You know that feeling when the kids are all finally asleep, and you’ve done the essentials off the to do list (but your to do list is never actually done), and you can finally sit down and relax a little? You deserve something: a thank you, a treat, a celebration, a break. You worked so hard today!
Imagine that it’s 9:30 pm and you find yourself with a pint of ice cream and spoon. You are really tired, it’s been a long day and you could hardly keep your eyes open during bedtime stories. It is easy to confuse our body’s signals of low energy — is it fatigue or hunger? Ask yourself, what do you really need? The answer might be sleep. Sometimes ice cream is the answer and that is totally okay.
Or maybe it’s 9:30 pm and you’re rummaging through the pantry for some chips. You aren’t that tired but you’re hungry — dinner time was crazy and you hardly sat down to eat. Or perhaps you’ve been trying to lose weight or limit your intake of certain foods or food groups. Ask yourself, what do you really need? Hunger pangs are your body telling you that you haven’t eaten enough today. You might need more than just chips to satisfy you. Try to eat something with carbs, fat and protein. Sit down and enjoy some food.
Or maybe it’s 9:30 pm and you find yourself scrolling your phone for some entertainment or engagement, but it’s not fulfilling. Ask yourself, what do you really need? Maybe you need some human connection with your significant other or a friend? No amount of snacks or Instagram will do that for you.
Intuitive eating can help you figure this out.
Early in my career as a registered dietitian, I quickly learned that all of my nutrition knowledge does not translate to behavior change for my clients. A well-meaning, traditional dietitian might suggest you pick a “healthier” alternative to ice cream such as yogurt or a piece of fruit. We all know that it is not that simple.
As a certified intuitive eating counselor, I have learned to be much more compassionate around food and eating behaviors. The concept of Intuitive Eating reminds us how to listen to our bodies. To understand hunger and fullness cues. To shut out the restrictive “food police” noise that is all around us all day, every day. To honor our emotions without using food. To move our bodies because it feels good and helps reduce stress, not to burn calories. To use basic nutrition knowledge to eat a way that helps us feel vibrant and healthy. To enjoy our food and mealtimes. It was a total game changer for me. This is the way I eat, and I found that these concepts are extremely relevant for my clients. Intuitive eating isn’t about weight loss, it’s about tuning in to ourselves to feel our best.
Being a mom is a wonderful gift. It can also test your limits. It can test your time management skills, your patience, your ability to function on low sleep, your composure; but motherhood also strengthens your intuition. It would be easier to eat intuitively when you’re well rested, relaxed, and have lots of free time, but that’s why Moms need intuitive eating most of all. We need to listen to our own internal wisdom to show us how to take care of ourselves, so we can continue to take care of our families. We need to understand our emotions and decide how to best cope with them in our own unique situations.
This summer, with a toddler and a newborn, the nighttime ice cream cravings were STRONG. Sometimes it was because I was actually hungry, sometimes it was because I needed a feel-good moment after a hard day, sometimes my sleep deprived brain was telling me to eat some sugar, and sometimes it was because it was a hot summer night and ice cream is delicious. Sometimes I ate it and sometimes I didn’t. It’s up to me and no one else to decide what I need.
Intuitive eating teaches you to treat yourself in a way that is both enjoyable in the moment and has a neutral or positive impact on your future self. Self awareness is a powerful thing.
Just to be very clear: This is NOT me telling you not to eat ice cream or chips or scroll your phone. This is a call to all Moms to work to figure out what you REALLY need and then work on getting it.