Cravings can be indications that something is out of balance, but that imbalance is often driven by the mind rather than the body. For that reason, a food journal can be extremely valuable for clients learning to get in touch with the reasons behind their eating habits. By putting their mood and thoughts into words each time they eat, clients will often find patterns that provide insight into subconscious habits that are derailing efforts to eat intuitively. Eating when you’re not hungry is the first sign that you’ve lost the connection with your body’s cues.
Obeying these cues requires a high level of body awareness, which is often lacking in overweight people. A person can counter negative self-talk by looking at their body as if it belongs to a friend. Samantha Pollack is a holistic health coach, personal trainer and owner/operator of www.insiderwellness.com. “Most people would never talk to a friend the way they think about themselves,” Pollack explains. “Many obese people will say, ‘I’m so fat. And now I just blew my diet for the day’—but they would never talk to a friend or loved one that same way. Self-acceptance can often be the first step to body awareness: ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that, but lesson learned. I just have to get back on track right away.’” Doesn’t that sound more like the type of advice you’d give a friend?
Here are the 10 basic principles of intuitive eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality—Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
- Honor Your Hunger—Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and unrefined carbohydrates. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.
- Make Peace with Food—Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
- Challenge the Food Police —Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
- Respect Your Fullness—Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor—When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough.”
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food—Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings.
- Respect Your Body—Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are.
- Exercise and Feel the Difference—Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10 Honor Your Health Through Gentle Nutrition—Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat an absolutely perfect diet to be healthy.
There is no question that calories do matter and even if you are eating intuitively, that doesn’t mean food intake with no limits. It can, however, mean using your intuition for judging your caloric intake also. One thing we have found out for sure in our clinic—there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for weight loss and everyone needs to have their program tailored to their needs. Intuitive eating can “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.