Each one of us has a unique awareness of our own experience. We each have a beautiful, powerful sense of intuition – a gut feeling about what is right or wrong for us. Whether or not we follow this guidance system is up to us.
Learning how to intuitively eat is one of the most valuable skills we can develop. Our intuitive abilities are far more complex and in touch, than any computer or meal plan. With the gift of intuitive eating, we can tune in to exactly what our bodies seek for deep nourishment at any given moment.
There’s even better news: every single of us has this ability. It’s part of our wiring. We simply have to develop it through practice.
As well as countless health benefits, intuitive eating has another huge perk. It’s feels good! Satisfying your body’s desires and nutritional cravings imparts a sense of deep fulfilment. You’ll feel the weight of society’s rigid dieting rules and ideas lifting from you. Your mind and body will welcome this powerfully positive perspective shift.
How Intuitive Eating Works
Every person on this planet is unique and so too are each of our optimal diets. We have different bodies, needs and metabolisms. A ‘one-size-fits-most’ diet blatantly ignores these differences. Even personally tailored diet programs can’t account for the constant flow of change within our bodies.
In Indian Ayurveda, excess food intake becomes what we call ama. Unable to be used by the system, it becomes a toxin that builds up in the body. imagine one day where you have been recommended the perfect caloric intake. The next day however, your exercise levels, metabolic rate and sugar levels have all fluctuated. On this second day, with the same intake you will consume a few extra grams of fat or protein. Whilst this might not seem too dramatic, imagine this occurring day after day. Year after year. Slowly but surely ama increases within the body. A build up of ama causes clogging: immune issues, fatigue and other dysfunction.
So what’s the alternative? Paul Dugliss suggests that the ultimate diet isn’t a set of restrictions or rules, rather: it is a set of principles that the intuitive eater masters. Intuitive Eating simply means listening to your gut, and paying close attention to its desires. This means being truly present with the sensations you experience before eating, during meals and after. It involves a deep awareness and attuning to your own body. This opens you up to a world of health and vitality.
Many studies have reflected the natural human ability to feel which foods best serve us. One study gave children freedom to choose their own diets without guidance. There were options of desserts, snacks, vegetables and so on. You would probably expect the kids to head straight for the sweets or snacks and to stay there. Instead, something pretty amazing happened. The children who had been deprived of sweets binged for a few days… but by the end of a week, almost all participants were eating a balanced diet. After two weeks, all children were taking foods from every food group. Reflective of a natural intelligence innate within each of us, they intuitively gravitated towards that which served their body’s needs.
In his book on ‘enlightened nutrition,’ Dugliss teaches us how we can shift back into the practice of intuitive eating by adopting a set of six principles.
This is a radically different approach to diet, but as you embark on this journey you’ll start to see the truth of these principles within your own experience.
‘Some of these principles you will learn through direct experience, some through others’ experiences. Each will be supported by some of the cognitions of the ancient seers. Each will be supported by the findings of modern science.
In this manner, you will rediscover truth in your own awareness and in your own body.’ – Paul Dugliss
The Principles of Enlightened Nutrition
- Food conveys life energy.
In terms of our eating, this means avoiding lifeless food. The best options are fresh vegetarian food, organic and close to source, with no preservatives or artificial flavours.
- Food conveys emotion and consciousness.
The idea here is that the thoughts and energy of the cook who’s prepared our meals, impacts the energy of the food. This means factors like the amount of love and care placed into preparation, even the cook’s relationship to you. The ideal situation here would be home-cooked meals prepared by an intentional cook (or lovingly by yourself!).
- Food immediately starts re-creating the body.
We truly are what we eat, and remaining conscious of this belief means our choices naturally gravitate towards beneficial foods. It also suggests that optimising our digestion is just as important as the foods we’re intuitively eating. There are plenty of simple ways to improve your digestive health, such as starting the day with a glass of water.
- When digestion is incomplete, toxins are formed that block the metabolism.
This suggests that avoiding foods and habits that block digestion, is absolutely key for good health.
- The body constantly seeks to maintain balance.
As Hippocrates once said, food is medicine. Our diets can be consciously used to bring about (and maintain) balance within our bodies. When we start intuitive eating, a much broader picture of our eating habits starts to form. Rather than counting calories, obsessing over our weights, and punishing or rewarding ourselves… our relationship with food becomes an ongoing journey of balance.
- Desire is the body’s way of communicating its needs.
Desire is how the body expresses its needs – a fact we are often encouraged to ignore. Suppressing our desires in this way damages our internal feedback system, and lowers our awareness around what our bodies truly need.
Fortunately, this awareness can be regained and developed. The starting point here is simply presence. As we pay close attention to our bodies, our intuitive voice becomes louder. It’s also important to practice noticing the difference between our mind’s fleeting desires for food/tastes, versus the craving which stems from our bodies. As cravings can be the result of imbalances in physiology or diet, they provide hints on how to bring our bodies into balance. For example, if someone experiences food cravings for sweets after meals – this could suggest a protein deficiency, or that their diet isn’t rich enough to ground them.
Embarking on the journey of intuitive eating will quite literally change your life. Instead of thinking of food in terms of calories, or right and wrong… you will begin to see it in terms of energy, qualities and the spiritual impact it has upon you. This takes patience and openness… but it is well worth the reward.
If you’re interested in learning more about tapping into your intuitive abilities it might be time for you to take part in our next Intuitive Wellbeing Retreat or another offering at Happy Buddha Retreats! Or you could always just come to experience our vegetarian, lovingly-prepared meals for yourself!
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).