We are born natural eaters.
We are born with the innate ability to eat comfortably, easily and peacefully, in accordance with our unique physiology. Our bodies are carefully designed to regulate our eating, without needing our conscious attention. Hormones like leptin and ghrelin regulate sensations of hunger and fullness. After a period without food, our insulin levels drop to alert the fat cells to release stored energy. Symptoms such as bloating, discomfort and nausea arise to show us how the body is coping with the digestion of this food. None of this is under our conscious control. It unfolds, moment-to-moment, in response to how we eat each day.
The difference between the natural eater and the disordered eater is very simple. Natural eaters have maintained contact with this deep intelligence, and their eating choices are a result of a constant, unconscious dialogue between belly and brain. Disordered eaters, who have bellies and brains just like the rest of us, have lost connection with these regulatory systems, and have learned other patterns of thought and behaviour. The conditioned mind is just that: a way of thinking, or behaving, which has been learned from our environment: parents, school, culture, society. We have learned to eat in other ways, overriding the signals our body is trying to communicate to us. We eat because it’s there. We eat to entertain ourselves. We eat, while watching TV, to sedate ourselves. We eat to be a ‘good girl’. Or perhaps we don’t eat to be a ‘good girl’. Disordered eating is a spectrum of behaviours, ranging from the subtle to the extreme, and can manifest in many different ways. But all disordered eaters have forgotten how to tap into the inner resource of our natural eater, which lies dormant within us, a seed of potential we all have.
Natural eaters are not ‘perfect’ eaters. Over/undereating may occur as a result of abundance or lack within the environment, or as a response to mood swings and overwhelm. Even natural eaters may use food to regulate their emotions. But there is no guilt or shame that registers as a result of this, and a period of overeating is often followed by a phase of not feeling hungry, or simply not feeling interested in food for a few days. They trust the systems of homeostasis to bring the body back into balance. Seasonal changes or life circumstances may cause weight loss or gain, but again no shame or guilt is registered. Natural eaters trust their body to regulate itself, without endless cycles of self-doubt, punishment, judgement and criticism. Eating what they need is not an issue. Their body shape and size is not an issue. Natural eaters have a comfortable and easy relationship with that which nourishes and sustains them: food.
I longed to be a natural eater for many, many years. I longed for the effortlessness, the ease, the peace of mind and body that I desperately lacked. What I didn’t know what that my natural eater was here, all the time. But I wasn’t looking in the right places.
Your natural eater cannot be found in food plans, diets, regimes or programmes. She does not live in the future.
Your natural eater cannot be found when ruminating on what was eaten last night, she is not found in endless cycles of guilt and shame. She does not live in the past.
Your natural eater cannot be found when scrolling, watching TV, or obsessively checking your phone. She does not live within a screen.
Your natural eater cannot be found by using willpower, discipline, or harsh criticism. She does not respond to how you think things should be. She does not live in the mind.
Your natural eater lives here, in this moment now, within the felt-sense of your body. She is accessed by asking the question: How do I feel, now? Not how you want to feel, or how you believe you should feel. How you actually feel, within your body.
Now, feel your belly space.
Stop reading this for a moment, and take your conscious attention inside, deep within the belly space.
This space that has a language, but there are no words. This space communicates in a quiet, subtle voice. This is where your natural eater lives.
The conditioned mind, the habits of a lifetime, the thoughts and behaviours that you have learned over the course of your life: these will arise. They will come. You will see food, and want to eat food. You will have breakfast because it’s breakfast time. You will numb out with food and TV on Friday because that’s what you’ve learned to do. Everything will roll, just as it always does.
But things will change as you begin to interject your days with moments of belly awareness. Moments of pausing, breathing, and feeling this deep space. This deep space will tell you: NO. I don’t want food in me now. I’m hurting. Leave me alone. Or it will tell you: YES. I need something. I need something warm, soft, liquid. Something that will leave me feeling soothed and comforted. Something that my juicy entrails can easily handle.
Don’t force this process or try to speed it up. Fighting with yourself is just more of the same old pattern. Identifying with your natural eater, and dropping the conditioned mind of habits and old patterns, takes time, repetition, and perseverance.
Staying with it is a worthwhile journey. You begin to taste the peace, space and effortlessness you were born to have. No longer feel compelled to eat in ways that hurt you, because you deeply register the hurt that your behaviour has caused you. In our group last week, we asked ourselves if we could eat without hurting ourselves. This simple inquiry proved helpful and supportive for many of us. We didn’t shame or force ourselves to eat differently. We paused, and wondered if there was a kinder way of being available to us.
Natural eating is your birth right. No one else can deliver it to you, or rewire your brain for you. You need to notice, moment-to-moment, where your attention is. And then put your focus on the place that can truly support your eating, the home of your natural eater, who lives in your belly in this moment now.
Now I know where to look, I find my natural eater more of the time. Indeed, I think I may well be a natural eater myself now. I never thought I would say that. I never thought the struggle would end. But I think it has. And if I can change my brain, and the habits deeply rooted in early childhood, I think you can too.
IEWIN exists so that you don’t need to wander, searching in the wilderness, for years like I did. IEWIN is a map to lead you home. Home to your natural eater, who’s already here, waiting for you.
Here are some dates for your diary. We are mainly based in Brighton (Emily) and Colchester (Jan). Are you interested in our approach? Then get a group together and invite us to come to you! We are intrepid women and we love to travel!
Fancy booking anything or want to know more? Check out the events tab on our Facebook page. And then message us on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesdays at 7.30pm: IEWIN Support group in Colchester every fortnight.
Wednesdays at 10am: Gentle Yoga + green smoothie at my place in Hove.
Thursdays at 7.30pm: Gentle Yoga + sleepy tea at Unit 4 in Brighton.
Sat 20th January: Winter Plant-Based Party and IEWIN workshop at Jan’s place in Bures. Contact us on Facebook if you’d like a spot – only 1 or 2 remaining.
Sun 21st January: Deeply Gentle Yoga in Colchester: sold out
Sat 3rd March: Spring Plant-Based Party and IEWIN workshop at Jan’s place in Bures.
Sun 4th March: Deeply Gentle Yoga in Colchester at the Lorraine George School of Dancing.
Tuesday 27th February at 10am: 5-week gentle yoga course begins in Hove.
Wednesday 28th February at 10am: 5-week gentle yoga course begins in Hove.
Wednesday 28th February at 7pm: 5-week IEWIN course begins in Hove.
Thursday 1st March at 9am: 5-week somatic (body-based) meditation course begins in Hove.
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Come and explore with me!
-@ieatwhatineed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
-Join our fortnightly IEWIN groups in Brighton and Colchester
-Work through The Process with me on a 121 basis, in person or via Skype/Zoom
-Come to one of my yoga classes in Brighton
-Check our our talks on