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Tapping into your eating intuition can help you approach food from a place of love, acceptance, and nourishment. Unfortunately, it is quite common for most to be out of touch with their natural eating rhythms and rather indulge in mindless or emotional eating, but the good news is that learning to eat intuitively is fairly easy… and very effective!
One research review of 20 interventions found that eating intuitively helped participants “abandon unhealthy weight control behaviors, improve metabolic fitness, increase body satisfaction, and improve psychological distress.”
Here are a few ways you can begin to tap into your eating intuition:
Get in touch with your body —
Connecting to and learning to understand what your body is saying and why is one of the best ways to eat with intuition. This is easily done through a body scan. Try sitting cross-legged on the floor or sit on a chair with your feet grounded on the floor. Allow yourself to get comfortable and relax, closing your eyes. Begin to notice, without judgment, how your body feels. Start from your head and move down through your body to your toes. What emotions do you feel? Where in your body are you feeling these emotions? Do certain areas feel tense? Are you experiencing any pain? Discomfort? Are you hungry? Does your digestion feel off?
Taking time to tune into your body each day can help you listen to its natural signals, including signs of hunger.
By becoming aware of your natural hunger cues, you can begin to eat truly nourishing foods — only when your body really needs them.
Realize your relationship to certain foods —
Understanding how different foods affect your energy can help you eat more intuitively. Begin by noticing how you feel, without judgment. Which foods make you feel vibrant and energized? Which foods make you feel lethargic or uncomfortable? Keep in mind that this could vary from day to day and season to season. In the summer, fruits and light salads might make you feel more energized, while in the winter your body might need heartier, more grounding foods like soups and root vegetables. Try to mindfully use this as an internal practice since foods that make you feel alive might affect someone else in an opposite way, as every body is different. As you begin to tune in to how you feel while eating, you’ll naturally begin to eat more of what makes you feel nourished and supported, and less of what makes you feel stuck, stagnant, or imbalanced.
Acknowledge how your emotions affect your eating habits —
Do you tend to eat comfort foods when you’re stressed? Or binge on sweets when you’re sad? Emotional eating is unconsciously common, but it’s also a behavior that can be rewired once you have an understanding of it. Learning to identify which emotions trigger unhealthy eating habits can help you avoid eating patterns that aren’t serving you. Without any judgment, notice which emotions or external circumstances trigger certain eating patterns and write them down. Then, try to remember why you reach for that particular comfort food. What memories do you have associated with it?
Once you have a better understanding of the triggers and the emotional imprint of certain foods, you can begin to shield yourself from their reactive behavior.
For instance, if something stressful happens at work and you know that this can cause a binge session of processed snacks, get up and take a walk around the office or try a quick breathing exercise before reaching for a snack. Use the opportunity to break the pattern of behavior associated with that emotion and that snack. If you are craving sugar because you feel sad, reach for a big bowl of fruit first, or call a friend, or take a peek at your gratitude list before reaching for your comfort foods. Placing a delay between the trigger and the reaction can help shift the unhealthy behavior.
Develop an attitude of gratitude towards food —
People often experience feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust rather than feelings of joy and gratitude regarding food. Cultivating gratitude can create an abundance of beautiful healing energy for you when your body receives its nourishment. Before your first bite of a meal take a moment to express gratitude for everything on your plate — especially when you are preparing food for yourself or for others — try to think about where the food came from, and about the people who harvested, delivered, and prepared it. The energy of love will not only bless the food, but this practice will help you look at your food with joy and graciousness. There has even been research that demonstrates that a gratitude practice supports healthy eating.
Eat slowly and mindfully —
As you eat, chew slowly and really taste the flavors and textures of each bite. This will help you appreciate and savor your food, as well as refine the senses. When you take the time to enjoy the food you eat, you are practicing presence and mindfulness. This practice is another way to create a supportive and nourishing relationship with food, as well as your intuition. You might even be surprised how flavors amplify when you really take time to tune in.
Practice yoga and meditation —
Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve eating habits. Yoga and meditation tend to make people more mindful in their daily lives, including noticing hunger signals and unhealthy habits. Once you start to feel good, you begin to seek more lifestyle practices that will make you feel more naturally vibrant and energized.
Accept and love your body —
Many psychological issues around food stem from feelings of shame or disappointment about the body. If you were trying to get a small child to change their behavior, would you shame and degrade them? Probably not. More likely, you would gently work with them with love and patience to teach them a new way of doing things. What if you treated yourself the same way? Try cultivating body love and acceptance through a simple body loving meditation: Close your eyes and take deep breaths. While gently tapping your heart, thank your body for moving you around, for supporting you, for keeping you alive and active. Picture yourself telling your body that you love and accept yourself.
Tapping into your eating intuition is a natural and effective way to shift your relationship with food into one that is full of joy and gratitude.
Just like most practices, this shift likely won’t happen overnight. Try the above exercises without judgment, and if you find yourself slipping into old eating mindsets, notice the slip and be gentle with yourself before trying again, as changes in the mind respond to flexibility and understanding. Sooner or later, eating intuitively will feel like second nature and you will be able to enjoy every meal with freedom, joy, love, and gratitude.
Serena Poon is a leading chef, nutritionist, and reiki master. Her passion and career for curating healing and wellness programs using integrative health, holistic nutrition, and Culinary Alchemy™ began long before she started creating contemporary meals, menus, and nutritional goodness for the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and Kerry Washington. Serena’s Culinary Alchemy is the practice of combining intuitive energetic techniques with guidance and education on functional and spiritual nutrition, integrating how food affects our bodies on a physiological level, and how it affects the energetic body. She is also the founder of Just Add Water™, a wellness line of super nutrient foods and supplements, and Serena Loves, a lifestyle brand and blog.