When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 20, I radically changed my diet and initially it was SUPER strict—and honestly I am so thankful for that, it truly allowed me to thrive and gave me the discipline that has been the biggest blessing to me in continuing to live a healthy lifestyle each day. I have always believed and encouraged others that healthy living isn’t about a diet or choosing to eat healthy for a week or month, it is about creating positive healthy habits that carry with you for life. So yes, that is why I have always allowed myself to “splurge responsibly” and enjoy life!
I often say that listening to your body is the best “diet” (ugh really don’t like that word), but I also think it goes a bit deeper than just that—what I like to call “intuitive eating.”
What is Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating takes into account your body’s unique needs and pays attention to your nutrient needs daily, recognizing that how you eat may change over time but constantly adapting your nutrients to fit your need and lifestyle. It’s not about measuring, restricting or counting, but rather listening to your body and constantly adjusting!
I have gotten a few questions on Instagram recently of how I practice intuitive eating daily and how I know exactly what my body needs as well as how that need can change day to day. And intuitive eating is a process, it is not something that happens over night, but it is amazing how when you are in tune with your body, you can just sense what it needs and continually refine your way of eating to nourish yourself accordingly.
My diet today looks much different than it did a few years ago, but my life, energy and needs also look different. About a year before becoming pregnant, I recognized that my hormones, specially female hormones, adrenal and thyroid, really needed more nourishing carbohydrates to help them balance, and I saw amazing results from this dietary change. Then when I became pregnant and could barely eat anything for 22 weeks, I realized that nut based baked goods were making me insanely sick and I introduce some properly prepared grains (sprouted and fermented) and my digestion significantly improved. With some further experimentation I learned what grains worked well with my blood sugar and also that nut based “Paleo” baked goods were really hurting my digestive system. But again, this took time, experimentation and personalization as well as listening to my body cues.
Today, I am still refining my food choices, listening to my body and most importantly enjoying real, unprocessed food, even if that occasionally means a fresh baked croissant or homemade gelato.
How to Practice Intuitive Eating
When you are constantly stressed, your cortisol increases. Increased cortisol can create imbalanced blood sugar and an increase in insulin which in turn can create cravings for carbs, sugar and junk food as well as fluctuations in your weight. When you are under alot of stress, the body naturally craves refined carbohydrates to provide a quick burning fuel source to hopefully increase energy (a false sense of energy that only leads to more cravings and fatigue).
Truth is, your body is absolutely amazing at signaling what it needs, so it is our job to slow down and pay attention to these powerful signals. When you are stressed, you might confuse cravings or hunger or digestive issues with what you are eating, but in reality they might just be a stress response!
Recognize Your Needs Do Change With Time
Especially we women, in child bearing years, our hormones change EVERY single day. Not only does this take a toll on our body’s energy, yes just one reason why women scientifically need more sleep, but also means that our nutrient need will differ throughout the month.
Hormones, amount and type of exercise, age, life stages (pregnant or breastfeeding), emotions all play a factor in the nutrients our bodies need. For example, if you are consistently working out, you may need to increase your nourishing carbohydrate intake, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may need to significantly increase your quality, healthy fats. This is why slowing down is key to recognizing how our nutrient need can change.
Experiment & Adjust Accordingly
Each person is uniquely and wonderfully made, which means that my needs are different from your needs. If we all try to jump on the latest “diet” bandwagon, this is not going to account for our own unique needs.
When you experiment, you quickly and easily can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. For example, personally I noticed a huge, positive difference in my life when I introduced some properly prepared grains and decreased nut-based baked goods, but for most people this will actually be the opposite because gluten and grains can increase inflammation and create digestive issues for many people. But, through experimentation and time, I learned that my energy, hormones, blood sugar and digestion did really well with sprouted grains!
The best way to experiment is to either add or remove a food group for about a week and pay attention to how you feel! From there, keep fine tuning until you feel your best!
When you constantly are eating, your digestive system and blood sugar never have a chance to relax, and you are putting your body under a-lot of unnecessary stress. Now obviously there are life stages or situations like pregnant, breastfeeding, athletic performance that require more snacking. But the average person should be able to go at least 3-4 hours without eating. If you are not sitting down to a complete meal, properly digesting and then allowing your body to rest in between meals, it will be very hard to pinpoint what foods make you feel great, what foods might not be good for you, and if you are getting the right ratio of macronutrients—fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
My best rule of thumb? If you are hungry shortly after a meal, you probably did not get enough fat with that meal! However, if you are loading up on really good quality fats and proteins and still hungry shortly after a meal, you may need to increase your nourishing carbohydrates. Again, this is where experimentation and personalization comes into play!
Food has a huge emotional connection and I firmly believe that even the most nutritious food, if eaten in a stressful or negative environment has the power to destroy. If you are so focused on eating a certain way or stressing about everything being perfectly healthy, you miss the point of nourishing your body. Connecting, laughing and sharing in a meal together is going to do so much more for your health and happiness than stressing over every detail of what you put in your mouth.