It's time to trust your gut.
It’s not exactly a secret that there’s more to being happy with your body weight than eating a specific number of calories. Food is intricately connected to our emotions and to our sense of identity.
Our meals should nourish not only our physical body, but also sustain us emotionally and spiritually, helping us live the fullest life possible. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Sure. But by the time we’ve reached our early teens, we've often forgotten how to determine what real hunger is.
In fact, most of us, fortunate enough to never experience true physical hunger, have only experienced emotional hunger.
We’ve complicated our food, turning it into a source of conflict rather than contentment, or even — joy.
There IS a way to get back to enjoying meals as an easy, guilt-free experience again. To do so, you must 'trust your gut' by eating instinctively (not impulsively). This is the secret to never worrying about your weight again.
Your gut already has all the answers you need. In fact, scientists tell us there is a secondary brain in our belly, containing over one hundred million neurons of intelligence! So use that gut wisdom to help you eat well! Those gut hunches you experience aren’t just your imagination. They're literally your body’s attempt to advise you. So, listen to it!
Here is a 3-step process to help you tune in and learn to trust your gut and eat your way to optimal wellness:
1. Pay attention to how you feel about food.
Focus first on ways you're emotional eating. Diet books often focus on this as the key to permanent weight loss, and it’s definitely a large percentage of the equation. Burying our feelings via overeating or eating unhealthy foods only adds pounds and guilt.
Trusting your gut at this level means paying attention to what you're feeling in the moment before you reach for the food you want to overeat. If you pause and listen, your stomach will tell you what you're feeling.
If hearing that wisdom feels too difficult — your emotions (and all of that ice cream you spoon down) are drowning out your gut talk. Try this: After you eat something you regret, consider what you ate. Doreen Virtue, in her book Constant Craving: What Your Food Cravings Mean and How to Overcome Them tells us that often, the type of food we eat is a clue to the emotions we’re trying to stuff.
Sometimes ice cream helps us self-medicate feelings of depression. Crunchy, salty chips tend to soothe us when we're feeling anxious and stressed. And that slice of pie might be a substitute for the bit of encouragement you really wanted.
Notice the feelings you felt when you craved a specific food, the correlation might surprise you. Until you address the underlying issue that's bothering you, the unhealthy eating habit won’t stop.
2. Ask yourself if you're really hungry for something else.
If you’re handling your emotions in a healthy way and your appetite still isn't satisfied, figure out what you’re really hungry for in life that goes beyond emotions. In what areas of your life do you lack fulfillment? Sometimes, overeating is connected to an urge to fill a void of happiness or deep-seated purpose.
Your enteric nervous system clues you in to your emotions, which is possibly why it is often considered the home seat of wisdom. You "know it at a gut level" if you pay attention. Once you identify what's missing, don’t try to fill that emptiness with food. It won’t work.
You'll never find peace until you forgo emotional eating and start living the life you're meant to live.
3. Let your intuition guide what you eat.
Your body has infinite intelligence. In fact, there is individual knowledge contained within each cell of your body. It will tell you what it needs — if you listen to it. When you explore intuitive eating, your body will tell you when it's hungry and when it's full. Your gut will tell you what type of food your body requires and how much it needs to adequately feel nourished.
Pay attention to your body’s requests as you decide which of the many food choices are best for you. We are each biochemically unique, with distinctly individual needs. Allow your highly-tuned body-mind unit to tell you when it needs re-calibration. If you start craving nutritious foods, it's a signal from your body that it needs the specific nutrients from that food.
Does the idea of trusting your gut to tell you what to eat sound crazy? It's not. Try eating instinctively for six months to a year and you’ll notice your body — and health — responding in the most positive way.
Eating instinctively is an approach to food, not a diet.
When you tune into what your body is saying and give it what it needs, you will never worry about your weight again.
Jan L. Bowen is a passionate thought leader who helps clients align their lives so they find more joy and greater connection. Get Jan’s latest book: "Why Do You Get Up In the Morning? How to Demystify Your Life Purpose" — download now.