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How to Eat Perfectly

Just kidding! There's no such thing of course. But, maybe you do want to work on some habits and at this time you are thinking of dabbling in the world of intuitive eating. You are 100% over dieting and all of the lies that it has told you over the years. Maybe you have taken a look at the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating and have decided to honor the hunger cues. Sounds super simple right? Just eat when you are hungry. Is this simple? Are you confused if you have trouble figuring this out? Let's break down this concept.

Sometimes, we are not always in touch with our body and its needs. Personal reflection here - the events of this week (domestic terrorism/an attempted coup/white supremacy) were stressful, confusing, terrifying, among other descriptions for me. My nervous system was completely out of whack, which affected my hormones (ghrelin) and I felt numb. I was tired, my body ached, and I had zero appetite. Zero. Was I in touch with my hunger cues? No absolutely not. It was about noon when I had to tell myself that I had not eaten and my body needed nourishment. Did I all of a sudden get a ping of hunger? No. Did my body need food and fuel though? Yes. It was definitely a forced feeling of eating that day, but food is fuel and provides calories which is energy for our body. Even when we are not "active", we need fuel in order for our body just to function. I made myself some food and ate even though I was not in any way, shape, or form hungry. But my body needed it.

Here's another example - Let's say you are out running errands. You usually eat lunch at 1:00PM, but for some reason, you are starting to "feel like you could eat" but it's only 11:30AM. Well you are out running errands, and there really isn't anything around that you truly want to eat. Not to mention, you planned on being back home by 1:00PM, your usual lunchtime, and also had a delicious sandwich planned that you were looking forward to eating. Do you feel the sensation of hunger? Yes. Are you honoring it? Not exactly. Even though yes you were planning on eating, you are still abiding by a certain time to eat. Now you're starting to feel ravenous and the thought of driving back home and having to make the sandwich is the least appealing thought to you. There's a pizzeria near you. so you stop in, order some pizza topped with pepperoni. Did you really want pizza? No but it's there. And since you're there, why not order some garlic bread like you usually do when you eat pizza? Was that what you wanted? Also no, but while you are waiting for your pizza to be made, you need something to munch on. Are pizza and garlic bread not great items to order? No, you can eat whatever you want (food freedom remember). BUT, you really didn't want pizza or the bread, they were just your only options at the time. Not to mention, because you were so hungry, you really were not thinking about what you ordered or really wanted. Sound familiar?

The moral of this scenario is that sometimes intuitive eating involves a bit of planning. With the case above, what if you pre thought about not making it home in time for your usual lunch, and ate a little bit more in the morning in anticipation. What if you prepared a snack to take with you, that was accessible to you, and that could satisfy you until you got home? Or what if you made that sandwich, packed it in a to go cooler lunch bag, so it was with you when you wanted to eat lunch? This is all planning, which is still very much part of this process. Intuitive {adj.} means - using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive. This means knowing you might become hungrier earlier than usual and to plan for that. Going off of your instincts.

There are so many examples that we could use. Another one might be that you are getting off from work later than you normally would, because you wanted to finish a project. You are kind of hungry but you also planned on hitting the gym before going home. You decide to go to the gym anyway, but you are so ravenous you can't finish your workout. Then when you get home, cooking the salmon and pasta as planned, is taking time and you are hungry. A bag of chips is nearby so you munch while you cook. And there are also some grapes in the fridge that are easy so you munch on those as well. Are chips and grapes off limits? No. But are you eating them because you need something quick and not necessarily because you want them. Yes.

Even if the work project wasn't originally planned, would the situation be different if you had some snacks at work? People often feel embarrassed about being the one with "so much" food around them or a snack drawer. But how much would that snack drawer have helped at that moment? To be able to grab one of your granola bars or maybe some nuts or whatever you had available to satisfy you. Or when you decided to work late, knowing the time would push out your gym and dinner routine, and deciding to forgo the gym and going home instead. Then grabbing a snack at home and doing a home YouTube workout or run in the neighborhood, instead of the gym. These solutions are all included in the intuitive eating process.

I decided to write about this not to make anyone feel bad if these scenarios have happened (we've ALL been there), but to make people aware that eating is not black and white. There is a ton of gray area. Yes we want people to really get in touch with their bodies, and eat when they're hungry. But it's not always that simple. We are humans not robots and we cannot always just eat when we're hungry. Sometimes that means planning ahead of time and sometimes, that mean not always eating when we are indeed hungry. Stress and anxiety play a big role in our bodies and it's important to pay attention to how we respond to these factors. But as a reminder, there is no such thing as perfect eating. Perfect anything really. Always remember that.


Shana Minei Spence


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