While Intuitive Eating is a really great ultimate goal to help you reconnect with food and your body, there are often a few things we need to do before fully diving in. It can be tough to start the process when you are dealing with digestive issues or feeling fully disconnected from your body. These are a few things that you should consider before starting your Intuitive Eating journey.
Often if you have dealt with any type of disordered eating, your hunger cues can be hard to decipher. When you ignore your hunger cues for a long period of time, they simply don’t show up as often. We can also get desensitized to those more subtle hunger cues. If you aren’t feeling those hunger and fullness cues, it’s pretty hard to pay attention to them when you’re trying to eat intuitively!
So how can you reconnect to your hunger and fullness? First, try to notice subtle cues. This can be things like thinking about food, food smelling good, mood changes, some mild lightheadedness, or drowsiness. If you’re able to pick up on those more subtle cues, it allows you to avoid the extreme hunger and fullness that can often make us feel out of control and disconnected from our bodies.
2. Differentiate between anxiety around food and physical discomfort
What if your feelings impacted your digestion? Well guess what…they actually do. When stress and anxiety (especially surrounding food) are a big part of your life, it can have a big impact on your digestion. The cycle goes like this: you have anxiety or stress about food, this causes a decreased release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, that then causes poor digestion, which leads to physical discomfort. If you’re feeling physical discomfort every time you eat, of course you’re going to have increased stress and anxiety around food!
So how can you get out of this cycle? The biggest thing is reducing stress. If your physical discomfort and digestive issues are actually caused by stress and anxiety, creating a calm and mindful eating environment can make a huge difference. Try eating slowly, taking a break instead of eating at your desk or in a stressful environment, or simply just paying attention to what you are enjoying about your meal.
If you’re able to reduce stress and are still finding that you’re feeling a lot of physical discomfort after eating, the next step is micronutrient testing. While stress has a huge impact, some people do experience food intolerances or digestive issues due to micronutrient imbalances. Doing micronutrient testing can help us see if there is anything going on in your body that might be causing the symptoms you are experiencing. From there, we can talk about what foods might make you feel more physically comfortable or other steps you can take to correct any imbalances that are present.
Track the changes in your body that matter
If you come from a past of dieting or disordered eating, you might be used to using weight or body size as a way to track your progress. Now, it’s time to track changes in your body that actually matter! Physical discomfort can actually be a huge contributor to poor body image, so let’s track the changes around how you FEEL so that improvements in body image can come along with that.
So what are some changes in your body that really matter? Nutritional status is a huge one. If you’ve done any micronutrient testing and found imbalances, improving these can make you feel so much better. Things like increased energy, improved digestion, and reduced bloating can be signs that you’re improving your nutritional status. Reduced stress in general is also a really great change to track. Like we talked about, stress can cause a lot of changes in your body, so reducing stress can help in a variety of ways. Improved sleep and improved confidence are also amazing changes that you might notice in your body as we tackle these issues.
When we feel totally disconnected from our bodies and ruled by anxiety or physical discomfort, it can be really hard to even think about eating intuitively. Following these steps before jumping into the intuitive eating journey can help you start reconnecting with yourself, which will help you feel much more prepared as you start going through the steps of becoming an intuitive eater.