Tara’s Guide to Intuitive Eating – Hunger Signals

Hello lovely readers of my blog!

You’ve heard me mention intuitive eating a time or two, and it’s something that I’m very passionate about and that I really want to delve into deeper with my clients. This is something that I would eventually like all my nutrition clients to transition into from their meal plans; and something I just get really excited about whenever it gets brought up!

What is intuitive eating? 
-It is eating as if diets and rules and expectations of “good” and “bad” food never existed. It’s listening to your body first and foremost- feeding it what its craving when it’s hungry, and stopping when you are full and satisfied, not stuffed. It’s paying attention to how those foods make your body feel; and most importantly there is no guilt around what you are choosing to eat. I like to think of it how small children eat! They eat when they are hungry, they don’t eat what they don’t like, they don’t polish off their plates if they are full and satisfied, and they enjoy and love the food they do eat. They don’t eat a pint of ice-cream when they are feeling emotional or ignore hunger signals to lose weight.

The dieting industry has just really confused everyone’s idea of right and wrong. Do you eat specifically because of external cues such as “it’s lunch time”, “this food was given to me”, “this is what I should eat”. Or do you also not eat certain things because of certain rules? “I can’t eat a sandwich for breakfast, I can’t eat my lunch at 10:30am, even though I’m hungry; I can’t enjoy some ice-cream I am on a diet”.
Think right now about the food rules you revolve your life around. Do you avoid keeping certain foods in the house because you’ll eat it all? Do you restrict certain foods in your day? Do you force yourself to eat things you don’t enjoy?

What if you took EVERY RULE OUT OF THE BOOK. There are no rules. Suddenly you can eat absolutely anything you want. Chocolate cake for breakfast? Yup. Breakfast for dinner? Bread? Pasta? Delicious foods? Eating out? How often to you order exactly what you want on the menu!?

You are probably thinking right now “Well, that sounds wonderful but also like I’m going to gain about 50lbs”. But here is the deal- you WON’T because you’ll be listening to your hunger and fullness cues. This is the hardest part, but when you learn it you’ll have absolute freedom around food for the rest of your life. Doesn’t that sound amazing? When you are actually paying attention to your body and when it’s hungry and what it needs- guess what- it’s not going to want chocolate cake for breakfast very often because you’re going to have a major sugar crash after and not feel very great for the rest of the day. Sometimes your body wants green smoothies and salads and sometimes it wants a burger and fries and that’s BALANCE!

So how can you get started on your intuitive eating journey? First thing is to actually realize when you are hungry and when you are full. A lot of us who have been on diets or developed eating disorders have absolutely no idea what hunger even feels like any more. It’s different for everyone! Some people will get a rumbling stomach, I know mine rarely grumbles but mostly I feel light headed and know exactly what I want to eat and have that empty feeling in my stomach. (And I get very, very grumpy). What does hunger feel like to you?
It’s also important to realize that there are different levels of hungry and its important to feed and nourish your body before you reach the “OH MY GOD I NEED TO EAT THE ENTIRE CONTENTS OF THIS FRIDGE I AM SO HUNGRY”.

Try using this scale and identifying when you are a 3-4 on the hunger scale, this is prime time to eat. 
1 Completely empty
2 Ravenous
3 Set Hunger
4 Pangs, I need to eat soon
5 Neutral- Not hungry nor full
6 Satisfied
7 Satisfied but it tastes so good…
8 Full
9 Stuffed
10 Sick to your stomach

When you reach that hunger level I want you to think to yourself “What do I feel like eating right now if I could have absolutely anything?” Try eating it!

I’m going to do a series of blog posts on this subject; and then next one will be eating until you are satisfied, how to determine when that is, and the “last bite” rule. I’m also going to touch on how when you allow yourself all foods- initially you are going to want to eat all those foods you haven’t been letting yourself eat for so long. It’s important to allow yourself to do this. Once you realize you can eat this food whenever you want, the emotional pull is gone and you don’t feel the need to over eat on it. This may take time and practice!

I know it can be very inconvenient at first to only eat when you are truly hungry; perhaps you can only eat during scheduled break times at work, or you know you are going to have a crazy day and you need a big breakfast although you are not hungry at this moment. That’s fine! Intuitive eating is not rigid and inflexible. It’a all about learning that balance and what makes your body feel good. If you can practice eating only when you are hungry, its a great way to learn to hear those hunger signals, but normal eaters also plan ahead and ensure they are not going to be starving, and also sometimes like to eat meals out with friends or share an appetizer even though they aren’t craving it. You can totally do this and eat until satisfied, and then wait till you are hungry before eating again! Don’t eat just because it’s a certain time of day or because everyone else is. Learn to tune into your body!

What are your thoughts on intuitive eating? Are you a natural who has always been this way? I have a few people in my life who are natural intuitive eaters and have always enjoyed what they love and maintain a perfectly healthy body weight and image. It’s my goal in life to reach this stage and I am definitely getting closer everyday!

