I think that balance is really important for a healthy lifestyle – it keeps your body feeling its best and your soul joyful and content. In my Daily Eats posts, I try to illustrate how I listen to cues from my body and fit in a large range of nutrient-rich foods and yummy treats. I’m still learning and experimenting with this process, but I haven’t always had this philosophy towards food.
My family takes great pleasure in delicious food, and growing up we always ate a balanced variety of dishes, mostly home cooked. I particularly adored fruits and veggies, and always had a sweet tooth. Like any other little kid, I was totally unaware of calories, fats, or carbohydrates. But as I grew older, these concepts started to creep into my awareness. In sixth grade I picked up my first issue of Seventeen magazine, throughout high school I played two varsity sports, and in college I was surrounded by girls preoccupied by what they ate and the size of their jeans. Of course concerns about health and fitness started to cross my mind.
I learned many principles from books, blogs, and conversations with my mom that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. For instance, scanning food packages for hidden artificial ingredients and the importance of protein to fuel intense exercise. But I was also confused by the many mixed messages I received. Like many of my peers, I felt pressure to be fit and skinny, yet the more I learned, the more contradictions I noticed. After planning and trying to stick to what I considered a few different healthy nutrition programs, it wasn’t until this last year that I settled on a new strategy: trying to forget this pressure all together and listening more closely to my body than to the magazines and commercials.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this approach to nutrition is outlined in a book called Intuitive Eating. I first picked up the book earlier this year out of a general interest in nutrition, but the more I read, the more its contents resonated with me. To contrast the practice of intuitive eating, the book describes the mindset of dieting and restriction that many people hold. I recognized many behaviors from their prevalence among my friends and peers; some were even beliefs I held myself. Hyper-focus on healthy foods, eating while distracted, and constantly trying new diets are all symptoms of this mindset. In contrast, the authors state that an intuitive eater “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma” while simultaneously, he or she “honors hunger, respects fullness, and enjoys the pleasures of eating.”
The more you consider these words, the more you’ll realize that the practice of intuitive eating is more complex than it might first appear. Many of us naturally observe some of these principles, but to fully embrace this approach to eating takes practice and an awareness of self. Luckily, the book expands on each of these concepts to offer a roadmap of guidance and support. If you’ve struggled to figure out how to trust your body and your hunger, or you’re simply interested in learning more about this unique approach, I really encourage you to check out this book. As I continue to explore these principles and more fully adopt this lifestyle, I look forward to sharing what I learn and my own personal progress. And please, add your own thoughts and questions in the comments below!