Intuitive Health

By Rebecca Rinck, Heathy Aggies Intern

I’ve found that the Covid-19 pandemic has been similar to the first year of college in stress and eating habits. I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and out of touch with my body and health. Additionally, it’s a new year! With the new year comes the pressure of making a resolution. For me, a new year’s resolution usually revolves around being healthier through diet and exercise. But for some reason, these resolutions never lasted very long. I’ve realized they probably did not work because they did not give me joy. While promoting your health through diet and exercise is a common goal, I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

Instead, this year I decided to combat the pandemic’s stressful times and resolution pressures with intuitive eating and exercise. Intuitive eating is the practice of listening to your body for hunger cues and eating in response to hunger or appetite in a way that values pleasure. While intuitive exercise is encouraging physical activity that is enjoyable and not discouraging. This is not about losing weight or trying to look a certain way, but instead is the idea that people should adopt healthy habits for the sake of their happiness and health. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.

Here are a few steps to get yourself started:

Start listening to yourself

We spend a lot of time thinking about others, but we often lack focus on ourselves. Start by checking-in with yourself throughout the week, maybe write down what you did and how you felt that day. Simply listening to your wants and needs is a great way to start practicing intuitive eating and exercise.

Permit yourself

Intuitive eating focuses on permitting yourself to eat. It moves the motive away from weight-loss and towards a healthier mind and body. Intuitive eating also means straying away from restrictive ‘fad’ diets because these diets lead to deprivation, often leading to binging, which then leads to guilt, followed by restriction. This cycle is unhealthy for not just our bodies but also our minds. Instead, remember to respect your body, no matter your weight or shape.

Intuitive exercise means permitting yourself to have a day off. Overworking our bodies does not do us any good. We should instead allow ourselves to relax without needing permission through exercise to eat.

Take pleasure

Taking pleasure and having a good relationship with your food is very important. Start by simply breathing. Allow yourself to take your time, breathe, and really enjoy your food. A slower pace allows us to feel fullness indicators and determine when we reach satiety. Check-in with your fullness and stop eating when you are comfortably full or satisfied; remember you can eat more when you’re hungry again.

Take pleasure in your movement! Move your body in ways that are enjoyable for you. Exercising is a great way to work off some pandemic stress and can boost your mental and physical health. So, try out different activities! Maybe hiking or biking along trails is your thing! For me, yoga and weight training make me enjoy exercising and improved my mental well-being.

Be mindful

Be aware of your food and pay attention to its taste while refraining from mindless munching. Eat with compassion and notice when rules or guilt come to mind. Be in the moment by turning off the T.V. or other entertainment. Be with your food and just your food. Savor your food by thinking about the different smells, tastes, and textures. Is your meal spicy, crunchy, or salty? Lastly, observe by noticing your body. Is it rumbling? Do you feel satisfied or full?

These practices apply to intuitive exercise as well! How did you feel after that yoga class? If your activity is done outside, take notice of your surroundings. Is it cold, bright, or quiet? While entertainment during exercise is popular, maybe try turning down the volume or completely omitting any extra noise. On the other hand, music can make workouts more enjoyable as well! It is all about what works for you.

These small changes can have powerful effects! Let us know how intuitive eating and exercise work for you. Which of these practices did you implement? Which exercises bring you joy?

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