Empowered Eating for the New Year
A Holistic Approach to Nourishing Intentions for 2024 - By Julia Alderman
Reading time: 4 minutes
As 2024 approaches many of us may be getting ready to set intentions for the year ahead. To sow the seeds for change in aspects of our lives that are calling for our attention. For many this will include changing your diet or lifestyle to one that is more aligned with your beliefs or health goals. The New Year is a potent time, as it’s in this pause between the end of one calendar cycle and the beginning of the next, that we can access deeper insights into what we need if we give ourselves the time and space to quietly listen.
In my experience with over 15 years in clinical nutrition, it is our diet intentions, rather than resolutions, that lead to sustainable change. This is because a resolution is an absolute action and leaves no room for flexibility. As a result if you fail to meet your set action you are more likely to be left with a sense of shame, guilt and self-judgement, causing your diet to be filled with stress and negativity. In addition, following absolute diet rules disconnects you from your body and can create a constant struggle between body and mind. Intentions on the other hand offer us a path to follow, but allow for normal flexibility that is part of the human experience.
So, if you are tired of following diets that battle against your body and feel punishing and restrictive, rather than nourishing, then I would invite you to take a new perspective this coming year. Now is the time to befriend your body instead, to trust the wisdom it holds and become your own authority on what food is right for you.
If this resonates with you then consider taking one or all of these five suggestions into your diet intentions for 2024:
1. Honour your individual needs
Remember that your dietary needs might be different from your friends and loved ones. This is ok and the more you drop comparisons and judgements, and listen to your unique biology, the more your health and wellness will unfold.
2. Cultivate awareness of your diet habits
Awareness is the first step in changing the way we eat. If we understand what we eat and why then we have the ability to decide whether it is helpful, or to make a change. This allows our diet changes to come from our own self-knowledge, which is much more empowering and compassionate then imposing a diet on our body.
3. Let go of defining foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
Labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ creates a huge amount of diet tension and food fears. Instead try thinking about whether a food is helpful or unhelpful for your individual needs. This will vary over time, as your needs also change. The invitation is therefore to check-in with your body when you eat, to see what is helpful.
4. Embrace body hunger over mind hunger
We are exposed to so much diet and nutrition information that it is increasingly common for us to eat with our mind. If you spend much of your day thinking about what to eat or ‘should eat’, then this is a sign that you’re eating with mind hunger. The invitation to shift this pattern is to bring your awareness to your abdomen and develop a relationship with your body, asking it what food it desires. If you sit with your attention in your abdomen, a space opens where the innate wisdom of your body can be heard.
5. Bring pleasure and connection to the table
Eating is an embodied experience and gives us the opportunity to come back to ourselves, to connect with others and to the food that we’re eating. It is healthy for food to engage our senses and to be a joyful, pleasurable experience. If you are struggling with this you may want to consider practicing gratitude before meals; consciously considering where your food has come from and all those who have been involved in its journey to your plate; and eating slowly so that you can fully engage your senses.
Most of us eat at least three times per day and each time we eat we have the opportunity to tune into ourselves. Mealtimes can offer us the chance for self-enquiry and deep self-knowledge, if we have the courage to tune inwards and trust our bodies and knowing.
If this approach is calling to you, Julia is holding a 6-week on-line Empowered Eating course, starting 19 January 2024.