Using intuition to gain more freedom in eating and exercise
I used to be a big time calorie counter.
I would input everything I ate into an app on my phone, along with my exercise. I would obsess over hitting my macronutrient goals and my calorie deficit for the day.
Because, that's what science says will work, of course!
The result? I did see the changes in my body that I wanted. At the time, I was trying to lean out/lose body fat. I was able to accomplish that.
The not-so-good side effect? I completely obsessed over food and was glued to my tracker. My feelings of success and guilt fluctuated with each food choice I made. As a result, I would punish myself with a sweaty workout. That was a never ending cycle, and not exactly a sustainable way to live OR treat my body.
True story, friends.
That brings me to today's topic. How can we end this cycle and treat our bodies well, while achieving our health and fitness goals?
Let's talk about how intuitive exercise and eating can help you simplify in order to get better results and more freedom.
What we know about calories
Calories are energy used as fuel for the body and all of it's systems. We need them in order for our body to function at rest, exercise, and everything in between.
Weight loss, maintenance, or gain is all about energy balance. In order to lose weight we need to eat less than we burn each day, and vice versa.
Since 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories, we must be in a deficit of 3500 calories in order to lose 1 pound.
This information is not wrong. It's just hard to form a lifestyle around counting constantly.
What we struggle with
As you and I both know, there are many conflicting views when it comes to nutrition. So many people telling us to count our macros, count our calories, eliminate carbs, do cardio for hours, and cleanse with soup.
Naturally, we feel that we should count every calorie that goes into and out of our body.
The main issues with this?
Apps and trackers aren't 100% accurate (they don't know our resting metabolic rate nor how many calories we burn through digestion)
We aren't training our bodies to move and eat in a way that serve us and how we're feeling
We lose touch with the joy and energy we get from being active and eating well
We are focused on the quantity of food we're eating over the quality
We try to out-exercise a bad diet (aka, 1 snickers = 1 mile on the treadmill)
For me (and maybe you can relate) it was difficult to continue tracking my food day in and day. My feelings of success or failure were based on how the app SAID I did that day... not on how I ACTUALLY felt.
Living a life tied to my tracking device just wasn't making me happy nor helping me be a better person. In fact, it would often lead to stress and disappointment.
Losing the need for control
Once I realized the negativity that was triggered from these practices, I decided to literally DROP the tracking all together for a couple weeks.
During exercise, I tried to focus on movement that I enjoyed and that made me feel good. This was (and still is) a good mix of cardio, strength training, and mobility work.
While eating, I tried to focus on my hunger cues, being more mindful, and putting good whole foods into my body.
Was this scary? Yes. I didn't know how much I was eating or burning, so losing thiscontrol was a tad bit frightening at first.
But, guess what? After trial and error, I became much more IN TUNE with how I felt, what I needed to eat to keep my energy up, and how to move my body to get the best results.
What is intuition?
You may have heard of intuitive eating. It's a big movement in the nutrition world to help people be more mindful of their food intake and listening to their body, rather than obsessing over calories.
You also know intuition as the "gut feeling" you get when you can sense something is about to happen.
Intuition guides us to making choices in our life just as much as it can help us to improve our health!
Being more intuitive with your food means being mindful of your hunger and fullness, putting high quality and nutrient dense foods in your body (vs. low calorie/low fat), and tuning in to how food makes your feel.
Being more intuitive with exercise means listening to your body before, during, and after exercise to learn how it makes you feel. It can guide you to having a recovery day if you're stressed/exhausted, and knowing when to ramp up the intensity.
7 ways to practice intuition in fitness and eating
1. Be aware
The first step to changing any behavior is to gain awareness of your current behavior and how it makes you feel. Take a week and pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Also pay attention to how certain types of exercise (or inactivity) make you feel. The last thing you want is for your nutrition and fitness to drain you.
2. Drop the tracking devices
Step away from relying on a tracking device or app and really tune in to how you feel without them. You might notice a change in energy with one less to-do or even
3. Tune in to hunger and fullness cues
Your stomach and brain work very well together to tell you when you're hungry and full. Listen to that! Starvation to achieve a calorie deficit is no way to live. Neither is filling yourself up to a point you feel miserable. It takes about 20 minutes for fullness to register with the brain, so try eat your meals slowly and mindfully.
4. Ditch the quick fix mentality
Quick fixes might be appealing, but if you want to truly take the stress out of fitness and exercise, you need to ditch them. They are typically extreme, making them hard to sustain long-term. Before changing your nutrition or exercise, ask yourself "could I do this forever?"
5. Be genuinely curious in how your body works
You are SO unique! The number of calories you need, amount of exercise that feels right, and entire way your body operates is unique to YOU. To be more intuitive, treat yourself like a little science experiment. Through trial and error, you'll be able to find what keeps your energy levels high.
6. Respect your body
To truly empower your healthy lifestyle, think of food as FUEL and exercise as ENERGY. Too often, we think of calories as "bad" and exercise as a punishment for eating something bad. Choose exercise that you LOVE and that will bring your energy. Choose foods that fuel you and make you feel good.
7. Don't frame foods as "good" or "bad"
If you are truly practicing intuition and letting your body guide you on your hunger levels, you don't need to kick any foods out of your diet. While I will say to focus on quality of foods over quantity, I truly believe that every food can be eaten in moderation. Just listen to your body and the signs!
How to live a more intuitive, healthy lifestyle
Follow the 7 steps above to really TUNE IN. Drop the tracking devices and listen. Give it a try for 2 weeks and see what happens!
One thing is for sure: I can guarantee you'll feel freedom from the anxiety of tracking, labeling foods as good/bad, and punishing yourself in the gym.
Was there something eye opening in this post? Share in the comments below!
Keep moving XX,