There is the word ‘intuitive’ in ‘Intuitive Eating’ which comes from intuition. Intuition is a way to understand something instinctively without the need for a reason or conscious reasoning. Having more intuition and developing intuition help us trust ourselves more and make the right choices.
How to eat intuitively?
This is what we are discussing in our new podcast with Pandora Symes. There is a growing interest about how to eat healthy, ditch diets and create a healthy relationship with food and Intuitive eating has been popular the last few years for that.
Eating intuitively might help us live a fuller and more satisfied life, by connecting to other aspects of our life – let’s see how we can achieve this with Pandora Symes, the UK coach for Intuitive eating and living.
There’s quite a lot of misunderstanding about listening to the body and what it means. What is intuitive eating? Can you tell us about the key principles?
Absolutely, our relationship with food is changing and it can be quite complex. Intuitive eating is almost like an alternative no-diet diet. We dismiss the idea and the word diet completely and it’s really about us becoming our own expert. The modern world adds layers and layers of stress and imbalance, and our intuition is fighting its way through the noise.
Eating Intuitively is slowing down the pace, feeling our bodies and acknowledging the physical and emotional cues, why we choose certain foods and how. Intuitive eating is about establishing a healthy relationship with food and breaking free from it being an ongoing battle. It is about our mind and body connection.
Is it about the relationship we have with food? Or is it about accepting our body and feeding it the right?
It’s actually a little bit of both. I have created a program which breaks down intuitive eating and added work around self-love. The basis of intuitive eating is self-love as I see it, because you have to really love yourself and understand your body in order to be able to listen to it and hear what it needs it. Body acceptance sits within that as well as engaging with our intuition.
I don’t identify with things like toxic self-talk and critic of ourselves and our bodies. You can tune into that inner critic, understand it and try to reframe it. I call the inner critic the nagging Nancy! She sits there and she’s quite negative and she’s not particularly very nice to you. I help people to overcome things like the comparison with other people, in life and on social media. So I look at progress and not perfection, seeing our body differently instead of banishing it or body shaming.
How to do this?
You can develop a really good relationship with your intuition, trust your intuition and engage with it. This is the basis of feeding your soul when you know why food is really your friend. I always ensure that I understand how you got to this place in the first place, having the Diet Dilemma. I also work on the hunger scale with my clients, and how they should honor their hunger. I also look at emotional eating, and finding satisfaction- maybe you’re not satisfied in other areas of your life and the more satisfied you can become in other areas, the less satisfied you need to be from food. I bring things altogether and get people to make their own rules.
Set intentions on how you want to feel, learn to really love food. Eat with kindness and love.
So if I want to start tomorrow, how do I get started?
First, it all very much depends on where you’re coming from, but the main goal would be to take a body scan when you wake up and listen to the body. Ask yourself:
- What kind of foods do you feel like you need today?
- Are you hungry?
- Are you quite tired or do you feel energetic?
- Are you eating from your stomach, are you eating from your mind?
- Are you emotional because you’re stressed?
Allow that question and answer process to determine your day – what exercise you’re going to do, what you’re going to eat, how you might get to work. If you’re tired and planning on running to work, what about taking a walk instead to calm yourself down. Maybe using an affirmation in the morning, if you’re trying to overcome something like a bad relationship with your body. Maybe see what you’re hungry for when you’re eating throughout the day.
A lot of us eat on the go, or we eat whilst doing lots of other things like texting and working. I get everyone to try to find respect to food, give it the respect it deserves. It’s nourishing you, keeping you alive and it deserves 100 percent of your time when you have it. The idea of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack- does it work for you? or do you prefer to wait a few hours in the morning before you eat? So I help clients to tap into, how they’re eating at certain times of the day, and what works for them in terms of the food itself. There are no rules, and that’s the beauty of it. You’re really engaging in your intuition to make those decisions for you.
It’s essentially a set of mindful eating – to be mindful, to be present, but we are taking a step further and engaging in intuition as well. Four main things to achieve that:
#1 Engage in why you’re eating
#2 Engage in what you’re eating
#3 Observe how food makes you feel
#4 Engage in your senses when you eat.
When we change our eating habits, our weight could be one of our concerns. Am I going to gain or lose weight doing this?
What we tend to see is when we deprive ourselves of food, we only want it more. If we deprive ourselves, we then might have a tendency to overeat. The results that I have seen, and read from other specialists is that people will stop focusing on food so much.
If you are someone who overeats and wants to lose weight but you are constantly in this process of dieting, you might find that you will lose weight because you are more engaged and fulfilled. Once we engage in the hunger scale, we stop overeating as much, we ship a few pounds. For example, if you start to understand why are we eating cake every day, and that it’s not what you need but it’s what makes you emotional to deal with that.
How does this intuition manifest itself with food and body? What are the physical or emotional signs to observe? How do we tune in?
Meditation is a big one, breathing and coming into our body are allowing a little bit of stillness. We’re in a ‘go, go, go’ and ‘more, more, more’ culture, we are constantly moving around. Developing intuition is also getting into a process of relaxation, allowing your body to not constantly be in fight or flight situation, which is going to harm your stress response. So bring a bit of silence into your life, whether that is meditation or breathing, just make sure that you do it every day, this is where the self-love comes in.
Take a few deep breaths, allow yourself to process the day, write things down. The more we start to engage in a positive way of thinking, the more we can start to live more intuitively, being in a happy relationship result with our mind and body.
