In part one of this post, I discussed the paradigm shift I've had regarding eating and health. In part two here, I hope to give you an idea of how this shift translates into my eating and the way I counsel clients. If you didn't get a chance to read part one, make sure to check it out here. If you're caught up, then by all means - read on!
A Tiny Introduction to Intuitive Eating
First off, much of how I apply Radical Grace to my eating aligns with the concept of intuitive eating. If you aren't familiar with intuitive eating and you want to learn more I highly suggest reading the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. For those of you that don't have time to read a whole book right now (understood), I'll be posting on the 10 principles of intuitive eating over the next few weeks via Instagram, so make sure to follow along with me under the hashtag #gracebasedeating. Today though, I'll give you a synopsis of how I apply this to my eating in the context of Radical Grace.
Intuitive eating is eating based off of your internal cues (or intuition) instead of external/environmental cues (calorie information, social pressures, stressful situations, or "good or bad" food labels). Put simply, this means eating what you really want when you are hungry without passing judgement on yourself. It means listening to your body's signals of hunger and satiety and honoring those signals. It means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat ANY food. Intuitive eating works at shutting down condemning thoughts around food and allows you to eat and enjoy, not count calories and fret.
That kind of freedom will sound scary to some, but trust me it's worth it. When you give yourself permission to eat the foods you crave and refuse to label foods as good or bad, you free yourself from the mindset of restriction and "splurging" (or bingeing), instead you open yourself up to eating, enjoying, and being satisfied. With practice, intuitive eaters learn what foods feel good, what foods satisfy and what foods leave them energized. It's a process, one that involves examining the root of your eating behaviors and reframing the restrictive "diet mindset" to one of self-care and freedom. But at the end of the process, once food has taken it's rightful place, you'll likely find yourself with a whole lot of extra energy, peace and time to put back into the things that truly matter.
A Day in the Life
In my own life, intuitive eating looks something like this:
I wake up in the morning, wait until I am hungry (which is usually pretty soon for me :D) and decide what I want to eat, then I make it, and I sit down and enjoy it. I try to have several foods on hand that I like, so I know I have a choice. If I have a busy day ahead, I might make something the night before, this way I have food ready for me in the morning. Next, I start my day, whatever that may entail. Throughout the day I make sure to pay attention to early hunger signs (stomach gurgling, etc.), when they start showing up that's when I start thinking about what I might want to eat based on what's available, either at home or out working.
I have a rough idea of when I will eat next, so that I can make sure I'll have food around me or available. Generally speaking, I eat within 1-2 hours of waking and every 3-4 ish hours afterwards. This loose schedule is helpful when you first begin eating intuitively. Especially for those who are used to ignoring their hunger cues and/or have a history of dieting, it can be hard to recognize early hunger signs in the beginning. By following a general schedule, and by at least "checking in" with yourself and your hunger every 3-4 hours, you'll fuel your body well and begin to recognize what early hunger and satiety feels like. That being said, there are no hard and fast rules here. With intuitive eating you simply observe your habits with curiosity and not judgement.
I try not to let myself get too hungry, because if I do become too hungry I know I'll feel tired, most likely overeat, and still not feel satisfied. This is a huge difference from the "diet" mentality, which says that our bodies can't be trusted to tell us when we are hungry, and we should ignore them and only feed them salads on 6 hour intervals. This of course usually results in a huge dinner or even full blown bingeing in the evening. On the other hand eating when I'm hungry also means I try to respect when I am full and notice emotional hunger vs. physical hunger.
As far as what I eat -- well, sometimes I eat the same thing several days in a row, and sometimes I want to try something new. Sometimes I have dessert every night and sometimes I don't want anything sweet. While honoring my hunger and cravings, I try to have foods that I know are satisfying to me and foods that I have noticed make me feel my best (something I've discovered over time and am still discovering). Focusing on the benefits of food for my body and my energy level is huge!
During meal time and shortly after, I try to take my time eating (hard for this former swimmer) and enjoy every bite, noticing those signals of both fullness and satisfaction. I try to savor my food, try being the key word - its not always going to happen that way, but that's OKAY.
What I do NOT do is feel guilty about overeating, forgetting to eat, or choosing certain foods. Instead, I try to notice how those situations made me feel physically and or emotionally and then move on. That is it. Notice and move on.
My day may look completely different than someone else's day, and both are healthy. Nothing is set in stone. Intuitive eating is all about your individual needs. You are the expert at your own body, no one else.
All this to say, becoming an intuitive eater is more of an art than a science and takes time and practice. This is what I promote with my clients. My focus is helping you become a healthier, happier, freer version of yourself by walking you through the intuitive eating process, one small step at a time. This is the way we have long-term success. Research shows that time and time again diets fail in the long run. The temporary high we get from restricting and losing weight often spirals into guilt and shame once we return to old habits and regain the weight. You see, because it requires a NEW way of thinking to transform your life -- a way of thinking that doesn't conform to the common views of our culture, the views that say smaller is better, "clean" foods mean you're good and "junk" foods mean you're weak, the views that say exercise should be forced and willpower is king.
Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
This is my goal as a nutrition counselor, to help people step out from the worldview of slavery or obsession with food, diet and body image and gain the freedom to discover what's really important in life. If you think you're ready to start working towards this kind of transformation, sign up for my newsletter by leaving your email under the "Stay Up To Date" header or click on over to the contact page under "About Aubrey" and shoot me a message. I have some exciting news coming, you might be interested in!
Until then, happy fueling :)