Grocery shopping can often feel daunting, and a practicing intuitive eater might ask, “where do I start?” First, identify if you are at a stage in your practice where you are considering gentle nutrition. For example:
- Do you feel able to choose food simply because it gives you pleasure without feeling guilty?
- Do you consider the taste of the food while recognizing how it may make you physically feel?
- Do you have a medical condition that may be helped with nutritional considerations?
- Do you feel neutral about nutrition overall?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then you can begin to consider healthy eating when making food choices. If not, use this as an opportunity to practice giving yourself unconditional permission to eat while challenging the food police. Ask yourself, what foods sound good to you? If you are ready to take a look at nutrition, here are some tips for navigating products with labels:
- Front of the package: Grocery stores are packed with products that contain messages claiming health benefits and even attach morality to specific foods, often labeled as “guilt-free.” Other products display statements like “low-calorie,” “light,” “all-natural,” “fat-free,” “sugar-free,” and “real ingredients” that may trigger a diet mentality or eating disorder Use this as an opportunity to stay connected to your internal wisdom and what foods you know you enjoy or make you feel good. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food and that you have given yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods that you truly enjoy.
- Back of the package: Nutritional Facts may also be triggering if you are still stuck in the diet mentality, particularly if you tend to fixate on calories or grams. Once again, return to your internal wisdom and remind yourself that we eat food, not numbers. Ask yourself, ‘what are my intentions behind purchasing this food?
Is this something you would enjoy, or are you motivated by the diet-focused claims on the package? If you are ready to integrate gentle nutrition, consider how this might factor into your decision. For example, if you have noticed that your GI systems tend to feel better when you eat foods higher in fiber, you might take this into account when choosing between two types of bread. Perhaps you are concerned about the effect of a high-sodium product on your blood pressure, and you choose a lower-sodium product because you know you would enjoy it just as much if you seasoned it yourself. Maybe you choose a certain snack bar because it contains more protein, and your experience tells you that this can help keep you satisfied until your next meal. Instead of focusing on the numbers, ask yourself a few questions… Does this food contain flavors that I am likely to enjoy? Is this food likely to promote satisfaction, given what I know about basic nutrition?
Remember, intuitive eating is a PRACTICE; there is no right or wrong! Be compassionate with yourself in this process and use every occasion as a learning experience.