Have you ever felt like your weight was under control? Or would you say that it has been up and down for longer than you can think of?
Would you relate or could you recognize yourself if I were to mention the words diet, eating disorder, binge eating, eating habits, exercise, lack of exercise, food addiction, food deprivation, high protein, smoothie detox, keto diet, water fast, intermittent fasting, vegetarianism, veganism, portion control, calorie count, etc.?
At one point or another, we have all had mixed feelings about food or about our body image. We may have even used food as a means of achieving a certain fitness goal or suffered from an eating disorder.
But learning to raise our awareness and truly understand how our body works and what food in which quantities nurtures it best is a lifelong journey. This topic could warrant a very long article. But instead, I want to break it down into a short guide about intuitive eating and introduce you to strategies that can help raise your awareness and help you find peace with both your body & eating habits.
Disclaimer: this is my personal experience and I am by no means an expert in nutrition. If you do suffer from eating disorders or need tailored guidance, please consult one of the links at the bottom of this article.
Last week, I was talking to a friend about intuitive eating and losing weight. At this point, she was on her journey to feel better in her skin, eat healthily, and do a bunch of sport she loves. As the discussion went by, I realized how much my weight had fluctuated over the last two years. From being an exchange student eating extremely unhealthy, drinking way too many beers & having little awareness of my body; to teaching fitness classes multiple times a week and getting back to my normal eating habits; to now becoming vegetarian and mostly vegan, living 100% from my passion, things have changed quite a lot.
But my journey has been far from linear.
I see pictures only 2 years ago and I actually can’t believe how much difference there is. I catch myself saying: “How could I not see I had gained so much weight?”
Not that I was overweight by any means, but I was certainly unhealthy. A whole year of eating out and partying can damage your body in ways you don’t recognise at the time. I had gained about 25 pounds, slowly, and I was eating more fries than greens.
But how could I do this as a mindfulness practitioner and yoga teacher?
Well, that is a very good question, my friend, but the answer is quite simple. I was working on other things (FOMO, Single-tasking, university, new culture, party life, new country, new language, travel, amazing food, lots of food, amazing food). You get the picture: I was living fully my ‘once in a lifetime’ experience of being an exchange student and living the life!
Even after my studies, I carried on enjoying life to its fullest: eating a lot of meat, drinking often, sleeping irregularly, not counting calories or being worried about my weight. Having suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager and trying multiple restrictive diets before my 20s, this period of indulgence felt freeing.
But it wasn’t sustainable. There was a point where it started catching up to me, where I didn’t feel good anymore. I felt off. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t what I was all about and certainly not how I wanted to show by example.
So, I took things in my own hands.
I got back to what I knew from writing about vegetarianism during college, I started teaching kids how to cook and creating recipes during university. I focused more on being a yoga and fitness teacher. Slowly, I got back on track and started getting rid of my “bad eating habits,” getting back to my sustainable way of life.
Now, I feel healthy, my skin has never been that glowing and I can say for sure that this is not just an eating habit, it is a way of life. I listen to my body and eat with intuition.
It’s not just about eating organic and earthy food, but I now understand what moderation means for me and my needs. And these are the practices that helped me to start eating more intuitively, one step at a time.
Get it out of your head: the food isn’t good or bad.
But maybe it isn’t the optimal choice for you right now, to sustain your activities and mood.
I see it this way: some food will bring your energy levels high and some will bring your energy levels low. You have to take the power back and decide consciously that everything you put in your body will have an effect, and accept those consequences.
You want to eat burgers and a ice cream with friends? Do it! But be aware before you put it in your body, that you might feel bloated and sluggish in the evening and the next morning.
You want to eat a huge salad for lunch? Sure! But make sure it suits your activities of the day. Maybe you want to add some proteins or fibres if you plan on being more active in the afternoon.
Just understand that you choose what you eat and ultimately, pay attention to what different food does for you. It can be different for every person; maybe you can eat a whole pineapple and feel amazing, while someone else might experience a sugar rush or feel super full.
Moderation is key, but you first need to understand what each thing you eat does for you and get to know what works best!
Think twice about using scales or calorie counting
I haven’t used a scale in the longest time, and I certainly don’t count my calories anymore. I chose to stop counting and start feeling instead. I still want to understand how my body works and be aware of what I truly should feed my body with. But I chose to stop counting and start feeling instead.
Mindfulness has been a huge tool in raising my awareness of my body. Sure, this isn’t for everyone. Some people need structure and the freedom or eating intuitively can be a potential cause for anxiety or weight obsession. Others love tracking their weight as they can be proud of their progress or maybe they’re athletes and need to track their macro!
Find what works for you and that allows you to truly tune into your own journey rather than comparing numbers and standards.
Ultimately, ask yourself: is the way I am controlling my food intake right for me? Is it creating joy and helping me be aware, or is it creating stress and making me go from one extreme to another? The best way is to try it out or find someone specialized to support your journey.
Think before you eat
Oh, dear emotional eating, how have you been?
We tend to eat for different reasons. Sometimes we think we should be eating, sometimes we are sad, happy, or with friends, at an event. Maybe it tastes good or simply looks good and we can’t help ourselves. But when have we really paid attention to our hunger? Do we really eat when our body needs too? Or even because we truly enjoy it?
Start observing how you feel before you eat something and pay attention to your pace. Are you aware of each bite? Are you taking time to feel before you continue eating?
Practice the following:
- Eat slowly. Chew the food longer before you swallow
- Recognise what moods make you reach for what foods. Maybe keep it in a journal.
- Wait after eating and note how you feel
- Pay attention to your hunger peaks
- Drink in between meals
Don’t forget: food is amazing, and such a brilliant way to express your creativity. Don’t be afraid to try new combinations, find what works for you and make each plate more colorful than the last one! We will have a full article about how to be creative with food, but for this week, the word of order is: HAVE FUN!!
If you’re struggling with your weight or have an eating disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust or access these great resources:
French-Canadian Expat in Berlin, my name is Marjolaine, but you can call me Bow. I m a Yoga Teacher, Female Founder, Mindfulness Coach & Pop Singer. I maintain a balance between two worlds with a calm and worry-free mind. Aside from my Mindful Business, you can find my first dream-pop album ”We Better Enjoy Now on Spotify! After travelling & living abroad for over three years, I understand the reality of young entrepreneurs & digital nomads. We all want to live fully, but we sometimes get lost in the midst of life. Are you ready to bloom and discover mindfulness as a tool for change? Are you ready to get one step closer to living your most beautiful & exciting life starting today?
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