Is it possible to listen to our bodies around our eating and use our knowledge about nutrition (gently) at the same time? This is a question many of us struggle with on our intuitive eating journeys. I think this is typically something that those of us with certain health issues and or food intolerances wrestle with more so then others. This makes sense when you think about how mainstream diet culture pushes the message that many health problems can be “cured” by changing our diet.
It is possible to consider nutrition in a gentle way while listening to what our bodies tell us in terms of what we desire to eat in the moment. That being said, considering nutrition gently is the key. What does it mean to consider nutrition in a gentle way? It means taking a step back from viewing nutrition as a black and white set of rules to follow and thinking of nutrition as one of multiple things to consider when we eat. This is incredibly difficult for someone with a history of disordered eating and does not happen overnight.
Typically, it seems this is easiest if we wait until we are a ways into our journey with intuitive eating to bring this piece in. In fact, it has been my experience that what often happens is if we allow ourselves all foods and really focus on learning to pay attention to our body signals, this piece slowly begins to work itself out naturally. All those previously forbidden foods tend to lose their extreme hold on us and our eating naturally tends to become more balanced. As I said however, this process does take time however, and usually quite a bit of patience!
One tip that seems to help in thinking about holding nutrition in this way is approaching the situation less rigidly. When we identify a food or food group that our body doesn’t respond to well physically, it can help to think of this new knowledge not as “I can’t have food X”, but to instead tell yourself, “I can have all foods including food X, but I’ve noticed when I eat food X I feel….” and describe to yourself how you have noticed your body responds to this food. This may mean you choose to not eat that food with that knowledge but there also may be occasions you still decide to eat it. The key here is both choices are valid but you used your internal wisdom to make the decision.
This tends to also be helpful for seeing the grey in nutrition. For example, I’ve learned that while it’s true my body doesn’t respond well to dairy, I can have it occasionally in small amounts with no issues. It’s when I have dairy in large amounts or several days in a row that I really notice the impact. Same thing with sugar, when I have more than a very small amount of sugar at a time, I tend to start to not feel my best. However similarly to dairy, if I limit myself to small amount at a time, I can still enjoy my favorite treats with no issues. This is nuanced information I missed in my dieting days when the rule was a black and white no dairy, no sugar. Also, there are still times where I choose to have a larger amount of either of these foods and don’t feel my best and that’s ok too. I simply notice how my body is feeling after doing so. Most importantly, I work hard to take in that information without guilt.
Questions about gentle nutrition or anything else food/body image related? Feel free to get in touch!