Sensing the Beat

Earlier this year, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch released The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles to Nourish a Healthy Relationship with Food.

Tribole and Resch describe intuitive eating (IE) as a process of relearning instincts we once knew. They write, “We are born intuitive eaters, but cultural messages to diet and lose weight often infiltrate our minds and sway us away from listening to our bodies.” Intuitive eating therefore stands in direct opposition to dieting. While the latter relies on external rules to dictate what, when, and how much to eat, intuitive eating honors the importance of nutrition knowledge (especially if you have certain health conditions) yet puts your inner experience front and center.

The workbook includes an entire section devoted to discerning our inner experience, an ability more technically referred to as interoceptive awareness. Of all the workbook’s self-assessments and activities, my favorite was: “Can You Perceive Your Heart Rate?,” summarized below in three parts:

Part 1. Physically Monitor Your Pulse (Warm-up). By placing your right index & middle finger on the wrist of your left hand, count your heartbeats for 60 seconds.

Part 2. Perceive Your Heart Rate (Note: This may take time and practice). From a calm and comfortable position, and without manually finding your pulse, silently count your heartbeats for 60 seconds.

Part 3. Reflection. e.g., “What was your self-talk like when you were trying to perceive your heart beating (especially if this took a great deal of patience)?” If your thoughts were harsh and critical, what would it be like to do this exercise from a curious place instead?

The practice of perceiving our beating heart is one way to build interoceptive awareness. To be clear, the authors argue that the more awareness we have of our inner sensations (such as hunger, taste preferences, and fullness -- or the unique physical manifestations of our emotions), the more effective we are in determining what we need. At once logical and revolutionary, Tribole and Resch remind us that building inner attunement (though no small feat) may be our guide to self care.

Recommended for clinicians: 5/5

Recommended for individuals trying to make a change: 5/5

(i.e., Recommended :)