Things have been pretty quiet from me the last couple weeks. And it has been quiet in a very literal sense – I have been recovering from a dental surgery that actually meant I was not allowed to talk for several days! But during this time of recovery, there was also a lot of opportunity for reflection; especially on the challenges in eating in a way that would support my body’s healing process.
From what I have learned so far, there are two main parts to intuitive eating:
1. Eating when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and
2. Listening and understanding what foods your body wants and what cravings mean
Through mindfulness, I’ve been able to improve greatly on point number one. This is partly by creating meals that are balanced, with a good serving of satiating protein and fat, and by also by paying attention while I am eating and learning to recognize again the signals that I am full. What I still struggle with is the mid-afternoon snack craving, either due to stress/overwhelm that tend to hit me at that time of day, or boredom. In both cases, I find this time of day for me to be highly unproductive and have me reaching into my drawer for a snack more often than not. I’m still trying to figure out what I need to do to get myself back into alignment and focused to continue my day.
However, a couple lessons I’ve learned recently are more about the second point, about making those day-to-day choices when you face certain cravings. During the days following my surgery I could only eat soft, cold foods for several days. I prepared myself beforehand and had several nutritious choices at hand like mashed sweet potato, (cold) scrambled eggs, avocado, pate, and plenty of smoothies.
The best indulgence during this time though was luxurious, cold ice cream. Not only was it a great treat, but the cold temperature soothed my healing mouth like nothing else. I had a bowl everyday for four days during recovery. And then something happened on the fifth day – I really did not want to eat anymore ice cream. The thought literally turned my stomach! By allowing myself this indulgence, at a certain point I just didn’t want it anymore.
The second lesson I learned taught me to understanding my cravings at a deeper level. I was still on my soft, cold food diet, when we were trying to decide what to have for dinner. My plan was to finish my leftover sweet potato with tomato-meat sauce; my boyfriend and mom had decided to pick up pizza. Slowly, my mind changed from having my own dinner, to sharing a pizza with my mom, to looking at the menu and deciding to get my own pizza. And what ended up happening? I didn’t even enjoy the pizza that much. Now that I think back on it, it wasn’t that I was craving pizza, but more that my own food choice was not doing it for me and I suffered from food envy. I would have been better coming up with a different option all together, which would have left me feeling more nourished and happier about my choices.
What I have learned is how important it is to dissect my cravings before making a decision, and at the same time, my body and palette will let me know when I didn’t listen properly. Am I craving a greasy, fried meal, like the infamous Belgian fries and mayonnaise? Probably I need a good serving of healthy fats in my next meal! Am I craving a slice of pizza? Instead, I need to look at how can I get that combination of flavours in a way that would better suit my nutritional needs.
The intuitive eating journey is a continuous one, and there is always something new to learn about yourself. Do you struggle with intuitive eating? What are your challenges?