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Do you love yourself as you are?

I was doing some thinking today and I felt I had to write out this post because this topic is HUGELY important to me. I would say more important than anything else. I didn’t even really realize how much of an impact I can truly make on this topic until I started discussing it with a friend.

In my profession it is seriously an hourly occurrence that I hear people pick apart their bodies to me. They tell me what they want to change, lose, slim, what they hate about themselves. I try not to engage in negative self-talk in front of clients but I do allow them to come to me because I try to be a sounding board for them. I just realized now how not helpful this is! I don’t want people to pick apart their bodies period. I want them to start coming to me and saying “I love how much faster I can run! I am so proud of the new muscles I am seeing! I LOVE my curvy body and strong legs! I love my stomach pooch- it gave me children!” 

Sometimes I want to quit everything to do with nutrition and fitness because it seems to almost constantly revolve around weight loss, getting smaller, how “good” or “bad” someone was that week or how they’ve “fallen off the wagon” etc. I could pull my hair out!! I think I’ve had one client come to me EVER that actually wanted to get stronger, faster, and fitter and I’ve never heard her say a bad word about her body which is so refreshing. I hate that this is not the norm. Why are we all so focussed on changing ourselves? What is with this constant drive to be someone else? Why can’t we just be ourselves and be happy?

I think it really hit me today when I was teaching a class to some seriously accomplished amazing women who are in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. They are lawyers, teachers, mothers, wives, and amazingly fit and dedicated. Yet they are concerned and upset that they have the tiniest stomach pooch that won’t go away! As soon as I heard that I immediately piped up, “But who cares?” And they looked at me like I was a bit crazy, as I am their trainer after all. But really, WHO CARES. Do you think anyone cares about that stomach pooch but you? Do you think your kids look at you as a mother and think… “well maybe if she was a bit thinner I’d love her more”. It’s so ridiculously mind boggling to me how important weight loss is in our society.

I know this is probably confusing coming from me. My money and career is made off of people disliking their bodies and wanting to change them. I’ve never really thought of it that way, but I do NOT want to support that image and that ideal. I guess I’ve always supported people with their weight loss because it is important to them and they feel they would be happier. But I think it’s up to me so start showing people than you can MUCH HAPPIER, HEALTHIER, FITTER AND STRONGER without ever uttering or thinking the “weight loss” words. I felt so happy today when one of my friends who is also a client- texted me today saying “I was thinking this morning how much I love my body just as it is without putting an overextended amount of exertion into making or shaping it differently. I love working out with you once a week and am going to try and do my own workouts and incorporate more yoga”. THIS IS WHAT I WANT EVERY ONE OF MY CLIENTS TO FEEL. And even if she said that she doesn’t love working out with me and she never wants to train again I would be just as happy and proud.

I want my nutrition clients to want to change their nutrition to feel nourished, energized, happy, sleep better, learn to cook, and get their vitamins in for a long and healthy life. I wish the only goal wasn’t weight loss. I want my personal training clients to want be faster, stronger, fitter, healthier, empowered. When we focus on weight loss, we take out all the actually important happiness boosting things that create and shape healthy habits. If your only goal is to see a number on the scale; you aren’t going to like working out and getting fitter because that number might not change as you build muscle. You aren’t going to like nourishing and loving your body because you aren’t going to see the numbers drop as fast than if you were on a juice cleanse. You are not going to be happy and love yourself when you can only focus on getting smaller and seeing the numbers go down.

So, do you love yourself as you are? Do you think the only way you’ll be happier is if you lose weight? Well I’m here to tell you from first hand experience that you are wrong. I’ll spare you the big long story, but I’ve super thin and fit and I was most definitely NOT happy. Right now I workout because I enjoy it, I eat nutrient dense foods because they make me feel good, and I drink wine and eat chocolate because those make me feel good too. I feel sexy and happy and confident in my body. I do not think about losing weight anymore. I don’t think about weighing myself. I feel happy and like a total babe when I look in the mirror. I’m also a lot heavier than I used to be.

Your mindset is so important. I understand that people want to lose weight for health reasons and that’s fine. No matter what the reason- that does not mean you cannot start loving yourself right and treating your body like you love it. Don’t follow a certain meal plan to lose weight; incorporate some of your favourite recipes to feel energized and strong and amazing! Don’t put yourself through workouts you don’t enjoy to lose weight. Try new things, experiment. Any activity is good activity, and one that you love is the BEST! You’ll never stick to something you don’t enjoy.

