Body-Food Choice Congruence (July 2018 Focus on Food Article)

Picture of Miriam

This month I would like to discuss motivation for being healthy and STAYING healthy (past 5 years people… not a fly by night plan for 1 month or 1 year). And what is health anyway? What does that mean to you? Do you care? And if you don’t care… why don’t you care?

Bear with me. I just completed an Intuitive Eating training so I am really tapped in to the psychology of eating and body image which is speaking to me more than mentioning meal or snack ideas. Don’t get me wrong, that food inspiration is helpful too, but I want to dive deeper right now. As part of this, I’ll cover the answer to, “What is Intuitive Eating?”, why it’s critical, give you some key Intuitive Eating principles, and even offer tips on how to eat intuitively so you too can benefit from this physically and emotionally healthy approach.

I watch my husband go to the gym day in and day out at 5am and ask him if he enjoys it. He says “not really, it’s ok. I do it more out of habit.” He is leaning on that rote habit sort of conditioning, which works for a while but can be risky if you aren’t super engineered brained like my guy. For most, if you go on vacation or get sick and fall out of that schedule, you might find yourself not going back to that daily workout. Why is this? Without connecting to that deeper why and feeling part of you when you work out (those oh so luscious feel good chemicals that pour out, or that lovely joint mobility), you might find yourself inconsistent with healthy habits.

This can be for food too, of course. You know that’s where I’m headed. 😉 By choosing food that FEELS good in your body instead of choosing food that will be about looks, you most likely will go back to that healthful food wayyyyy more than focusing on getting in to those skinny jeans.

This is called “body-food choice congruence.”

feel good food

Body-Food choice congruence is reflected in many kinds of comments:

  • I’d like more energy and stamina
  • I’m pregnant and want to make sure I’m feeding my baby everything it needs
  • I sometimes get hungry too soon. I might last longer if I alter my food choice a bit
  • I don’t think I’m taking in enough nutritious foods
  • I feel sluggish after I eat, I would like to feel energized instead
  • I haven’t had a salad for ages, and now I’m really craving one
  • My stomach hurts after I eat, I would like it to feel pain free

I'm walking on sunshineBelow are questions you can ask when you’re ready to find body and food congruence.  Do this practice when you’re mildly hungry and are thinking about what you would like to eat. As you consider each food option that is appealing to you, work through the following questions.

  1. In the past, how did my body feel after eating this food or meal?  Did I like this feeling?
  2. Were there any ill effects from my meal? For example, excessive gas or bloating, stomachache, headache, or tiredness? Do I want to repeat this distress?
  3. Did I have more energy after eating?
  4. Did I feel sufficient satiety from my meal? Did my meal or snack hold me long enough, or did I get hungry too quickly?

The messages from your body are profound. How about listening? Your body will tell you what works for you and what doesn’t. Something might look delicious but makes you sleepy or hurts your stomach or causes your blood sugar to drop quickly. It’s important to weigh all of these things and not just simply go for the needs of your taste buds. That’s temporary… When you tap in to this, you will be naturally drawn to foods that serve your body well instead of going by external rules that you aren’t connected too.

Egg and forks

In your journey to figure out how to start Intuitive Eating, there is one more thing to understand: play food versus nutritious food. People usually say junk food, but it is so harsh and judgey, don’t you think? Instead, try saying “play food”. It’s more neutral. If all we ever did was study and work, we would burn out big time. We need rest time and playtime to balance our lives out. You can apply this same principle to your eating. So about 10% of the time, build that play food in or you will try to balance out some other unhealthy way. Trust me. This will be time off from body-food choice congruence, and that’s OK. I eat cookies every day. 🙂

So, let’s start intuitive eating today, so you can FEEL the health!

Miriam Turner
Studio SWEAT Dietitian

Resource: The Intuitive Eating Workbook, Evelyn Tribole MS, RDN and Elyse Resch MS, RDN