Attunement means “to bring into harmony” or “to make aware or responsive.” As children, we rely on caregivers to be attuned to our needs. Self-care then becomes our own responsibility. Throughout life, we face obstacles that disrupt our ability to recognize our needs or trust our body’s innate cues. Stress and mood disorders to trauma and substance abuse are all obstacles to attunement.
(1) Practice checking in vs. checking out.
Nurture your awareness of physical sensations that arise within the body like those connected to emotions and bodily states (ex: full bladder, racing heart, satiety, hunger cues). This is crucial to building attunement. Be aware if you’re eating because “it’s time” or there’s food available, but you’re not actually hungry. Ask yourself, “How hungry am I feeling?” “How much do I need to feel satisfied?” Rely less on external signals and more on internal cues to guide your eating.
(2) Break your food rules.
Evaluate your food rules and where they came from. When following a diet, you’re essentially prioritizing a set of external rules over your internal cues. Permission is key to building attunement!
(3) Decrease distractions while dining.
If you always multi-task through meals, consider experimenting with a distraction-free meal here and there. Slow down and notice how your food tastes and how it feels in your body.
(4) Ignore the numbers.
The greater the reliance on numbers like weight and nutrition facts, the harder it becomes to trust your body’s innate hunger and fullness signals. Awareness is a right-brain activity—different from the left-brain’s analytical approach that gets exercised when dieting. Letting go of numbers will feel challenging at first, but the freedom that follows is worth it!
(5) Turn down the volume on unhelpful influences.
One major challenge of building attunement is integrating inner (thoughts, feelings, body) with outer (family, community, culture) worlds. Your minds can become infiltrated with “noise” from diet culture and influencers. Be purposeful in turning down the volume on some things for a while and turning up the volume on select others to tune into your body’s feedback.
(6) Take care not to compare.
Comparison keeps you in everyone else’s body but your own. It often drowns out your authentic self because you don’t trust yourself. When it comes to nourishing your body, you’re the expert on what’s right for you!
(7) Be kind to your body.
Prioritizing daily self-care practices, such as restorative sleep, joyful movement, stress relief, and screen-free time will make it easier to notice and respond to cues from your body and more specific or subtle self-care needs.
(8) Encourage yourself to experiment.
Look at your relationship with food with curiosity. Maybe certain habits are so ingrained that you’re consistently overriding your body’s needs. If so, change things up, reassuring yourself that it’s okay to experiment with new strategies.
(9) Cultivate emotional literacy.
For every emotion, there’s a physical sensation and a need. Feelings need to be heard, felt, and expressed in order to run their course. The more awareness you have of inner sensations including the physical manifestations of emotions, the more effective you are at finding foodless fulfillment and tailoring your self-care.
A registered dietitian’s role is helping individuals break down barriers to attunement, allowing them to reconnect with their body’s innate wisdom. Unlock the ability to care for yourself in the best way possible. Reach out to Memphis Nutrition Group for guidance and support toward cultivating the most nourishing, satisfying, and supportive choices!
Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CEDRD-S is co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition and lifestyle counseling practice offering in-person and virtual nutrition therapy specializing in a non-diet, weight-neutral approach. The Registered Dietitians at Memphis Nutrition Group help individuals reconnect with their bodies, find confidence and clarity in their everyday choices, and create a peaceful, balanced approach to food that tastes good and feels even better. Contact Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit MemphisNutritionGroup.com for more information.