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Intuitive Eating: How to Listen to Your Body’s Signals

By MELISSA COSTELLO

With the abundance of different diets and conflicting sources of information out there, it can be extremely overwhelming when deciding what, and how, to eat.

Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, grain-free, The Zone, Atkins and Weight Watchers (to name only a few) are all types of diets that can put us in a very tight and tasteless box when it comes to food and our health.

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What I have come to learn from my own journey (and my at times very tumultuous relationship with food) is that there is no diet that is good for everyone. Working with thousands of clients as a chef, nutritionist and cleanse expert over the past seven years has taught me that everyone has different needs when it comes to their health and what they eat.

Just as no two snowflakes are alike, there is no one human exactly like another. We are all diverse, and our bodies need different things. Factors such as metabolism, hormones, age and sex all need to be factored in, which most diets do not consider.

After many years of being a hardcore vegan and wearing that badge proudly, I found myself in a situation where I needed to add a bit of animal protein back into my diet to promote healing after a very stressful time in my life. My adrenals were shot, my hormones were unbalanced and I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease. I resisted this diet change on many levels, not only because I am an avid animal lover, but also because I had spent many years (in my pre-nutritionist days) judging others for their poor eating choices.

I found myself at a crossroads. Veganism had served me so well up until that point, yet in order to rebuild my health, I had to learn to let go of the misconceptions I had about what a healthy diet was. What I realized through it all was that my body needed something more, and if I wanted to fully heal, I had to listen to it and give it what it needed.

I finally came to the conclusion that I could truly have optimal health without ever having to follow a specific diet again. If I quieted myself enough to listen, my body would tell me exactly what it needed. This is what I call "intuitive eating."

Most people turn to diets or weight-loss programs because they feel like they need help or support or are looking for a quick fix. Following the latest fad is a surefire way to diminish your health and avoid ever creating long-lasting and sustainable healthy eating habits.

Intuitive eating is not hard, but it is a process. To really be aware of our body's signals, we must first clear out the toxins that have built up to determine what we need to eliminate and what we need to add more of. Regardless of how healthy we think we eat, we all have toxins that need to be cleaned out periodically.

If you are a regular consumer of processed foods, sugar, trans-fatty acids, sodium and outside stimulants such as caffeine, it's highly likely your body is out of balance and needs certain nutrients it has been denied.

If health is something that you truly value, then finding the foods that will nourish your body is a huge step toward optimal wellness. Intuitive eating takes your relationship with food and your health to a higher level. Once you detox your body and cut out the foods that are not serving you, your body will start to normalize. Your metabolism will reset, your digestion will begin to heal, you will have more energy, and then your body can let you know what it needs.

You may be wondering how this differs from a craving. Cravings are usually chemically or emotionally related. Sugar is a biologically addictive nonfood that is now being called a drug by many. Did you know that 80 percent of all processed food has added sugar? And that there are scientists in labs creating food with the perfect combination of sugar, salt and fat to spark the pleasure center in your brain, leaving you wanting more?

Yes, we do have the power to make our own choices about what we put in our mouths and our bodies. When we treat our bodies with care and give them good, clean, whole foods, they will treat us well in return.

So, to begin your journey of intuitive eating, start to slow down and pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Before you do, ask yourself if you are really nourishing your body with what you are consuming or if you are just following some fad diet. Remember, the cleaner you eat, the more you will be able to hear your body and get intuitive signals -- and in return your body will be functioning at its highest capacity. It might take some time, but just imagine never having to be a slave to another diet program or label again!

--Melissa

Readers -- Had you heard about intuitive eating before reading this piece? Do you practice intuitive eating? What has been your experience? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Melissa Costello, the founder of Karma Chow, is a certified nutritionist, author, celebrity chef and cleanse expert. Melissa is the author of "The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook" and the recently released "The Clean in 14 Detox," a two-week revolutionary food-based cleansing program designed to help you adopt healthy eating as a lifestyle instead of the next fad diet. She regularly contributes to national publications such as "Women's Health" and "Shape." She has been seen on Better Life TV, San Diego Living and TV Guide Network's "Secrets of the Hollywood Body."

To learn more about Karma Chow and Melissa's services, find her at karmachow.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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