Weston: Our culture really values an intellectual approach to wellness. And when Christy talks about an intuitive relationship with food, it’s more of a body-wisdom approach. If I’m hungry, I could go into an intellectual process and say, “Well, the last time I ate was this time and I know I’m only supposed to eat three meals a day, so intellectually, I should not be hungry right now.” Whereas, if you’re attuning to body wisdom instead of intellectual wisdom, you might say, “Oh, I can sense the sensations of hunger. There’s a lot of valuable information there.” Learning to actually trust your body’s wisdom—meditation is an incredible asset in being able to build that skill.
Can you talk about the role of interoceptive awareness—the capacity to feel the sensations inside our bodies—and the mind-body connection in meditation and intuitive eating?
Weston: In meditation, the process of sitting and feeling the body definitely improves interoception because we might be able to tap into sensations in the body that we previously weren’t aware of, including hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. There’s so much information available to us on the intuitive level when we’re willing to drop in and just feel what’s going on in our bodies in real time—and then notice the thinking patterns that often come up in response to those feelings. And vice versa. There’s a feedback loop between the way we think about our bodies and how our bodies feel that goes both ways.
Harrison: That feedback loop is so important. Intuitive eating often feels daunting to people. Sometimes my clients feel so disconnected from their bodies to begin with, they’re like, “How could I possibly listen to my body?” But when they start to get in touch with their internal cues and that interoceptive awareness starts to flourish, it’s exciting and propels them forward in their intuitive eating practice.
How could that mind-body feedback loop help people with being better connected to their hunger, for instance?
Harrison: Hunger doesn’t always just manifest as growling in the stomach. It can be thoughts of food, difficulty concentrating, feeling fatigued, feeling anxious—there are all these ways that our mind and body get involved and show us hunger cues. Fullness cues as well—sometimes people will feel sad that a meal’s ending or that they’re getting full. So that’s a sign they might notice more mentally or emotionally than physically—but then, over time, they can start to connect how that feels in the body.
I think of sensorimotor therapy, a form of psychotherapy where you’re intellectualizing and talking about feelings, but then the therapist will be like, “Where do you feel that in the body?” and you can start to locate where certain emotions are and how they are showing up. It can be similar with intuitive eating. Like, “Okay, I’m thinking about food, I’m fantasizing about my next meal. Are there any physical sensations that go along with that? Oh, I’m sweating a little, I have a bit of a headache, there is an emptiness in my stomach that I didn’t notice before.”