What do we mean by intuitive movement and eating?

Intuitive movement

The world is full of messages about what we should eat, how and when we should exercise.  Some of this information is led by science, some is pseudoscience or just plain mis-information put out by companies that stand to profit from us. We are bombarded with messages all day every day about what we should do – to the point that we become brainwashed into ignoring our own body’s signals.

I was particularly guilty of buying into health and fitness information via the media and letting that influence my diet and exercise patterns a couple of years back. The more I work in the fitness industry, the more I learn to question this information and start asking who stands to profit from me following this advice. There is a growing movement of people rejecting these messages and instead taping into our own bodies – it is called “Intuitive Movement”.  So what do we mean by this?  Intuitive Movement (IM) is an approach to exercise which encourages people to tune in and restore trust in what their body is telling them. Trust that could have been eroded by the diet culture sending messages, that taking up less space and being thinner = being healthier.  It encourages you to unlearn the idea that exercise exists purely to sculpt, shrink or grow your body and instead reframes movement as a way to nourish your body and mind.

In the same way that Intuitive Eating (IE) focuses on listening to your body and fuelling it with what it asks for. If you aren’t really sure what I mean by this think back to when you’ve had a very indulgent weekend away, with lots of rich foods, cooked breakfasts and maybe alcohol. Have you ever then started to crave a salad or some fruit when you get back? IE is just that but a little more subtle. Reading signals like low mood or getting the shakes when you need something to eat is also another example of reading the signals your body is sending you.

Like IE, Intuitive Movement (IM) is all about recognising that sometimes you feel energised to do exercise, other days you may feel lethargic or sore and that you need a certain type of movement. It promotes making choices based on the way you feel like moving and not slogging your way through a workout because you think you should.

The word ‘should’ has a lot to answer for! How many times a day do you use it when speaking to yourself and others? I challenge you to keep a count. I should do a workout tonight, I should lose some weight, I should be a smaller size. Should implies a chore and not a desire.

IM is about asking what feels right today, am I stiff and achy and so from that information I can plan to do a warmup and some stretching instead, or today I am full of energy and I fancy a powerful workout.

Both IE and IM are about taking time to listen into our internal cues. With lives so busy and a plethora of external information available, we have gotten very good at ignoring/ suppressing the messages from our own bodies. Taking time to reconnect with meditation is a great start to blocking out external factors and bringing us back to ourselves.  

We need to get better at checking in with our bodies and how they feel about movement on that day in that moment; time and headspace are the two factors that stop us from taking time to reflect. We’ve usually got a list of eight things to do at any one time and we know from the media, that exercise should (there’s that word again) be on that list so we power through and get it done just to tick it off the list. We don’t often stop.  Sit with our eyes closed and do a quick check in or body scan to observe aches and stiffness.  We crack on with our days, being productive and maybe that’s great for a while, but it’s pretty unsatisfying in the long run. I don’t know about you but it’s one thing that I miss about the enforced lock downs.

Could we all find time in our routine to address this, it could be taking time while having a coffee first thing or brushing your teeth (if that’s the only time you have to do it) to scan your body and notice if anything feels awkward or tight. Then we can plan our movement for the day that will help us feel our best.

It’s not just about the body though, it’s about how we feel overall in ourselves. We might feel a restlessness in our minds that could be satisfied by a walk outside in nature, a mindful yoga session or Pilates workout. Sometimes my body is rested but I’m not feeling like a fast and hilly run but my mind is looking for the release of a fun walk run session.

Finding time for ourselves in our day is a tough one.  I can only repeat what others say about taking care of ourselves and practicing this particular form of self-care, so that we can look out for everyone else to the best of our ability.  

Let me leave that thought with you by painting this picture. You are busy all day and you need to tick off your workout at the gym so you go and do a heavy weights class. You arrive stressed, you go a bit heavier than you should on that day because shouldn’t

I should be seeing progress by now…you get home stressed and exhausted, your blood sugar is low as you didn’t have time for a snack before your workout and you’re snappy. You get home and your family want their time with you now and you can’t think about anything other than shutting yourself in a dark room and having a lay down. I’ve certainly been there and done that.

What we could do instead is reframe it, have a small snack on the way to the gym and do a quiet mobility and core session with some nice calming music in a corner of the gym. You arrive home refreshed and ready to spend some time with your loved ones feeling limber and energised. I know which sounds better to me! I’d love to know if you give it a try! Get in touch and let me know how you get on here.

Sara McDonnell

Leave a Comment