intuitive eating

Is listening to my body good for me?

Last week I talked about how we aren't encouraged to take care of ourselves. We want so badly to be productive, we ignore our physical needs. Even though productivity seems so important, so is taking care of yourself. Listening to our physical bodies can actually make us healthier. 

 It turns out that listening to your body is correlated with lower weight.  

One study found that people who are good at listening to their bodies tend to have lower BMIs (a high BMI is a risk factor for decreased longevity). Hard-working and self-sacrificing dieters love to believe that ignoring hunger is making them skinnier. This research says otherwise.

Physical self-care is a beast of its own. It includes eating, sleeping, exercise and rest. The best way to way to measure if we are getting enough is through listening. 

We are good at listening to our bodies if we consistently respond when we feel a physical need. 

Just like you go to a crying baby, we need to attend to the little cries of our bodies. Do you eat when you're hungry? Do you stop eating when you're full? Do you sleep when you're tired? Do you drink water when you're thirsty? Do you go to the doctor when you're sick? Do you floss when there's something stuck in your teeth? 

Every time we listen when our bodies call out for help, we build trust and intuition. The better we know our bodies, the more likely we can make them healthier. 

What if you could eat all the french fries in the world?

What if you could eat all the french fries in the world?

Do you think you'll just NEVER stop eating your favorite food? 

Do you believe that you love your favorite food so much, that you could never stop eating it even if you were about to explode with fullness?

Well, my friend, this post is for you. I'm going to whisk you away to an alternate universe where maybe you could IMAGINE actually wanting to stop eating your favorite food. 

Proof of skinny

When I was in high school, I remember the day I looked around the room and started comparing my body to the other girls' bodies. 

Instead of seeing myself as a unique person, I felt like I needed to be thin like these beautiful cheerleaders, runners, lacrosse players, etc. I just wasn't "working hard enough". When I got to college in New York City,  the women were even thinner and even more beautiful. And again, I thought to myself, "What am I doing wrong that I don't have the body that these women have?" 

This is when I really started to get disordered around food because a normal person would see women this thin and think, "not for me." But, I saw these women the way a poor person sees a stock broker livin' large. I just kind of figured "I'm sure it's hard work, but if that woman could do it, I can too."

When you see thin people as something you can attain, every thin person looks like evidence that thinness is attainable. Thin people are not proof that being thin is a goal you can attain. All thin people really prove is that thin people exist.

And that's just it. Research shows that 95% of diets don't work. So, really, changing your body is not attainable. In fact, according to Isabel Foxen Duke and the famous Ancel Keys study, dieting actually physiologically sets you up for a binge. In fact, studies have correlated weight GAIN with dieting. 

In other words, changing your body weight beyond a certain range is physically impossible over the long term. 

So, instead of seeing all the thin people as moral, attractive, hard workers who just had the diligence and persistence to achieve what they had, think of them instead as people with natural blonde hair and brown eyes. They just have what they have. They may not have "worked for it."

You, my friend, are not your weight and neither are the thin people who you think you want to be. 

A Quest for Immortality

There can only be one highlander. 

Sometimes, studying nutrition feels like searching for immortality. I know I'm guilty of pursuing a way out of my inevitable fate. 

I REALLY struggled with this in my more "disordered" days with food. I have always considered myself to be a smart person, so it always really frustrated me that I couldn't just FIGURE it out. I used to spend hours hopping around the internet to every article I could find about "what to eat to live to be 100". Can cantaloupes keep you from aging? Can avoiding butter keep my heart safe? If I get enough Vitamin C, can I prevent cancer? 

This a rough part of being human. We want so badly to be in control. We want a say in how many years we get. 

This makes nutrition is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, research has shown that managing your diet can prevent and reverse heart disease, and decrease risk for cancer.  

On the other hand, nutrition is a "fledgling science" and for every study that proves that one food or nutrient is good for you, there seems to be another that says otherwise. When I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), I experienced this time and time again, learning over 100 different dietary theories from some of the most renowned nutrition researchers in the world. 

This is why I have found great solace in intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating has shown me HOW to make sense of all the different information out there about food. 

