Tap into your 2nd Brain – Intuitive Eating and Interoception
Tap into your 2nd brain by intuitively eating!
What is your 2nd Brain?
Referred to as the body-brain axis, or interoception. It involves sensing the internal state of your entire body.
Essentially, it’s the ability to sense and respond to all of your body processes and signals.
While accessing your 2nd brain can do wonders for your entire body. It can really help you connect to your gut-brain axis.
You gut-brain axis is quite complex. It involves your nervous system, immune system, and microbiome.
The gut-brain axis of your 2nd brain can influence your digestive health, immune system, nutrient absorption (leaky gut), and more.
You can tap into your 2nd brain by practicing intuitive eating. Intuitive eating will help you build skills that will allow you to “hear” your 2nd brain.
Hearing your 2nd brain is especially important for those with digestive disorders.
Whether you have celiac disease, IBS, or you’re facing a ton of intolerances, being able to tap into your 2nd brain is a game changer. It allows you to really listen to your body and give it what it needs. This means it will allow you to identify trigger foods faster and sense whether or not you have a “flare” in the midst.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Basically, it is a practice that promotes awareness and respect for your body. Specifically awareness and respect for its emotions, thoughts, appearance, and sensations.
However, it gets far more complicated than that. There are 10 pillars to intuitive eating:
Reject Diet Mentality
Honor Your Hunger
Make Peace with Food
Challenge the Food Police
Respect your Fullness
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Honor your Feelings Without Using Food
Respect your Body
Exercise – Feel the Difference
Honor your Health
(obtained from intuitiveeating.org)
Some of these pillars aren’t directly related to being able to tap into your 2nd brain. However, they all are beneficial to your well-being. Practicing an intuitive eating lifestyle will ultimately help you hone your interoception.
The point is to listen to and honor your body. Something everyone should do, but especially for those experience digestive issues. Specifically, those struggling with figuring out how to eat without triggering their bodies.
How is Intuitive Eating different from Mindful Eating?
Mindfully eating is simply the process of being aware of the emotions, thoughts, and sensations of the body during a meal. It is similar in that is promotes the same awareness factors as Intuitive eating however it’s different because it adds on a few other focuses.
Intuitive eating focuses on respecting your body, exercising to feel good, and most importantly, rejecting the dieting mentality (intuitiveeating.org).
You might already be practicing mindfulness if you meditate or focus on breathing when you’re upset.
Both mindfully eating and intuitive eating methods can be used to tap into your 2nd brain. They both will allow you to become sensitive to, and access your interoception. Something that is key to nourishing and honoring your health appropriately.
From this point on, however, I will be using mindfulness and intuitive eating interchangeably.
Why is mindfulness and intuitive eating important?
Mindfulness has been proven to help people be more resilient to stress, reduce the severity of symptoms of IBS, and maintain dietary changes (Pannowitz, 1). This is incredible because our health, weight, and eating habits are impacted by stress. Additionally, being able to improve bowel functions and maintain new lifestyles surrounding diet and health is important.
On top of that, mindful eating can help you get in touch with your second brain. Your second brain is also known as your interoception. It’s The ability to sense processes occurring in your body. Honing this skill of being in tune with your interoception can help a healthy lifestyle become second nature.
Applying intuitive eating and mindfulness to meal-times is very obviously a must if you want to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. So how can you apply it?
How to Tap into your 2nd Brain with Intuitive Eating:
Mindfulness is an entire world that should be explored entirely. However, for the sake of this challenge, we will be focussing on applying mindfulness to situations that apply to diet, a healthy lifestyle, and eating.
Applying Mindfulness to eating:
Eliminate all distractions and commit your time and attention to your meal and body
Turn off your TV, phone, computer, and all other distractions. Allow yourself to be completely present with your food. Prioritize this time. This is your time to not only nourish your body but to give your mind a break from the busy world.
Listen to your body and eat until your body physically tells you that you are full
You grew up being told to clean your plate so you do. I get it, I have always been on the team clean your plate. However, this could be harmful to your health and not beneficial. Don’t be afraid to listen to your body and stop when you’re full. It’s okay to say no to the rest of your food. Honor your body and save the rest of your food for later if it’s telling you that it’s not hungry anymore.
Identify and address cues that are physical and cues that are emotional
This can go a variety of ways but identifying whether or not you want a snack or meal because you bored/emotional or because you’re hungry is a huge step in the right direction. Start with identifying your cues and if you can address them. When you crave ice cream, think of your health goals and then address your craving. Even if you chose the ice cream, you chose it with your health goals in mind and may next time, maybe you’ll choose something else. Doing this will hold you accountable for your health goals every time you reach for the fridge.
Alternatively, compromise with yourself. If you just have to have that ice cream, let yourself but only let yourself have a serving.
Explore your senses: pay attention to the colors, textures, tastes, smells, sounds
Paying attention to all of the sensory things involved in eating will help maximize pleasure and enjoyment. A bonus to doing this is often it can help you feel as if you’ve satiated cravings faster than if you didn’t give your food your full attention.
Remove and ignore all guilt associated with certain foods and eating
If you do treat yourself (which you undoubtedly should), allow yourself to really enjoy that treat. Don’t let guilt ruin your experience. Allowing yourself to feel bad about foods can be detrimental to the success of your healthy lifestyle. Guilt is not your friend. I repeat, guilt is NOT your friend.
Testing your Interoception
When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, my family switched to the paleo diet. We used this diet as a means to assess if we had any other trigger foods. During this time, I had an impeccable interoception. I ate something and could immediately tell if the food was safe.
It can take some Celiacs hours, even days before they can tell if they have been exposed to gluten. I can tell within a matter of minutes. I can just feel my body feeling angry (there is no other word to describe it).
Want to know how in-tune you are with your interoception?
There are a few ways you can tell!
Track your Heartbeat
This trial involves counting how many times your heart beats in a minute without manually checking and then comparing that to a manual check.
1 – Start a 60-second timer and begin to count how many times you think your heart beats within those 60 seconds. Do this without manually checking. Meaning do this without holding your fingers to your pulse points and counting each time you feel a beat.
Sidenote: You may alternatively try this with a 30-second timer if 60 seconds seems too daunting.
2 – Record how many times you think your heart beat during that time period.
3- Wait 2 minutes
4- Repeat steps 1 -3 three times.
5 – After repeating steps 1 -3 three times, average out your counts (add up all 3 results and divide them by 3
6 – Now manually count your heart beats by placing your fingers on a pulse point and counting each time you feel a beat within a 60 second timed time period.
7 – Use the following equation:
(Manually measured heart rate – averaged result from step 3) / manually measured heart rate) = ____
8 – Interpret your results. Results at or greater than 0.8 = good, 0.6-0.79 = moderately good, below 0.59 = poor.
(This method was adapted from the method found on this website)
Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA)
You can also test your interoception by taking the assessment linked below! This assessment has been used in a variety of studies testing to see what activities can impact interoception.
Your goal for today:
Begin to tap into your 2nd brain by picking one meal today to practice intuitive and mindful eating during!
Konkel, Lindsey. “What Is Your Gut Telling You? Exploring the Role of the Microbiome in Gut-Brain Signaling.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 126, no. 6, June 2018, pp. 1-7. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1289/EHP3127.
Pannowitz, Debra. “Clinical Applications of Mindful Eating.” Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, vol. 21, no. 3, Oct/Nov2015, pp. 168-171. EBSCOhost, cscc.ohionet.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,uid&db=a9h&AN=110326349&site=ehost-live.