Sitting in front of the TV, eating dinner, you notice that your plate is empty.
With one eye still on the screen, you head back to the kitchen to grab some more.
There’s only a little food left, so you figure that you might as well finish it off instead of putting it into a container for tomorrow. You head back to the couch and absentmindedly continue eating.
Not long later, you decide to get something to drink and when you stand up you notice how full you feel. Stomach bloated and uncomfortable, you ask yourself, “Why do I always do this…why can’t I stop when I’m full?”
Can you relate?
This is an extremely common issue that many of us struggle with, but the good news is that there are simple steps we can take to learn to honor our fullness.
As a science-based intuitive eating coach, here is an analogy that I like to use with my clients when it comes to learning how to listen to our body on our journey to becoming an intuitive eater.
Imagine that you’re in your car and you’re driving on the highway. You check your dashboard and you’re driving 200 km/h…Wow, that is very fast and dangerous to be going that speed because it doesn’t feel like you are totally in control.
Another issue is that you’re looking for a sign on the side of the road for your exit. You’re going so fast and things feel so chaotic that you’re having trouble seeing it. Finally, you see a sign for the exit, but, oh no, it’s five exits past the one you were meant to take. You’ve gone way past where you need to go. You’re cursing to yourself, frustrated and annoyed that you let this happen again.
Yup, this isn’t the first time this has happened; in fact, because you’re always driving so fast, this is a regular occurrence.
Now, I want you to imagine that driving in your car that fast is you going going going throughout the day. You have a million things to do and no time to do it. One task to the next with no time to slow down.
The sign on the side of the highway is like our body saying, “I’m full, please stop eating.” But we are so distracted and going so quickly that we can’t read it until we realize that we’ve missed our exit (our comfortable fullness level) and now have to take an exit that is past where we wanted to be (uncomfortably full).
There are lots of tips and tools to help us to reconnect with our body and what it’s telling us, but one of the first and most important tools is to slow down so that we can read the signs!
How often are we checking in with ourselves throughout the day?
How often are we asking how hungry we feel before we eat?
How often are we asking ourselves how full we feel as we eat?
How often are we waiting a few minutes for the food to hit our stomach before we head for more?
More often than not, we aren’t doing any of it, so let’s learn how! Are you ready for this “mind-blowing” trick?
Well, you might have heard of it—it’s called breathing.
Yes, this sounds overly simple but so many of us aren’t actually doing it correctly.
Are you breathing from your chest and lifting your shoulders upward as you breathe? This prevents us from taking a full breath. What we actually want to be doing is breathing deep into the low belly and expanding outward. Almost as though we are filling a big balloon in our stomach.
Think low and deep belly breathing, in and out, and not high-chest breathing, rising our shoulders up and down.
Now that we are breathing a little better, we want to elongate our out-breath.
Having a longer exhale than inhale triggers our vagus nerve, which determines whether or not we’re in our parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, and heal) or our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight).
We want to be in our parasympathetic in order to be aware of our bodies’ cues, such as feeling fullness.
Yet so often we are feeling incredibly stressed and are unknowingly operating out of fight-and-flight response, which makes it difficult to read signs if we’re fighting or fleeing (driving down the highway at 200 km/hr).
Try doing the four-seven-eight breathing exercise in order to get into the parasympathetic nervous system. By doing so, we will feel the difference in how calm and connected we are to our body.
Do it with me now.
Step 1: We inhale through our nose for the count of four, filling our low belly up like a balloon (1-2-3-4).
Step 2: We hold our breath for the count of seven, keeping our shoulders and jaw relaxed (1-2-3-4-5-6-7).
Step 3: We exhale for the count of eight out through our mouth deflating our low belly (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8).
Step 4: Repeat a minimum of three more times (the more the better).
How do you feel? Calmer, like you’ve slowed down a bit?
Well, congrats, because we are now hanging out in our parasympathetic nervous system!
Our lives are stressful, fast-paced, and often overwhelming, which is why it’s essential to take a few minutes several times a day, especially right before we eat, to hit the reset button and slow down by doing this simple breathing exercise.
The more we do it, the more we’re training ourselves to be in a parasympathetic state (rest, digest, and heal), in order to connect to, listen to, and honor our body.
Give it a try and let me know in the comments below how you felt after trying out the four-seven-eight breathing exercise!