Intuitive eating has taught me (along with lots of research) that restriction and dieting can really hurt me in the long run. It's taught me that over-exercising and stressing about how many french fries I've eaten is not particularly great for my physiology. It's taught me that I can be healthy at any size and that every body is different. Intuitive eating has taught me how to LISTEN to my body and honor my body. 

So, when fear of death makes you want to sign up for yet another diet, here's what I recommend: 

1. Know that restriction is actually bad for you.

This is something that I talk about all the time. Calorie restriction slows down your metabolism and can physiologically set your body up for a binge of the very foods you're trying to restrict. This puts stress on your body.

Vacillating between following your meal plan 100% and 0% is actually worse for you than following it pretty well 60% of the time. Recognize that life ebbs and flows. Your diet, lifestyle," or eating plan should learn how to roll with the punches too. 

2. Stress is bad for you too. 

Im not going to spend a long time explaining this one. We know stress is bad. Bad for your heart, bad for your immune system, bad for your sex life, bad for your relationships, bad for your teeth, bad for your hormones. 

Stressing about whether or not that cheeseburger could kill you could kill you. So, let it go. 

3. Accept your body. 

Shame will not make you healthier. Actually, in my personal experience, it's pretty terrible motivation.

So what if your healthiest weight happens to be 100 pounds heavier than Gisele's? It's YOUR body and you deserve to be loved and taken care of your whole life. If you have limited control on how long you have on planet earth, at least you should be grateful for the sculpture of cells that is you.

4. Accept your differences. 

 Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, is a big fan of the concept of "bio-individuality." This concept suggests that each person needs different nutrition. Certain foods work better with different bodies. 

Tuning in to your body's individual responses to food and how it makes you feel is an important part of taking care of yourself and a powerful tool for figuring out whether or not certain foods are really the right ones for you.

5. Be grateful for today. 

Gratitude cultivates presence. Presence nourishes mindfulness. Mindfulness is AWESOME for your health. But, it's also awesome for helping you maintain a sense of self. It can help you decide what you want to spend your time doing, how you want to feel and what you want to eat. 

You are living your life right now, so instead of focusing sooo much on securing another 5-10 years at the end of your life, focus on being happy about today and really savor the present. 

YOLO

 

No Pain. No Gain

I am a swimmer. It's been my whole life since I was a kid. 

This is based off the Tao 66 quote. You can find that  here .

This is based off the Tao 66 quote. You can find that here.

Swimming is sort of a masochistic sport. The joy comes from hard work, seeing how hard you can push yourself. And when it comes to competition, it's all about swimming faster and better. It's taught me to compare. 

When my competitive career finished by college, I started to play with yoga.

I was drawn into yoga by cool inversions that showed off how strong my upper body was, like crow-to-headstand. It was like gymnastics with breathing. 

In the poverty of post-grad life, I found the cheapest exercises were running and donation yoga. I hated running and when my shin splints got worse, I went to yoga. 

Let me tell you, in comparison to 5000 yards of swimming, 1 hour of yoga feels like nothing. I'd be down on myself because it wasn't so demanding cardiovascularly. However, each day I went, the instructors would remind me to focus on my breath and my practice. 

"Don't pay attention to what those around you are doing.Focus on your body. How does it feel in YOUR body?" 

"Try not to judge today against yesterday. Some days the same poses are not available to you."

"Whenever you lose your breath, child's pose is a space where you can always resume your breath." 

"Yoga is a moving meditation." 

"Savasana is the most important pose."

Inhale. Exhale. They reminded me to focus on me, close my eyes, and listen to my body. 

Making the transition from someone who always had her eye on the next lane to somebody who closed her eyes and listened was amazing. 

I found myself enjoying yoga. Doing regular exercise felt good. And the best part: nothing came crashing down. I'm still strong. I can still walk up stairs two-at-a-time. My blood work is within range. 

Yoga has taught me that exercise doesn't have to be about pain and suffering. A yoga practice isn't "No pain, no gain." It's about getting to know your body and listening to it. 

This was a crucial step for me in believing in intuitive eating. Dieting culture teaches us that we must be hungry. We must be left wanting. You cannot achieve what you most want by "taking it easy." (I blame capitalism, the American Dream, and Jillian Michaels). 

Yoga is not about hurting and punishing the body. It's about listening to this amazing creation that manages to never miss a heartbeat. 

And, rumor has it, yoga shouldn't stop on your mat. 

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