You don’t have to hate your body and you don’t have to struggle against it. You don’t have to punish your body—honest, you don’t. There’s an easier path.
Let’s get a few things out of the way. I believe in eating nutrient-dense foods, avoiding processed crap and being mindful of what you consume, but you can do this with one of two approaches.
One is restrictive and often used to punish ourselves for not looking a certain way. The second is loving and supportive, based on a desire to treat our bodies with respect. Same actions, different mindset.
Your attitude and the meaning you give to food makes a difference in the relationship you have with yourself, your food and your body.
Many of us punish ourselves with restrictive diets and grueling exercise routines in order to achieve society’s “ideal” body. So many people are on a diet. So many—from young girls and boys to elder women and men¬—people are concerned about their body meeting the imagined standard. A shift in perception is in order.
Changing your perspective from punishment and restriction to one of self-love and joyful discipline can radically alter your relationship with food, exercise and your body. You’ll eat nutritious foods because you want to feed your body the best food, not because you think it’s the way to get thin. You’ll exercise because you want to feel strong and healthy, not because you feel pressure to look like a model.
While clean eating, macros and the myriad other dietary formats and tools out there can yield results, you can take the gentler route to creating long-term change. The easier path I told you about? Intuitive eating.
The physical process of consuming food has become disconnected from the body and is instead connected to theories of food. Intuitive eating means reconnecting with the innate wisdom of your body rather than eating according to a clock or a diet plan.
With intuitive eating, you eat in accordance with your body’s cues. You eat what you want to eat, when you want to eat it, in the quantities you want to eat. You use common sense and trust your intuition about food to create sustainable, healthy eating habits.
Eight steps to intuitive eating
1. Eat when you are hungry; stop eating when you are full. Your body sends signals to indicate when you need to eat and when you have consumed enough. Pay attention and you’ll learn to eat the amount you need when you need it. No more, no less.
2. Eliminate all non-medical food restrictions. Studies show the more we restrict, the more we binge. It’s natural to want what you “can’t” have. By eliminating restrictions, you eliminate the desire to over-indulge. Also, food restrictions can be a means of self-punishment, which create negative associations with food.
3. Change your language. When you say “I can’t,” you give up your personal power. Instead, try language like “I prefer not to.” Try to think of your indulgent meals as “treats” not “cheats” to remove any guilt around the conscious choices you make.
4. Honour yourself. Food can become a source of love or punishment, pleasure or pain. When you respect yourself, you naturally consume healthier foods that help you to thrive.
5. Recognize your patterns. Food consumption that is not strictly nourishing your body is emotional eating. This isn’t all bad. We often celebrate and gather around food. But pay attention to your triggers. Do you eat when you are bored? Sad? Angry? Do you eat to self-soothe or self-sabotage? Notice these feelings and patterns and recognize the true emotional issue at hand
6. Listen to your body. Get in touch with what you really want. What does your body need? Will that food make you feel alive, or will it make you feel ill?
7. Use your common sense. We all know processed foods, foods high in sugar and fake foods are unhealthy and even damaging. Think about what you’re buying and you will start making healthier choices for yourself.
8. Eat slowly and mindfully. When you eat quickly or in a distracted state, you could miss your body’s satiety cue, making it more likely you’ll overeat. Eating too much is an uncomfortable physical experience and when you are in tune with your body, you will want to avoid that state.
Unless you do the emotional work underlying why you eat based on emotions, your struggle with food will continue. You’re going to have to do the hard, uncomfortable work to get to a place of peace. Learning to connect with body through intuitive eating can help you address your relationship with your emotions, your body and food while helping you establish healthy and pleasurable eating habits. Intuitive eating can be a tool to help you come to a place of ultimate holistic health.
Ali Ludovici is a mindset and lifestyle optimization coach, personal trainer, blogger (Charm & Grit) and freelance writer. She promotes respecting the innate wisdom of the body, pleasurably challenging exercise and recognizing the power of the mind. Ali is on a mission to inspire, empower and enlighten others to help them create extraordinary lives.
This article was originally published in OptiMYz 906.