I am what I like to call ‘an intuitive eater.’
On my first trip to India, I chose to eat vegetarian, as a way to experiment in a place where it was easy as its a part of the culture to not eat beef. I was vegetarian for 4 months and when I returned back home I was hesitant for the first few weeks to eat meat. Eventually, I began to slowly incorporate it back into my diet, however never felt the same pleasure from eating meat as I had previously.
Fast forward 5 years later — and I have spent the majority of them as a vegetarian. I have noticed any cravings of meat slowly diminish over time, and I have enjoyed experimenting with different plant based diets — raw, vegan, macrobiotic and Ayurvedic to name a few. I do this for two reasons, one is simply due to my health: I feel lighter, brighter and more clear in both body and mind when I eat less meat, dairy and processed foods. The second reason is for a cause bigger than me: the planet. I believe the way in which humans have abused the food industry (all forms of food, not just meat!) have disrupted the natural rhythms in which foods and animals are meant to be harvested. On a global scale, we have lost the essence of respect for food. Food was once seen as nourishment, therefor sacred, as the entire act of harvesting, preparing and eating the food was an intentional and mindful act for survival.
The beauty of life is that we always have a choice. It is our individual right and personal duty to shape our own experience to be more fulfilled.
A part of my yoga practice (off the mat) has been my choice in how I nourish myself, and it always begins physically, with what I take into my body. Whenever I have a choice, I prefer to support people, farms, shops and restaurants who are also mindful in their practices. Fortunately, I am not the only one. We have seen a dramatic rise in consciousness and people are slowly realizing the benefits of eating less meat and chemical grown foods from packages.
As a planet we are slowly returning to our roots — understanding the power of holistic health and viewing food as medicine.
Throughout my time experimenting with different food patterns (vegan, vegetarian, raw, Ayurvedic, macrobiotic), I have not found any one to consistently serve my body. Instead I have found ease and support in incorporating different aspects from each philosophy. I have found 'intuitive eating' to be my personal food philosophy. Below are my simple tips for eating intuitive:
Awareness: I have never believed in ‘diets’ or ever want to limit myself (within moderation), so instead, I focus on making mental notes of how I feel after eating certain foods or combinations of foods, as well as my digestion. Most often, the more fresh and wholesome my diet is, the better my system flows. A great way to document this is by keeping a food journal (and if you feel healthy the majority of the time, only write down when your body feels ‘off’ and what you ate that day) to help connect the dots and find patterns of foods that don’t serve you well. There is a direct correlation with the physical body and our overall health. I know the better I nourish my body, the more sharp my mind is, the more energy I have and the easier I sleep at night. These are simple things that make a huge difference in how I feel within my body that inspire me to eat foods that serve me, so I can then serve all other aspects of my life with strength and ease.
When eating intuitively, it is important to remember that this food philosophy is an individualist approach with no right or wrong answer, what works for you may not work for your partner, and thats okay. Do your best to listen to what your body is asking for.
Acknowledge Cravings: I make efforts to acknowledge any cravings, as I know my body is usually lacking whatever it feels it’s missing! If you listen and pay attention, you will be able to decipher whether you are craving something fresh, sweet or salty. Food grounds us and when you have a well balanced diet (all 6 tastes, as according to Ayurveda: sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, sour, pungent) your mind will be more calm and focused. When you notice these cravings, acknowledge them and opt for a healthy version of the flavour. For example, If you are craving sweet, choose organic dark chocolate with less sugar, fresh fruits or a smoothie with honey. If your body craves meat, opt for a lighter cooked version of animal protein, such as fresh steamed fish or lean organic farm raised chicken. Remember to be flexible in your mind. Intuitive eating is about creating a healthy relationship with food and your body, without any 'rules' or 'limitations'. If you become too rigid in your mind about what you ‘can and can’t’ eat, you may find that yourself feeling aggravated and far from satisfied.
Eat what feels good when you body asks for it and leave what doesn’t.
Live locally: As I spend my time traveling between countries, climates and seasons, I have been exposed to the importance of eating ‘locally’ and try to incorporate this as much as possible. Mother Nature is our best teacher as she provides different countries with different seasons and native foods to that region throughout different times of the year. Depending on where you are in the world, you may not be able to offer yourself a completely balanced diet with only seasonal foods, but do your best to incorporate it least 50% of your diet with foods that are fresh and locally sourced. It’s an easy way to align yourself with nature, support local farmers markets, save money and stay creative while in the kitchen.
Be true: Whenever you have the power to make conscious decisions about your food intake, do. Treat your eating habits as you do your asana practice — just as you would prefer to go to a yoga class (or any class/subject for that matter!) with the most qualified teacher who will leave you feeling radiant, empowered and nurtured…why should your meals be any different? Of course, there are times (due to cultural situations or travel) when we may have to ‘let go and surrender’ to our idea of perfect healthy eating. This may mean tasting a small bite out of respect to the person who has invited you for a meal, or eating packaged food while on a bus travel in a foreign land. When this happens, know that it's okay. Your body will still be strong and healthy, even with a bit of fried or processed food. Likewise, if and when you find yourself in any ‘uncomfortable food situations’ know that each situation should be approached with individual discernment — don’t eat something you absolutely don’t feel comfortable with if you know it will upset you. Most important, stay authentic to you. People will often ask questions regarding your food choices, so do your best to educate them on your food philosophy, without speaking negatively about anyone else's choices. Education is the most powerful tool we can give, so share you personal experiences with others as you may inspire them to make changes in their own diets.
LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures. Read more about her here