I’ve been wanting to write this post about intuitive eating and motherhood for a while now. Motherhood has a way of changing you in so many ways. More ways than I’d ever considered before having a child. While sleep, exercise, daily chores and daily motivation are affected in obvious ways, my way of eating has also changed with this time in my life.
I think it’s important to remember that part of being an intuitive eater means you adapt to new circumstances. You understand that your eating habits and preferences change over time (and day by day) and you utilize flexibility and compassion in honoring those changes. I’m so grateful for the concept of intuitive eating because if anything, it has made one part of my life much less complicated.
What Motherhood and Intuitive Eating Looks Like
I don’t have the time or brain space to put a lot of thought, stress or worry into my food choices. I simply make them and move on with my day. In fact, I’m probably making more food choices now than ever before because of the breastfeeding hunger. I also attribute some of it to the fact that I may not always be including enough protein. I’ve learned that when I’m busy and hungry, I reach for easy, convenient snacks.
I thought it would be neat to go through the principles of Intuitive Eating and explain how each has affected me.
Reject the Diet Mentality
I have been rejecting the diet mentality for a long time now. In motherhood, though, it brings on new meaning. While Camryn is not yet old enough to understand food and guilt and rules and such, she is old enough and smart enough to model after me. I want to make sure I am doing the best I can to model what a “normal” relationship with food looks like. Especially after this recent study shows that mothers’ experiences with their own weight and relationship with food may affect how restrictive they are of their child’s eating practices.
Honor Your Hunger
Remember that hunger can manifest in many ways. When we’re stressed, or busy, it may be blunted. This is when you need to play detective and utilize some gentle nutrition to make sure you’re eating enough. For me, my hunger signs include a “pit” in my stomach, and the inability to focus on anything besides food. I eat whatever I can get my hands on. It’s not always mindful, but it’s a way of trying to achieve satisfaction when I can. My favorite snacks lately have been Perfect Bars, Fage 5%, spoonfuls of peanut butter, and Kind fruit bars.
If you’re struggling with feeding your hunger, give yourself grace. Or, maybe your hunger is at a higher level than what is normal for you. Try to think about how your body is using that food. Remember that your body knows how to use all sorts of foods, and it can handle it no problem. By honoring your hunger, you are establishing trust and confidence within your body.
Making Peace with Food & Challenging the Food Police
Giving myself unconditional permission to eat is so freeing. Rather than beating myself up for eating in the middle of the night, I prepare for it by having a snack on my nightstand table. Instead of feeling guilty for eating another bowl of ice cream, I feel happy that I’m able to enjoy my favorite flavor. Sometimes a reframe can go a long way.
Respect Your Fullness
This is probably something I could stand to work on a little more. Like I mentioned before, honoring my hunger is no problem, but there are some points where I find myself eating too quickly and then realizing that I’m a little beyond my “happy” fullness level. I find that it’s easy to lose attunement and attention to my body when I’m chasing around Camryn or worrying about her.
I think it’s important to point out that it’s okay to recognize that we don’t have to be “perfect” intuitive eaters. Intuitive eating isn’t a destination with an end point; it’s moreso a process that changes as we change.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
I have always been someone who enjoys ending meals on a sweet note. I could eat a big dinner that leaves me feeling full, but unless I’m feeling satisfied, something is missing from the experience for me. Eating satisfying meals and snacks is something that brings me pleasure and enjoyment. The satisfaction factor of food, I would argue, is one of the most pleasant aspects of eating. Sometimes, satisfaction means eating what I’m craving. Other times, it means eating with my husband or with friends. And other times, satisfaction means a balance of carbs, protein and fat, followed by something fun or sweet. Satisfaction can be different depending on the day and mood, but I recommend you figuring out what is satisfying to you!
Honor Your Feelings Without Food
Motherhood certainly has its ups and downs. It is a HUGE life change, and nothing can really prepare you for it. There are times you feel alone, and disentangled from your previous life. There have been times when I’ve felt very anxious and I’ve had to sit with it. I think working through these feelings in my journal and expressing gratitude has been very helpful for me. Sometimes, exercise can also be an outlet. Last week, I went to a yoga class during my lunch break and it really helped ground me. While I was resistant to taking an hour out of my day, I was so grateful that I did go. The class really was just what I needed. It enabled me to stretch and release some tension and to breathe through some feelings. I was able to move my body in a way that my body needed to be moved that day.
It has helped to have a few different ways to cope with situations and feelings that I’m experiencing without automatically turning to food and food only. Of course, a slice of banana bread or a bowl of ice cream will always be there when I need it, and it’s okay to sometimes choose that while I sift through feelings and emotions.
Respect Your Body
I talked a little about pre-pregnancy body thoughts in this post, but I am not shy about sharing that my body is different now. I think that’s normal and expected after birthing a human. Sometimes, I think it’s easy for mothers to feel like their body isn’t theirs, especially if/when nursing. I realize that to properly provide for and nourish Camryn, I have to adequately fuel and nourish myself. While I can’t fit into the same clothes that I used to, or run as far as I used to without tiring (working up to that!), I have so much respect for this postpartum body. I want to do everything I can to treat my body well, and really understand the changes it has gone through.
Exercise to Feel the Difference
In this post, I talked about what exercise looks like for me right now. Sometimes it means cutting a run short, or focusing on quality over quantity. Sometimes it means 3 off days in a row because I haven’t slept well. It always means being realistic about the time I have available and checking in with how my body is feeling.
Sometimes, all I want to do is pound the pavement and feel the endorphins from a run. Other times, I want something more gentle, or nothing at all. Recently, I’ve gotten back to my yoga practice, which has felt amazing. I have needed some gentle stretching and reminders to focus on my breath, and yoga does just that for me. I have also been getting regular massages to help prevent any injuries.
Honor Your Health
I would argue that if you’re living within many of these principles, you are honoring your health. This is also where the gentle nutrition piece of intuitive eating comes in. So, for me currently, that means making sure I’m consciously adding in enough protein. I have a tendency to grab at easy carbohydrate snacks (which are great for initially boosting my energy). But, without adequate protein, I know I won’t stay satiated or energized for long.
I’ve been buying rotisserie chicken and deli turkey so when I open the fridge I can just grab some to snack on. String cheese, greek yogurt and perfect bars have also been very helpful. I don’t really have any trouble getting sufficient protein at meals, but making more of a conscious effort at snacks is a form of gentle nutrition I’m using.
Having a nighttime snack is important, even if I’m not necessarily hungry. I know my body needs it and for the most part it can help my middle of the night hunger, which can appear after a midnight nursing session.
I’m really trying to employ as much self care as possible for me, and it is nothing extravagant. Yes, I am getting regular massages, but I’m also doing things like having tea at night to unwind, using these blue light glasses when looking at my screen which is helping with sleep, trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour, moving my body regularly, and eating enough. When I have the energy, I’m socializing with friends because I know that’s a big part of my mental health. I’m seeing a therapist because talking things out helps in so many ways.
Do you have any questions about intuitive eating or any of the principles?
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