I encourage you to create a life that you love that involves nutrition and fitness, without putting the emphasis on weight loss. Writing this blog post and definitely helped me figure out another direction that I want to take with my nutrition plans, one that allows you to learn how to eat intuitively, listen to your body; and enjoy all foods. There should never be good and bad foods, there is just FOOD. Just relax and love yourself right now, today, in all your glory because LIFE IS SHORT. I’m mad I wasted so many years of my life hating myself and I hope that I can change that for some of you. When you put your time and energy into all the positive things that I’ve mentioned above; there is no “falling off the wagon” or being “good” or being “bad”. There is just being you. Just enjoy being you. Love being you!!!

Are you in a RUT?

How do you feel when you wake up every morning? Are you excited about what lies ahead? Do you feel motivated, inspired and full of joy?

I can tell you that I used to feel that way when I woke up. I was so excited I was living my dream and all I wanted to do was jump out of bed and get started! That was a wonderful feeling. Some nights I was too excited to even fall asleep, and I would wake up early just to work or study or create ideas.

Lately I have not had that feeling, it’s been more along the lines of hitting snooze 17 times, feeling completed burdened and overwhelmed by work constantly, and not feeling that sense of joy I felt before. I found myself avoiding work more than tackling it, and letting the little things get to me. Have you ever felt yourself hit a slump in life where things just aren’t bring you the same amount of joy? Now I don’t want you to confuse what I’m discussing in this blog post with depression, which is a serious illness and you should seek medical help if you are going through it. This is more along the lines of being un-inspired, life is kind of dull, and you aren’t living out each day exactly how you want.

So I’ve been coming up with a bit of a master plan to get myself back to that stage. I think this will be super useful for a number of things, whether its regarding fitness, work, relationships, or general life. You DO have the power to live in a state of overall happiness! You are not stuck where you are; and you have the ability to change your circumstances.

So here are a few things that I’ve found really help me:

1.) What is your vision?

How are you even supposed to get to where you want to go if you aren’t clear about the outcome you are seeking? I got together with one of my best friends and we sat down and wrote out all our goals in life, work, relationships, etc. We really put a lot of thought (and wine) into it! Then we got fun with it and made big poster boards we could hang up and see everyday. I wrote about things I want to achieve, what my perfect day looks like, vacations I want to take, and it really helped me see what is most important to me and where to focus my energy. Once that was done, I felt a big relief and like my life had direction again.

2.) Get RID of the things that aren’t supporting your ideal life!
I had to make some tough decisions here. I had to cut back on some things that have been a huge part of my life in order to pursue my ultimate dream. This won’t always be easy, but once you take those steps towards getting rid of the things that are causing you anxiety and stress, you won’t believe the weight off your shoulders. You know what those things are. Let them go!

3.) Clean. Your. House.
Tidy house tidy mind? You can’t argue the clarity and peace you feel when you walk into a clean and organized room. So stop putting it off and get it done! The best book I ever read was one called “The Magic of Tidying Up” and it really taught me how to be clean and organized. When everything has a spot and is organized, your day will be smoother and easier, I promise! I still have a sink full of dishes though.. no one is perfect 😉

4.) When do you feel your happiest?
Do those things all the time. I’ve been putting off my “happy” things because I want to get more work done. But then I’m unfocused, unhappy, and unproductive. Putting time towards keeping yourself happy and relaxed will result in greater productivity and overall success. I’ve been getting more sleep, getting in more workouts, and just got out of a bubble bath with a glass of wine over doing another few hours of work. And now I’m feeling inspired enough to write a blog post! You have to recharge. You are not a robot. Cut yourself some slack and try putting your happiness first!

5.) Make a Plan!
This goes in line with making goals and creating your vision. You need a plan. I first figured out my workout plan. I know I’m at my best when I can dedicate 30-60 minutes most days to getting my sweat on. I also figured out my schedule. Most of you probably have set schedules, which can be both good and bad! Mine has been all over the place cause I’ve been saying yes to EVERYTHING and finding myself working early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays, and still can’t keep up. I’m grateful that I have work to get done, but this isn’t realistic and I figured this out when I started to feel completely burnt out and exhausted mentally and physically. So I figured out when I can slot people in for personal training sessions, created more time in my schedule for nutrition plans, hired a (wonderful!!) assistant, and started to create my ideal day. I’m going to try to say no to more things (still working out that) and find my happy work groove!

6.) Spend time with loved ones and people that bring you up
I feel so grateful and lucky for the friends that I have. The minute I was feeling on the edge of overwhelm they were right there to help me figure out the right path. I am a true believer that when you start living your authentic life and chasing your dreams; the people that come into your life are exactly who you need. I am so so supported by the people in my life and I encourage you all to be open to meeting those people. The ones who you make you feel lighter and happier and more alive. You are not stuck with negative people in your life, there are amazing gems out there just waiting to meet you and support you!

So what are some changes you need to make in your life? Do you think you could make more improvements in certain areas? Do you have tips and tricks for finding your groove and happiness when in a rut? Please comment down below, I am so interested in hearing what you guys have to say!

Tara