Why Self-Care is Key to Eating Intuitively

Self-care has been a bit of a buzzword lately, in 2018 self-care was actually the most popular app theme. But what does it mean? For a lot of people self-care dreams up images of bubble baths and yoga retreats but this may seem lofty and unrealistic for some.

Self-care is a holistic process to foster mindfulness, presence, wellness, engagement and self-respect. It is not one skill but instead a tool kit of ways to respect ourselves. This may include basic hygiene rituals, seeking therapy or counselling, having a supportive family and friend network, allowing yourself time to relax, having boundaries around work etc. etc.

Self-care practices are so vital to intuitive eating because when when we are in the throes of stress, the body’s biological fight-or-flight survival system is active. Blood flow is directed to where it is needed, away from the digestive system, shutting down hunger and fullness cues. Because of our busy, modern lives we are constantly switched on – notifications ping up on our phone 24/7 – so we never seem to have that ‘off’-duty’ time. Self-care is the process of attending to your physical and emotional needs, including adjusting the environment, your relationships and your daily routine to serve you.

Of course there is a privilege to self-care. Many people in the UK are suffering from hygiene poverty; people in poverty or at times of crisis caught between being able to heat their home, pay their rent, eat or be clean (The Hygiene Bank). Adjusting the environment may also be impossible or at least challenging for marginalised groups (e.g. people in larger bodies, non-white people, disabled people etc.).

If you are financially, emotionally and physically able to, reducing stress by addressing the following areas may improve your introspective awareness, allow you to trust your body and help you eat intuitively.

Physical Self-Care

  • Ensuring you get enough quality sleep

  • Getting regular medical and dental check-ups

  • Allowing yourself to take time off when you’re sick

  • Wearing comfortable clothes that you like wearing

  • Engaging in activities you enjoy

Emotional Self-Care

  • Making time for self-reflection

  • Being aware of your thoughts and emotions, without judgements

  • Identifying comforting activities and places

  • Making time to relax

  • Making time to have fun

  • Having hobbies and interests outside of work

  • Having compassion for yourself and others

  • Seeking help when needed

Addressing Relationships for Self-Care

  • Spending time with people who you enjoy and who sustain and support you

  • Having someone in your life you listen to and who support you

  • Staying in contact with important people in your life

Spiritual Self-Care

  • Spending time outdoors

  • Making time for reflection

  • Aware of the non-material aspects of life

  • Having a meditation practice

Addressing Boundaries for Self-Care

  • Maintaining a manageable schedule at work or school

  • Taking breaks from social media

  • Taking breaks from electronics

  • Saying no to projects/work/events when necessary

  • Speaking up when people attempt to cross your boundaries

You don’t have to do all of these practices to develop interoceptive awareness and develop intuition with food. Identify practices that resonate with you and try to take some time to develop a positive self-care routine.

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