“I haven’t been eating very intuitively or mindfully lately.” I hear this confession from clients all the time, usually made with a twinge of guilt.
You might also have the common expectation that once you start practicing Intuitive Eating, you’ll just start eating intuitively and mindfully for every meal and snack. You’ll pause to ask yourself whether you’re actually hungry before eating, consider what sounds good, and stop when you’re comfortably satisfied. Sounds lovely, right?
But then life happens. Travel, illness, stress, life transitions, insomnia, hosting out-of-town guests, increased work demands – whatever – and you find your eating becomes more chaotic or distracted. The intention to pause and tune into your body’s cues feels like a distant memory.
If you can relate, it’s important to remember that all of this is really common and normal, maybe even inevitable. There’s no need to be discouraged. Unfortunately, this is where many people decide to revert back to dieting – leading to even more food preoccupation, compromised metabolism, bingeing, guilt and distrust.
Rather than “getting back on track” with another diet or meal plan, try these steps for reconnecting with your body, heart and mind:
Ask yourself, “What’s the compassionate stance?” Imagine that a friend was experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing. What would you tell her? It’s often easier to be more objective and have perspective when we imagine someone else experiencing the same situation.
I doubt you’d tell your friend, “What’s wrong with you? You’re so lazy and indulgent. You’ll never get a handle on your eating.” You might say something like, “Of course you’ve been living on convenient foods, dear. You haven’t been sleeping well or doing much self-care. It’s totally understandable. How can I support you?”
Connect with your sincere desire to feel better. This isn’t about “shoulds” (screw the shoulds), “being good” or doing things “right.” This is about your genuine desire to feel better. Maybe you’re longing for more energy and vitality; or to more enjoy meals that feel physically good both during and after eating; or to feel more centered and connected to yourself. Which brings me to the next point…
Ask your body for feedback. Check in with yourself, neck-down. What’s your body most want right now? More rest? A homemade meal with a side of something refreshing? Some movement or fresh air? Warm socks? Again, this is about what your body genuinely wants, rather than any shoulds.
What’s the simplest step you can take? Notice the first goal that pops up in your mind. Chances are, you’ll probably benefit from making it an even smaller goal. Okay, maybe even smaller than that.
Life coach and author Jen Louden writes, “Are you planning on the perfect convergence of the sun and moon and Jupiter so you can complete this [goal] in the time period specified? Is so, revisit your step and timeline and build in room for being human – for alarm clocks that don’t go off, or traffic on I-90, for whining children, for feeling like poop.”
It takes wisdom and humility to set a very simple intention rather than make a big proclamation. Then celebrate honoring that intention, and repeat. (Or forgive yourself for being human and renew your intention if it still feels resonant or…you guessed it, make it an even smaller goal.)
Many people embarking on an Intuitive Eating journey today will need several more years of repeating the vicious diet cycle, hitting an even lower diet rock bottom, before they’re ready to surrender to the fact that diets do far more harm than good. But not you. You’ve been there and done that. You know it’s not about trying harder, but different. You have faith that no matter what life throws at you and no matter how often you lose your way, you can always find your way back home again.