Intuitive Eating and Self-Care

In times of stress, our bodies are in fight or flight mode. When we have inadequate nutrition, this places even more stress on our bodies. How do we care for ourselves when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted and know that we are still far from getting back to “normal”?

By Laura Henson, RD, LDN

When you think of self-care, what comes to mind?  Coffee with a friend?  Pedicures?  A vacation?

 

Each of these sounds amazing, especially now during the seemingly never-ending uncertainty we are all experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic. We are left to continue questioning if we will ever return to some semblance of normalcy.  Many of us are feeling the need for self-care more than ever, and yet, may not be able to actually engage in the activities we prefer.

 

Whether it is due to the inability to go into your favorite coffee shop due to social distancing practices, not having extra funds for pedicures because you or your partner lost their job, or being drained of the time or energy to do anything because you have now added “teacher” to your already long list of responsibilities.

Sometimes, these not-so-glamorous self-care activities help us as much, if not more than, going to the beach for a long weekend.

- Laura Henson

Self Care Doesn’t Need to Be Glamorous

How do we care for ourselves when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted and know that we are still far from getting back to “normal”?

 

Certainly, these things could help replenish you, but there are other ways to practice self-care in a more practical manner.

 

Think about a day when you were tired and saw your sink piled up with dishes, and you mustered up the energy to do them because you knew you would be frustrated when you saw them still waiting for you in the morning.  Or, when you really wanted to watch another episode of your favorite TV show but knew you would be exhausted in the morning if you did not go to bed at a decent time.

 

Sometimes, these not-so-glamorous self-care activities help us as much, if not more than, going to the beach for a long weekend.

So How Does Intuitive Eating Fit Into All of This?

Isn’t it mostly about listening to your body and giving it what it wants?  What if your body is giving you little to no hunger cues because you are so overwhelmingly stressed, and the thought of eating makes you queasy?  Or what if you do not have the time or energy to cook a meal?

 

According to the dietitians who developed Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, “Intuitive eating is a dynamic interplay of instinct, emotion, and rational thought.”

 

We cannot always count on our hunger and fullness cues to show up accurately and we don’t always have the resources to get the foods we crave.  In times of stress, our bodies are in fight or flight mode.  When we have inadequate nutrition, this places even more stress on our bodies.

 

If we know we have little time and energy to shop for and prepare meals and snacks, we need to have a backup plan to be able to fuel our bodies in order to keep up with the demands that continue to be placed upon them.

Your Nutrition Back Up Plan

Your nutrition back up plan can be quite simple:

 

  1. Identify 1 or 2 meals and snacks that are likely to last, such as prepackaged, frozen, canned, etc.  You could also put a favorite takeout restaurant on your plan.  
  2. Once you have identified your meals and snacks, try to keep them on hand at all times. 
  3. When you don’t have the time or energy to figure out a meal, go to your nutrition back up plan and choose a meal you have on hand.

 

Example meals:  frozen pizza with frozen veggies, grilled cheese with soup, ramen noodles with frozen peas and scrambled eggs, frozen waffle peanut butter and jelly sandwich with applesauce.

 

Example snacks:  trail mix, crackers with peanut butter, granola bars.

 

Tough days can be unpredictable and what better way to care for yourself than to have a quick and easy meal already planned and in your pantry or refrigerator/freezer?

Laura specializes in nutrition therapy for adults, adolescents and children with disordered eating patterns and sees clients in Lutz, Alexander & Associates Nutrition Therapy’s Durham and RTP/Brier Creek Offices. She also enjoys collaborating with families to navigate childhood feeding issues. Laura received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Marshall University and completed her dietetic internship with Iowa State University. She worked as a nutrition educator in elementary schools with Marshall University’s Nutrition Education Program. Most recently, she was a clinical dietitian at Veritas Collaborative, treating individuals with eating disorders. Laura promotes Health At Every Size® principles and practices a non-diet approach. She is currently completing her Intuitive Eating Counselor Certification. Laura welcomes clients of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Laura is the mom of 2 girls and is always working on a crafty project! You can follow her on Instagram @graceful_rdn

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