The basis of all of my work is self-love and self-care, and to start to feel satisfied with the things you do such as activities. Your body is one of the things that you need to nourish and it leads us other parts of our life.
When we listen to our body and have cake or chocolate cravings for example when do I know if I should listen or not? Don’t we have any boundaries?
We should never see food as a treat. This is what I will work with people on how they see food. It has a negative effect to see food as a treat because we shouldn’t see food good or bad. It’s quite important to work with a nutritionist; If you want cake every day for example, I might be thinking that there are a bacteria in the gut who lives on sugar, it could be that there’s an imbalance in the body or it could be emotional, you’re mourning over something etc.
Love is an example of this, when we don’t feel love in our lives, whether from relationships we do have a tendency to eat emotionally and we eat things like cake because it is satisfying at that time.
So there are lots of different factors to bring into play when your head is saying ‘I want this, I want this, I want this’. Having pizza and being surrounded by a beautiful group of friends celebrating and just enjoying life is really important, but if we were eating pizza every day, then intuitively we wouldn’t feel great.
I get asked all the time ‘if you eat intuitively does it mean eating pizzas and burgers all the time?’ And I answer that you would feel heavy and not great, this is not what your body thrives on. You know intuitively what works for us. It’s just the case of engaging in that intuition a little bit more and having a bit of guidance as well.
Would you say there are things to avoid or/and portions to follow or not even that?
I do think we should all be aware of portion size and that’s just the general rule of nutrition. We have a tendency to overeat but using a hunger scale that helps you understand when you are full. I think it’s important to bring in portion size into it, and obviously, from a health perspective, you want to be eating your fruits and vegetables every day. There are some basic things to watch like how much coffee and alcohol we’re drinking. There is no point eating intuitively then having six coffees a day because this is going to be having an effect on the body.
What is the difference between appetite and hunger, how to differentiate them?
I think to have an appetite is to know that you’re hungry, know that you need to eat, know when you’re full and it’s about the actual foods.
I always believed that hunger comes in many different forms. I’m hungry, I’m going to eat, I now full. I’m going to stop eating. We can often be hungry for something that’s missing in our lives or sometimes we’ve got too much or not have so much of it. So we often use food as a tool to feed that hunger: physical, emotional like a stress response hunger or to feel satisfied in other ways.
Hunger is a little bit more emotional than normal appetite. It does not just need to eat to function and have energy. It can be a hunger for life, for love etc or for a sense of purpose.
How does intuitive eating work with seasons?
Eat according to the seasons. Have a more cooling diet in summer and then in the winter, have grounding warm food. In fact, every day is different, allow yourself to live according to really how hungry you are. I always encourage my clients to live and eat in this way. If you wake up and you have had a big dinner the previous night and don’t feel that hungry, just because it’s breakfast time doesn’t mean you need to have a big breakfast or breakfast at all. It could be just a juice, a cup of tea and then, an hour later you’re hungry so could have peanut butter on toast.
I see with my clients that if they are not really that hungry at lunch, for example, they’ll pick something that doesn’t satisfy them and end up snacking the rest of the afternoon because they haven’t made the right food choice. You’ve got to fill your hunger. I also have clients who never really let themselves get hungry, and so I have to teach them to wait that extra half an hour so that they could actually understand listening to their intuition and know what it is that they wanted to eat.
What’s your take on having a healthy gut?
We should be nurturing the gut all the time.
There is more and more studies coming out that links the gut to depression, skin issues etc. The gut is our second brain and it has a lot of functions and manages the body as a whole really. It is very important to support it as much we can, by making sure that we’re not having as much alcohol, coffee, processed foods, and have fruits and vegetables, probiotic foods, prebiotic foods and a balance of the two.
Do you sometimes experience with a detox or fasting or other eating methods?
Personally, I don’t. I definitely have days where I crave something, other days where I have a simple diet. I think it’s really good to have weeks, months times where you don’t drink alcohol but the body is very good at detoxing itself. It’s what your liver functions are created for.
If you are starving yourself or only having 500 calories for two days, you have a tendency to thinking about food the whole day. It can be quite detrimental to your wellbeing. So it’s about finding what works for you. The balance in the process of intuitive eating is you never make yourself feel guilty for your food choices and be easy on yourself. Don’t give yourself any guilt if you overeat, enjoy cake a little bit more than you normally would, because that’s life and life is really there to be enjoyed.
What are the benefits of eating intuitively?
- People feel much more satisfied in life in general.
- Having a much better relationship with your body.
- Being more aware of eating and what you eat.
- Being more in control of eating and what you eat.
- Understanding your body more.
- Making the right decisions.
- Thinking about food as something that nourishes you.
- A new form of self-respect
- Stop eating foods that make you feel unwell or inflamed.
- Accepting your body for what it is.
- Understanding the difference between appetite and hunger.
- Stop thinking too much around food.
- Stop yo-yo dieting.
What’s the easiest thing you would recommend to improve our wellbeing?
Breathe. Take a deep breath. Don’t underestimate the transformational benefits of breathing. We often forget to breathe and it’s so simple. You don’t even need to give it five minutes, just give it three deep breaths and you’ll feel the change in the body. It really is such a great release, just a good reset.
I think meditation is a wonderful tool. I’m a huge advocate for it. I practice it, I teach it and in times of stress, just come back to the breath. That’s all you need to do.