Mindful eating and movement are two of my favorite topics to discuss. They are both the foundational healers in the relationship to food and body. Being mindful in eating and movement are such an integral part of intuitive eating. It was wonderful how these two principles are foundations in Health At Every Size. It really brings to light what health at every size means to a person as they are working on weight acceptance and respect.
When you shift eating to be about your body’s well-being and health instead of dieting, you are moving from fighting to supporting. But this may be different than what you may think when you think about eating for “well-being and health.” Yes, there is a literal meaning attached to it. But the literal sense of eating for your health often comes at the latter stages of healing your relationship with food. I’ll come back to this. The difference is well-being is intended to look at you as a whole. It means you are shifting to rely on your sensations as the directive in eating, not a diet or external eating plan.
Learning to Trust
The shift to being mindful with eating means you are listening to your body. You are listening to hunger cues, your fullness cues, and your satiation cues. These cues are those you do not rely on when you are dieting and actually fight with and ignore when you are attempting to shrink your body. This transition to being attuned with your body is the key to healing. Why? Because it is establishing trust in your body. Trust that your body will tell you when to eat, how much to eat and what to eat.
When you have spent years ignoring hunger and only eating when you are supposed to, and what you are supposed to, your relationship with hunger is often one of extreme. You only recognize when there is primal hunger. The hunger that says, “FEED ME NOW!” Those nudges, the edges of hunger, do not even come on the radar. In my article, I talk about how to recognize these nudges, “More Than A Rumble.”
When I ask clients if they can sense fullness cues, they often say, “No, unless it is extreme.” You can see the pattern that is formed here. Again, the edges, the nudges are not coming online. If you have been a dieter, you might be used to always feeling slightly hungry after a meal and then the opposite of feeling extremely full after an overeating or binge episode. This mindful attachment allows you to develop the skill and curiosity to find what keeps you full. The key to this is curiosity. There may be fear of still being hungry, especially if that is what you felt a lot of when you were not honoring your body. So you need to stay curious about the amount that will keep you full, always keeping in mind and giving yourself the permission to get more food if you are still hungry. It’s how you figure it out. You have to provide yourself with the grace that you’re going to get it wrong a bunch of times to figure out what is right for your body.
Satiation is a key element when you are looking at fullness. You have to feel satisfied with what you are eating to feel that the meal is done. The meal itself tastes good, is pleasing in flavor, texture, and mouthfeel. It may mean you need something sweet at the end of the meal. I call this “filling in the cracks” of the meal.
The Shift in Intention
When you can practice this, over and over with the foods that have been off-limits and with the foods that are neutral, a shift does happen. You no longer feel the “power” that food has once held. There is an ease you start to experience with eating, a sense of peace. When you no longer label foods as “bad” or “good” you often desire to eat foods that make your body feel good and energized. This shift is when you are in a place of eating for health. An intuitive eater is a nutritious eater because those foods fuel your body to feel optimal. But it is in a completely different intention. There is not the intention of eating to lose weight, but rather to care for your body.
The shift in the intention to eat for your well-being rather than for weight loss is key. Unfortunately, with the way dieting is in our society, “health” has been the wrapping disguising the diet that is underneath. It isn’t like when I was growing up when people were eating chemical-laden frozen processed meals. You can look at that and see how that isn’t good for your body. But now, with whole food dieting, it can become really confusing. The thought of eating salad, grilled chicken, or vegetables is like going back to the trauma of dieting
The trauma of dieting is real. It is a real experience because that is what dieting is-trauma. Trauma to your mind, body, and spirit. The trauma is why eating for health is one of the later steps. You have to heal first. You have to heal your relationship with the foods you said you couldn’t have. You have to heal the part of you that feels worthy only if your body is smaller. There are so many steps in this process, so you must be patient with yourself. The shift will happen when you are ready.
Movement is also a piece of this healing. Engaging in life-enhancing movement supports physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement to the degree they choose. We kick the notion of “no pain, no gain” completely to the curb. As well as the “rules” of how long you must be active for or how many steps you are supposed to take in a day. Even looking at the Apple watch and the promotion of “closing all the rings.” I know that they enjoy the reminder to move for some people, but for others, it feels defeating before they even have taken that first step of movement.
The key to finding a healthy relationship with exercise is to engage in movement that you ENJOY! You cease the exercise that feels like punishment. It means moving because you like the way it feels versus because it burns the most calories. It might even mean not using the word exercise, but rather, movement or activity.
Movement is an integral piece of your health. It helps to manage stress, blood pressure, blood sugars, and so much more. When shifting it to find peace in this area, you are looking at movement as an act of self-care and body respect.
Finding a self-honoring relationship with food and activity is one that takes time. Likely, more time than you may realize or want to give space for. When you are used to “quick fixes,” it can feel challenging and almost overwhelming to look at all the wounds that are there from the years of dieting and living in diet culture. But the self-care acts of undoing the ties that have bound you to a punishing relationship with food and your body are more than freeing. They are liberating. A liberation to no longer follow the societal norm, but rather to follow your truth and the wisdom that lies within your body.