I want to share with you a tool I created for body attunement. Being attuned to your body is key for secure attachment with self, your body, and food. If you're aware of intuitive eating, you've been trying to practice it, you've been struggling, if you're somebody who's new to this work, or you're somebody who has tried to learn body attunement, but you haven't found a way that's really worked well for you, this tool will be helpful.
The tool is called the five A's.
Awareness- Start by taking a moment to tune into your body. You have to make it a priority to take time to check in. That can either be in real time when you're having a big sensation or emotion happening, or it can be scheduled regularly so that you're learning to do this through consistent practice. Both are valid ways of learning, and both of them are really helpful.
What are you looking for awareness of? You're really looking for a sensation. A lot of times people will say “I feel sad”, “I feel happy”, or “I feel angry.” One tool you can use is to just ask yourself, How do I know? Where do I feel happiness in my body? What are the sensations that come along with that? Or just simply checking in and seeing what sensations are present independent of any emotions.
Stay curious. You might actually be surprised; sometimes you might be feeling something that is upsetting but when you actually check in, the sensation is kind of benign or might even feel kind of good. You want to be completely neutral, judgment free. You are just checking in. A lot of times in wellness or mindfulness practices, you're told to check in, figure out where you feel tension, and relax. That is actually not the goal here, you don't want to try to fix it or change it. The goal is to really notice what is and become aware of what is present and not try to change it.
Where do you want to pay attention to? Well, any sensation is important and valid, but you're really trying to zoom in on one or two sensations, whatever is calling your attention or needing to be explored. Now you're probably used to noticing the musculoskeletal tension or pain. What is often more interesting or useful to look at are things that are in your visceral experience- any kind of organ based sensation. Visceral column is your GI tract, everything from your mouth down to your intestines, your throat, your heart and lungs, your diaphragm, your intestines, your reproductive organs, your genitals. Your skin is also an organ. You're looking in this column, all the way down. It can sometimes be a good practice just to pick an area you feel disconnected from- like asking what's happening in my abdomen right now or what's happening in my chest. A lot of times when people feel sadness, they'll feel it in their chest like a constriction. Name it! You can bring deeper awareness by naming the actual sensation. When you feel the sensation, you're using your right brain. When you name the sensation, you're using your left brain. That is really powerful for building new skills, using both sides of your brain.
For naming it, think about what it actually feels like…It feels like a buzzing, I feel butterflies in my stomach, I feel nauseous and a churning happening, I feel my mouth watering, my skin feels electric, etc. You're looking for ways of describing the sensation.
Some questions might be helpful like, does it have a texture? Does it have a color? Is there a motion to it? What direction is it moving? What is the quality of it? For example, It feels like dense fog.
The goal is to bring awareness, ideally, to your visceral column, and then name the sensation. This is not just for unpleasant, difficult sensations, or challenges. It's also for the pleasant ones. If you can catch yourself having a really joyful or happy moment and let yourself sink into what is the sensation that's present here? Can you let it grow and expand? Can you sit with it? Can you allow this feeling to be in your body and take up space? For some people feeling pleasant, joyful sensations are just as challenging.
Allowing- Let yourself sit with the sensation and not try to change it. In fact, I think even growing this sensation is ideal. Allow the sensation to take up space, growing in size or intensity. But again, you want to remain curious, noticing if this is pleasant or unpleasant rather than assuming it's unpleasant. When you are learning, you want to titrate this. When you're first practicing, just sitting with it for the amount of time that feels okay to you, because it can feel really overwhelming to feel sensations, particularly ones that you've disconnected from, disassociated from, that feel painful, or uncomfortable. Start with the amount of time that feels good, but moving up toward 90 seconds. That's about how long it takes to metabolize the feeling.
Acceptance- it's helpful to say things to yourself like, it's okay that you're here, I hear you, I see you, I will acknowledge you, I appreciate that you're giving me that information. Having acceptance that there's nothing bad or wrong with you for having this sensation or feeling. Keep the mindset that you don't need to fix or change this, simply experience what your body is trying to tell you, experience what is present for you.
Acknowledgement- Focus on giving your body gratitude and appreciation. Saying things like- Thank you body for getting my attention, thank you for trying to tell me something, thank you for carrying me through life and containing all of these aspects of me, thank you for your wisdom. Choosing something that feels resonant for you is really important. Acknowledging and appreciating the magic that your body does. We all need to experience a full spectrum of sensations to be fully connected to your body. Your body is trying to help you navigate the world and really is the vessel that you do that in. You want to express that gratitude to build connection and trust with your body.
Action???/honoring- This could be a little tricky, you don’t always want or need to take action. The first four parts of the five A’s are the most critical..the practice of building connection and trust with your body, connecting and seeing what is present, simply feeling/allowing your sensations and your emotions to be felt. Sometimes there's a clear action. You might be like, I feel hungry, I need to eat, or I feel hungry, but I can't eat for half an hour. So then you tell yourself, “okay, buddy, I hear you, and I will make sure I eat a really robust meal, or that I get to it as quickly as I can.” This step is about honoring the information that you receive.
Sometimes the sensation will be trying to tell you something really specific. Like, I feel a burning in my chest, is this related to anger? Anger can be a sign that you have felt a boundary was crossed sooo, maybe the action or the honoring of that is you need to set a boundary. What might also be true for you is you don't have the capacity right now, or you're not really sure how to do that. Then the honoring would be just sitting with the information that you received, and seeking support around it or seeing how you might start to explore the idea of setting a boundary. You want to honor it but you want to honor all of what's true for you and not use this as a “should”, an attempt to fix, or as a judgment against yourself. Even if you knew that you needed to set a boundary and you felt you did have the capacity but you just didn't want to, that's okay. You can use discernment and decide if you want to take action. Then the honoring could be figuring out what you will do in lieu of setting the boundary. What else do you need to do? Do you need to distance yourself? Do you need to make sure you have a friend to call after you see that person so you can vent? Do you need to take a walk when you’re upset with them? Looking at ways you can resource and support yourself around the challenge that you’re experiencing.
This is meant to be an enriching experience. This can feel really big and it can be hard to want to do this because it feels scary or challenging. Simply practicing awareness, acceptance, allowing, acknowledgement and then honoring can be really powerful in building that body attunement and really healing your relationship with yourself and bringing you to that place of secure attachment. If you need support around it I can support you. You can also watch the video version of this here.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.