Five tips to nourish your body with kindness and gentle nutrition

2 May 2021

Guest Blog by Ela Law – Ela Law Nutrition

The concept of gentle nutrition is one of the principles of the intuitive eating framework established by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an approach to health and food that focusses on your inner wisdom of what you and your body need rather than on diet or meal plans. It is all about allowing food to be satisfying and enjoyable, it’s about trusting yourself and about learning to shift your attention away from external rules and restrictions and towards listening to your internal signals for hunger, satiety, emotional balance and satisfaction.

Gentle nutrition usually doesn’t get covered until quite late on in the intuitive eating process. The reason for that is that if we come to it from a place where we still impose food restrictions on ourselves, interpret nutritional concepts as rules, and haven’t made peace with food, nutritional aspects of eating can easily be turned into yet another diet.

What can you do to gently nourish your body?

There are several things you can do without needing to know an awful lot about nutrition (in fact, I believe we sometimes ‘know’ too much about it, and it can be confusing!).

Hydrate

Our bodies are 75% water, that’s a lot! Drinking enough fluids (ideally this would be water, but any fluid other than alcohol counts towards your fluid intake, even tea and coffee, despite being mildly diuretic they still count!) is super important to for lots of bodily functions: 

  • Regulating blood pressure and heart rate
  • Flushing bacteria out of your body
  • Transporting nutrients to your cells
  • Aiding digestion
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Preventing constipation
  • Helping concentration and focus
  • Preventing headaches

Some tips to help you get some more fluids during your day:

  • Start the morning with a cup of warm water (have a thermos flask and cup by your bed)
  • Have a water bottle with you when you go out
  • Set your timer to alert you to have a drink
  • Try ‘habit stacking’ by using existing habits (e.g. having a cup of coffee) and adding a new one (e.g. having a glass of water while the kettle is boiling)

Add rather than cut out

Cutting things out of your diet will lead to feelings of deprivation, and restriction is likely leading you to overeating or even binge-eating. I am a great fan of adding things! This could be some more nutritious foods such as chopped fruit to your cereal, an extra salad with your pizza or a tin of lentils/beans to your stew. You could add some protein to a snack to make it sustain you for longer, or some carbs to your lunchtime salad to give you energy for the afternoon. But let’s not forget foods that might not be as nutrient rich: You can put some joy and fun back into your diet by regularly adding the foods that are seen as less nutritional such as cakes, biscuits, crisps, ice cream etc. These foods can absolutely have a place in our life and should be eaten without judgment or guilt (this is what we call ‘permission to eat’).

Enjoy and eat mindfully

All too often we don’t really enjoy what we eat – it might be because it’s a ‘diet’ food that tastes a bit lacklustre, it might be something we feel we ‘should’ have but don’t really like the taste of, or it might be a food that we feel obliged to eat for whatever reason (maybe someone cooked/baked it for you and you would feel bad not having it).

Mindful eating can really help you savour the flavour (and work out what you really like!)! Try it out with something small like a raisin and really explore the look, feel, smell and taste of it. Eat slowly and get all your senses to work. You may be surprised by what you notice!

If you can, choose to eat foods that you enjoy (this isn’t always possible, but for the most part think of what you would really like – something cool and crisp, something sweet and fun, something warm and comforting – and try and find something that matches your desire). A tip: it really helps to keep a well-stocked kitchen cupboard so that you have a variety of foods available to you!

Balance

Balance can be achieved by making sure you include foods from all food groups into your diet: carbohydrate foods such as potatoes and foods based on grains, fruits and vegetables, protein foods such as meat, fish, nuts, pulses, eggs and vegetarian protein (e.g. tofu, tempeh, seitan, soya and myco-protein), dairy foods or alternatives, fats, as well as foods that taste great and bring you joy even though they may not score as highly on the nutritional front.

Don’t worry about achieving a balance at every single meal or snack. Focus on the day or even the week – if you eat intuitively you will achieve balance automatically as you will feel drawn to the foods that your body needs.

Self-care rather than perfection

There is no such thing as a perfect diet! Every individual requires different nutrients at different levels, can tolerate things differently and needs different amounts of energy. Which means that ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet or meal plans are problematic, to say the least! Instead of focussing on ‘perfecting’ your food intake, it may be a lot more helpful to establish some healing and nourishing self-care habits. This could be as simple as making sure you get enough sleep, have regular medical check-ups, feeding your body enough food, keeping it clean and moving it regularly.

It could also mean investing in yourself by seeing a coach or therapist to work through some things with you, starting a regular meditation or mindfulness practice, exploring journaling or finding a new activity that you enjoy and that makes you happy.

As Salvador Dali said: “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it”. In intuitive eating there is no fixed goal to reach, it’s all about the process and the learning journey. Being kind and compassionate to yourself is going to give you more health and happiness than striving for a perfect diet.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor Ela works with clients in person (Sevenoaks, Kent, UK) or remotely (video or phone call – this can be from anywhere in the world). She works with people from all age groups – she is a baby-led weaning expert and family feeding consultant and passionate about raising intuitive eaters. In working with adults, her aim is to support her clients gain life-long tools to develop a more peaceful relationship with food and their bodies and to enjoy life. Ela includes mindfulness and meditation techniques in her sessions as well as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping.. She also runs group workshops and a monthly Intuitive Eating membership group.

Ela has a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Public Health Nutrition.

@elalawnutrition for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn

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