One simple and easily overlooked piece of the optimal health puzzle is: HOW we eat is as important as WHAT we eat!
If you feel like you could benefit from improved digestion, less stressful meals, and a healthier relationship with food...it all begins at mealtime.
Our food choices at each meal are often the result of not-so-nourishing physical and emotional triggers, for example:
our minds deliberating what we “should” eat from endless marketing campaigns or body image judgements
blood sugar crashes from a diet high in refined or sugary foods causing ravenous cravings for more junk food and overeating
our mental or emotional state seeking reward for an achievement or comfort in response to stress and other difficult circumstances
But, what if you could tune in & listen to the intelligence of your body instead?
You can with a little practice! :)
The body operates from a place of ancestral wisdom and intuition to satisfy our innate biology and unique body composition, not our mind and emotions. What a wonderful way to honor ourselves by allowing our body to guide us toward more nourishing, healthful choices.
How does tuning in work?
Just take a mental pause to ask the question, “what does my body need in this moment?”, and then listen for the inner guidance. Your body might tell you that you need something warm to eat today for lunch instead of a salad, like you always have. It might want two apples instead of one because one won’t satisfy your sweet tooth craving today and it knows cookies will just make things worse, or it might tell you to take a bath instead of having a glass of wine and popcorn after work to decompress.
If this concept feels foreign to you, I highly recommend you start with a mindfulness meditation practice to begin tuning into your intuitive body. Body intelligence is deeper than your 5 senses, more subtle, and susceptible to being overpowered by the everyday distractions of modern life. So you’ll need to build your mindful muscles for maximum benefit.
What is Mindful & Intuitive Eating?
Mindful Eating: the intentional non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts, emotional state, and physical sensations before, during, and after eating
Intuitive Eating: listening to your “body talk” - the inner guidance system that silently tells you what would be most nourishing, satisfying, or health-promoting for you in any given moment, and it also may not be food!
So how do we go from Mindless to Mindful Eating?
What does Mindless Eating Look and Feel Like? We’ve all been there…
Eating while distracted in front of the t.v., computer, while driving, or working
Shoveling forkfuls into our mouths & not chewing well before swallowing
Ravenous (over)eating in response to a blood sugar crash
Eating when you’re not even hungry or emotional eating (bored, sad, or stressed): the feeling that no amount of food will satisfy you
Feeling physically sick or tired after a meal
Feeling negative emotions, e.g., guilt or shame before, during, or after a meal
What does Mindful Eating Look and Feel like?
Plan your meals ahead of time to curb cravings and prevent low blood sugar from sabotaging you into a mindless feeding frenzy.
Take a break from multitasking, turn off technology distractions, and simply eat while you are eating.
Pay attention to your environment: put a little effort into making meal time special (bonus points for including nature in some way!)
set the table with the “good” dishes, napkins, your grandmothers china, etc. - whatever special means to you
light candles or create mood lighting - even for a romantic dinner of one
add flowers, a centerpiece, or even simple touches like a maple leaf under a glass as a coaster
play soothing or happy music
sit near a window, dine outside on a patio, or have a picnic!
Sit down while you eat!
Take 5 deep breaths before your first bite to:
assess your emotional state: are you stressed/anxious or calm? Are you upset or happy?
assess your hunger: are you eating out of boredom, habit, or to satisfy an emotion or craving?
reduce circulating stress hormones, trigger your relaxation response, and prepare your GI system for digestion - there is a direct connection between your gut and the mind/emotions
Take a “positivity pause” (silently or out loud) for gratitude for the food you are about to eat, for anyone who played a role in growing it or preparing it, and anything else you are grateful for.
Chew each bite well (25-30 times) before swallowing. The salivary digestive enzymes in your mouth work better the more you chew. Chewing also triggers hormonal responses that tell your brain you’re getting full.
Try putting your fork down in between bites and savor each each one: notice the color, quality, texture, smell, and flavor of your food.
Pay attention to satiety cues: stop eating when you are 80% full. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive fullness cues.
Eating for Heart & Soul Health
Food is a centerpiece of community and celebration in every culture.
While the mind.body aspects of eating healthy food are important, it is also important to honor the community, comfort, and connection aspects of food and mealtime that are vital to our heart & soul health and a healthful lifestyle. Eating on the run, in isolation, or distracted by technology may feel normal, but these are just byproducts of the machine of modern culture.
Take a stand right now & set an intention to prepare and enjoy meals regularly with loved ones as a means of celebration, connection, and (re)Wilding. Our hearts and souls depend on it.
Want More Guidance & Support?
The Wild at Heart Community is uniquely designed to help you transition into a lifestyle that awakens your inner wild and supports your wellbeing.
Sign up here for (re)wilding inspiration & download the (re)Wilding Retreat Guide, a nature-infused, self-guided retreat to explore on your own or with family and friends designed to help you de-stress, disconnect from technology, soulfully connect with loved ones & nature, nourish your mind.body with healthy whole food, and provide the mental space to practice mindfulness in your everyday life.
Want Personalized Guidance & Support?
Book your first Wild at Heart Coaching Session HERE. This complimentary session is an invitation to share your health & wellbeing challenges and explore the possibilities for healing your mind.body.heart & soul with (re)Wilding and the Wild at Heart Method.
I look forward to walking with you awhile on your healing journey. We'll stop and smell the wildflowers. Smile a lot. And wander down the road less-traveled.
Be Well & I'll See You in the Wild,
Angela Juhl, MS, CHWC, CYT
Master of Science in Human Nutrition & Functional Medicine
Wellcoaches™ Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Wild Woman Project Circle Leader
Certified Yoga Teacher
Wild at Heart was founded on the mission: to take a stand against unsustainable cultural norms by empowering others to (re)align their lifestyles & mindset with nature for healing an array of mind.body.heart & soul (im)balances and (re)kindling a soulful relationship to the natural world...for themselves, their loved ones, our communities, and our beautiful planet.