This principle of intuitive eating is very much aligned with the work of mindful eating. We continue to come back to the hunger/fullness scale – and that’s because being able to recognise our physical hunger cues is fundamental to being both an intuitive and mindful eater. Here’s the link to the hunger/fullness scale again in case you missed it.
Although feeling our fullness involves being a mindful eater, I love the unique perspective which intuitive eating takes on this principle. What intuitive eating really explores here is the things that commonly get in our way of being ABLE to feel our fullness (and/or hunger). It acknowledges that there are so many things in our daily lives, and in our eating/feeding history, which make it really hard for the majority of us to sharpen this skill. Being mindful means that we are present in the moment (among other things), but when it comes to eating mindfully, we often find ourselves in situations which make it very difficult to truly engage in our meal. This intuitive eating principle asks us to question our distractions. What prevents you from being present enough so that you can truly listen to your hunger/fullness? Is it:
- Watching TV? Reading? Using your phone?
- Working at your desk? Checking emails?
- Driving? Talking on the phone?
- Standing up? Walking around?
- Cleaning? Doing other jobs?
When do you eat in this environment? What is it about that time of the day which makes it more challenging to sit and focus your attention on the meal?
One of the most valuable things I learnt during my Eating Psychology Coach training was the importance of the meal/eating ENVIRONMENT. It’s not enough to eat nutritious, wholesome foods. We need to be in a relaxed, focused, “sacred” space if we’re to make the most of any given meal. Meals should be rituals – a special time and place where we stop, observe, savour and indulge. A time which is dedicated to nourishing the mind, body and soul through foods which fill us up – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Think of ways that you can ritualise your meals, because THIS is the key to slowing down with food, which in turn is necessary if we’re to become truly present with food. Only then can we really stop and check-in with our hunger and fullness cues. So when you have a meal you might want to:
- Set the table with nice crockery and cutlery.
- Use music and lighting to set the scene.
- Always have “family” meals where everyone sits down together.
- Turn off the TV and don’t bring mobile phones to the table etc…
Another important thing to think about is the HABITUAL nature of your mealtimes. What do you always do? Why do you do these things? For example, are you a member of the “Clean Plate Club”? Were you raised to always finish everything on your plate? Think about this, and if you find that you are a member of the Clean Plate Club then I invite you to start challenging and questioning this habit. This will allow you to make room for tuning into your actual hunger/fullness cues.
Another “habit” which many of us have developed over time is the inability to say “No” to food. We are often afraid to offend, seem rude or dismiss others, especially if someone has cooked for us. This is where we can start examining our boundaries and doing some work on boundary-setting and assertiveness. This is a great example of the fact that the way we “do food” is the way we “do life” – use your eating habits and patterns as a mirror. Let them be a Divine teacher (rather than an unwanted or undesirable behaviour), which will help you to navigate and evolve in ALL areas of your life.
On a more physical level, it is also helpful to start paying more attention to which foods (including snacks) tend to fill you up the most/for longer, and how specific foods actually make you feel. You might want to keep a journal where you note down foods/meals that help you to feel satisfied for longer, and others which seem to leave you hungry etc… Pay attention to how emotionally satisfying these foods are as well – remember that feeling full or satisfied is not just a physical experience! These are all practices in “interoception” – the skill of looking WITHIN to find the answers, by listening to our body’s own cues and signals.