By: Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN
Mindful and intuitive eating are two practices that come together to help individuals amend their relationship with food, experience food satisfaction, and find total food freedom. To understand how the two practices work together, we must first understand them individually.
Mindful eating is the act of allowing yourself to become more aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through preparing and consuming food, by respecting your own inner wisdom. This practice integrates all 5 senses in choosing the foods you eat that will both satisfy and nourish your body. There is no judgment in the foods that you eat and you are able to become more aware of your physical hunger and satiety cues.**
Mindful eating is the practice of being present during mealtime. In order to become mindful while eating, it is important to be free from distractions. Too many of us eat while driving, watching television, working, while on our phones, or simply on the go. When the focus is on external situations, there is no intention during mealtime, and therefore no connection to the body. Food is not enjoyed and satisfaction is not achieved.
Intuitive eating is an active mind-body integration of natural instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is the personal journey of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages your body is giving you while meeting its physical and emotional needs. With this, you discover that you – and only you – are the expert of your own body .**
Intuitive eating truly means to eat from intuition. It is about providing your body with the nourishment it desires and needs. By staying free from judgment and allowing yourself to eat the foods you want and crave, then you are able to find more pleasure in eating and achieving satiety.
How mindful and intuitive eating go hand-in-hand
When you re-learn how to connect with your body, recognizing how hungry you are prior to a meal, how full you are at the end, and are completely engaged during mealtime, you have experienced mindful eating. In turn, you also learn to recognize what your body’s needs are and you can honor it with the foods it desires.
With mindful and intuitive eating approaches, all foods are allowed. Foods are often viewed as “good” v. “bad,” “natural” v. “processed,” “whole” v. “junk.” Are there foods that are more nourishing to the body than others? Absolutely. However, it does not mean that certain foods are not allowed. The minute there is a negative term assigned to a particular food, such as calling it “bad,” then that food becomes restricted. When you view food as food, your body is able to decide what it wants and needs – not you, or a diet, or a meal plan.
It is important to note that neither mindful nor intuitive eating are diets. They neither guarantee weight loss, nor weight gain. However, the combination of the two practices may help you reach your body’s set-point, which is the weight range where your body functions most optimally. You are able to eat adequately to both nourish and fuel your body.
The most liberating thing about integrating these practices is that the stress around eating is removed. When you are able to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, savor every bite, and choose the foods you desire based on intuition, you truly experience food freedom.
As a mindful and intuitive eating dietitian
As a dietitian, who whole-heartedly does not believe in creating restrictions, I practice and share mindful and intuitive eating because it allows me to nurture and nourish my body. I help my clients learn to recognize what their bodies need and how to integrate a variety of foods into their diet.
Gone are the days of fad and rigid dieting. Instead, the days of healed food relationships and total food freedom are very much alive.
By: Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
**References: The Center for Mindful Eating; 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
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