We all have our routines and patterns. The things that we wake up and do without thinking. Brushing our teeth, drinking water (and maybe coffee), eating and getting ready for the day (whatever that means to you) and—most common now—checking our phones. We all have a purpose that drives our daily behavior, but so much of it is mindless. It’s behavior that is driven by something beyond our conscious mind, based on repetition.
When you do something so frequently, it becomes a habit. Ingrained into your being.
Have you ever woken up and just felt bored of your eating routine? Like the staples just aren’t cutting it and you’re interested in ‘something else’ but you can’t quite put your finger on what that is?
You take a quick wander in your kitchen and nothing hits that spot. At your daily café, you feel uninspired as you gaze at the variety of baked goods and breakfast sandwiches, which you don’t really want to pay for, through the glass display. What is that feeling? What are you supposed to eat?
“What is intuitive eating?” is a question I’m asked often. My answer: it’s about re-connecting with your body.
We have an innate system within us, which knows exactly what it wants and needs to stay in balance. Our body knows how many and what variety of nutrients it needs and what it might need less or more of.
It also knows how to symbolize and communicate this on at surface level.
You see, our bodies communicate with us. They tell us when it’s time to sleep, eat, and move. They tell us when they have had enough of something (feeling full or uncomfortable) and they tell us when they don’t want something at all (nausea, skin reactions, digestion issues).
When you walk into a grocery store or a farmers market, where and what are you drawn to? What colors catch your eye? There’s a reason why certain foods excite you more than others.
From one perspective, it is about your emotional memory. We have emotional attachments to food, based on what memories they stimulate (taste, touch, smell, sight). Pumpkin might remind you of your grandmother’s delectable pumpkin pie, the holiday gatherings, and family charades. Or the local variety of mushroom will remind you of your mum’s warming cream of mushroom soup, the one that she makes every winter when you’re feeling under the weather.
Food evokes memory. Food is emotional. And we all have an emotional relationship with food.
Intuitive eating therefore requires emotional awareness.
In order to understand what your body might need, you need to have some sort of understanding of how you’re feeling beneath the surface. If you don’t, then your body is likely to send you in every which direction, bouncing from cravings for ice cream to pizza then alcohol or fast food. Before you know it, you’re eating three different kinds of meals and are left feeling unsatisfied and frankly uncomfortable.
I haven’t always been an ‘intuitive eater’ though. It has taken me many years of experience and experiment to get to where I am. It took a true surrendering to the possibility that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to food and eating.
For many of us, it’s essentially about learning to eat again. We have to retrain our palate, reawaken our senses and reacquaint our bodies (and our minds) with what real food is.
I grew up with eating disorders. For about 10 years my body was starved of nutrients and didn’t know what it meant to enjoy food. Food didn’t represent joy; it symbolized avoidance. I would eat or not eat in order to hide from how I was feeling inside.
Finding myself on the other side of an eating disorder, I count myself lucky. I was offered the opportunity to re-learn how to eat. I built a new relationship with food and my body, and it all started with getting really silent and listening.
I had to pay attention to what my body liked and disliked, what brought me anxiety, what didn’t and where I needed to learn to let go.
It wasn’t until I began studying Holistic Nutrition that this shift began. For the first time, food was about more than just a fixation on what my body looked like and what would help me achieve my physical goals.
Intuitive eating is ultimately about silencing those thoughts that tell you why you should or shouldn’t eat something. It’s about forgetting all of the facts and opinions you’ve learnt from our (less than) good friends at Jenny Craig and Atkins, and tuning into the ultimate nutrition expert: your body.
Because the truth is that your body isn’t making money off of your following, it doesn’t care what others think, and it’s number one goal is your optimal health.
So when you forget about the rules, you let go of the nutrition articles, you do your own research, and you get really quiet… what do you hear? What is your body asking for?
Start right there.
Turmeric Carrot Spread
2 large carrots, chopped (steamed if you don’t want raw)
1 cup dried chickpeas (soaked, cooked and drained)
1 garlic clove
1 whole lemon, juiced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup vegetable stock or filtered water
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp cumin
fresh turmeric root OR 2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli flakes
Add all ingredients into a food processor and blend for 5 minutes or until partially smooth. Serve with drizzle of organic, first-pressed olive oil, sprinkled chilli flakes and cut up seasonal vegetables.
Psychedelic Smoothie Bowl
2 frozen bananas
½ cup strawberries
¼ cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup almond mylk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ tbsp tahini
Blend ingredients on high in a high-speed blender. You might need to use a tamper to encourage everything to blend smoothly.
Serve in a large rimmed bowl, use a spatula or spoon to level out.
Drizzle peanut butter and decorate with your choice of the following:
+ Homemade granola (1/3 cup pecans, 1/3 cup walnuts, 1/3 cup dates, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ashwaganda, 1 tsp schizandra, 1/3 cup dessicated coconut- pulse until mixed )
+ Cranberries, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, bee pollen, goji berries
Chloe Elgar is a Holistic Nutritionist, speaker and author living in Vancouver. Chloe is the author of the book, Living in Light, creator of the podcast show, Conscious Conversations and founder of the personal brand and business, Chloe’s Countertop. Through unapologetic honesty Chloe moves through her life story of family conflict, emotional trauma and self-love issues- in the form of sharing stories, motivational speaking and creative non-fiction writing. She is a regular columnist for Elephant Journal and is a professional source for Well&GoodNYC. Chloe’s mission is to empower others to discover/rediscover their inner light by embracing their shadows and living a life of purpose through her Living True Mentorship and Living in Light Retreats (coming up in February 2017 in Costa Rica). One of the most popular features of Chloe’s blog is her Restaurant Stories, which take her around the world. Follow Chloe on Instagram for daily updates and inspiration.