The Calm Kitchen: Our Mind-Body Connection
My last post introduced the concept of Intuitive Eating. There is a lot to get your head around before you can dive into the topic. If you have dieted for a long time, the fact that there are no rules is a big adjustment. It's an exercise in experimenting, observing how your body reacts to different foods, adjusting, and trying again. Intuitive Eating is based around the belief that your body holds more wisdom than your mind about what is right for you. This is what the term 'gut feeling' is based on. If we can listen to our gut - our core intuition, we can access our own internal navigation tool.
I was introduced to this concept when I first read Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck in 2012. I had just moved to San Francisco and was suffering with chronic lower back pain that I had been trying to treat for years. I had tried acupuncture, reflexology, spinal injections, flotation tanks and the last resort - an obscenely expensive bed.
A few months previously a Chinese Medicine practitioner had told me that in order to cure my back pain, I just needed to quit my job. Oh, I laughed out loud! His point was that my condition was stress-related and that work stress was causing my body to constrict and tighten. There were others around me also dealing with stress-related conditions - skin/digestion/sleep issues. The lesson was that when we are not coping with stress, our body will find a way to alert us.
This idea - that our body expresses what is truly going on in our lives, was expanded on in Beck's book. It made so much sense to me. I bought several copies of the book and have gifted it to many friends over the years. I even signed up for her Life Coach training programme the following year.
The first principle in Intuitive Eating is 'reject the diet mentality'. Ok, but as a culture we are seeped in diet culture. Whether it's explicit or subtle it's all around us, through the media, culture and entertainment. If we reject it what are we left with? We are left with our own thoughts, feelings and sensations. When we can start to look inward instead of to an external programme (diet) we can start to hear the signals that our body is sending us daily. The best introductory tool to this concept is the body scan meditation. This link is to a video by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has written excellent books on mindfulness-based stress reduction.
If you can tune into this practice, it will help you on the path to quietening your thoughts and hearing what your body is telling you.
Joanna Bourke is a Life Coach and Ballymaloe-trained cook. After several years working for a global tech company in Silicon Valley, she left to follow her passion for food and cooking. She has cooked at yoga and business retreats in Ireland and France, and hosts a workshop called The Calm Kitchen - focused on the mental health benefits of cooking and Intuitive Eating.