“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
As a body psychotherapist, I encourage clients to honor their mind and body where they currently are, in their journey to healing; however, if a client is engaged in an ongoing struggle with an eating disorder, they are not able to tune into their biological cues of hunger or fullness. Nutrition rehabilitation and psychotherapy, inclusive of meal planning and structure, is often the best place to begin when in the first stages of recovery, for biological restoration.
Practicing from a female perspective, I feel that it is essential to support all clients in reaching a healthy perception of self, by implementing self-care practices. All people, regardless of gender, are exposed to societal pressures of what it means to have the ‘perfect body,’ and of course, depending on preference, everyone has a different definition. In my work, I aim to encourage healthy lifestyle habits and if needed, work with others to reframe nourishment as self-care. When we have a healthy perception of self, such can strengthen the motivation behind tending to a basic need, so not only are we looking at nourishing our relationship with food, but nourishing the relationship with our body as well. When an individual has worked through their journey by assessing the physical and psychological aspects of their eating disorder, and have come to a place where they can safely trust to tune into their body, may they begin implementing intuitive eating practices.
Intuitive Eating is a model that supports the integration of a person’s internal and external world in their relationship with food. Research has shown that Intuitive Eating can help to restore the trust of inner body wisdom. For individuals who do not have an eating disorder, but may struggle in their relationship with food, or with body image, may find these principles helpful as well, as a means to foster healthy eating beliefs and habits.
There are 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating that include:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
There is no healthy way to lose weight quickly or easily, without compromising your health. Respect your body home by rejecting the notion that there is a one-size fits all diet.
2. Honor Your Hunger
You are a living and breathing human being! Ensure that you feed your body with adequate nourishment to ensure that you feel the best that you can. Honoring your biological signal of hunger sets the foundation for enhancing your relationship with food.
3. Make Peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods, as well as exploring new foods. When we tell ourselves that we ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat specific foods, it can lead to intense feelings of shame and deprivation, that can ultimately lead to eating disturbances and guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Challenge the irrational thoughts and feelings you may have about food. When we hold a positive view of ourselves and accept that food is necessary for life, we take the judgment out of eating.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Listen to the signals your body is sending you while you are eating, so as not to eat to the point where your body feels uncomfortable. Practice doing a “tummy check” by eating, pausing to check in with your satiety, and continue or cease as appropriate.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
When eating pleasurable foods in a positive environment is a regular practice, one is less likely to binge eat or experience fear and resistance when eating. Eating is a sensory experience and the aim is for it to be an enjoyable one.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
Food is a central aspect of life for many cultures. Food can be used to show respect, love, and connection; however, it is important that food isn’t used as a coping skill. Explore other options for resolving concerns without using food.
8. Respect Your Body
Respect where your body is, in the here and now. We all have a different genetic make up, and shouldn’t hold unrealistic expectations or compare our bodies to others. We are all wonderfully and uniquely made. No two bodies are the same on the inside, and we have to challenge the belief that we must the same on the outside.
Exercise is one of the best practices an individual can incorporate into their life for overall well-being. The purpose of exercise within this model is to tune into your body and experience the feeling it has when it is active.
10. Honor Your Health
Recognizing that the body requires essential fats, carbohydrates, and a variety of foods as fuel to energize the body for optimal functioning. Your body will need different things at different stages of your life for a variety of reasons (i.e.illness, age). Continue to tune into your body, and nourish yourself as necessary.
A final gentle reminder: Our bodies are the vehicle we use to exist in the world. We are magnificently designed and biology does its’ best to ensure that we survive and thrive. Honor your body for all that is has endured, and remember, we only get one-so let’s be good to ourselves.
About the Author: Jennifer Zuniga, LPC