How to Practice Interoceptive Awareness + Why It’s Important for Disordered Eating Recovery

Interoceptive awareness is the ability to notice, understand, and respond to sensations in your body. It sounds really simple, right? But if you’ve been shutting down your body’s cues, it takes practice to reconnect.

Signals from your body include hunger, thirst, tiredness, mood changes, and needing to use the bathroom. In disordered eating, hunger is the most common to be ignored or suppressed. Can you identify hunger cues, and respond to them? In this blog, I dive into Interoceptive Awareness and how you can build it.

What is Interoceptive Awareness?

Interoceptive awareness is the ability to notice, understand, and respond to sensations. These can be physical or mental sensations – like mood changes, hunger, thirst, or aches and pains.

It’s important to be in tune with your body. Not only because you can respond and give yourself what you need. But because you can feel a connection to yourself. If one of your values is “connection”, Interoceptive Awareness might be a lovely thing to build.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of having more Interoceptive Awareness include:

  • Psychological wellbeing and being able to detect, name, and process your emotions
  • Being able to make decisions based on your true values, thus having a really good sense of self
  • Trusting yourself and your needs more
  • Being able to set boundaries because you have a deeper connection to what is best for you
  • Being more able to sit with both pleasant and unpleasant emotions

These all sound great, right? But it takes practice! I’ll explain how to build Interoceptive Awareness later in this blog.

Interoceptive Awareness + disordered eating

When you’re struggling with disordered eating, you lose the connection to your body cues. This looks like not feeling hunger or fullness properly, not being able ot regulate your emotions, and not responding to your body in general.

One of the ways I help my clients in recovery is to re-build their awareness of themselves and their body.

This involves becoming more consciously aware of internal signals and taking action. By tapping into your intuition and paying more attention to body signals, you can better respond to your own physiological needs and become more mindful towards your feelings.

Of course, there is nuance here. I don’t focus too much on food things in the beginning, and we don’t go too deep in the emotional work until my client is ready. But noticing small things can have a huge impact in reconnecting with yourself.

Disordered eating promotes disconnection, and it’s often caused by a want to disconnect. So I always find that re-building connection is a very good idea!

How to practice Interocptive Awareness

Improving your perception of internal bodily signals involves several activities.

Here are some you could try:

  • Mindful breathing exercises: Breathing exercises such as deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing can help you focus on your breath and improve your interoceptive awareness.
  • Body scanning: Body scanning involves focusing on different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. This exercise can help you identify physical sensations and increase your body awareness.
  • Yoga: Practicing yoga can help you improve your interoceptive skills by combining mindful breathing and body movements. I really like Yoga for Eating Disorders.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to reduce physical tension and increase body awareness.
  • Intuitive Eating: A framework designed to build Interoceptive Awareness, specific to food and eating! Great! Intuitive Eating removes the outside pressures of what, when, and how much to eat. Check out the book here (*)
  • Meditation: Meditation can help you cultivate a non-judgmental attitude towards your bodily sensations and improve your interoceptive awareness.
  • Somatic exercises: I love these! This can be rolling your shoulders, shaking out your hands, flexing your toes, or lion’s breathing. I have listed six I really like here and why I recommend somatic exercises
  • Responding: I know, sounds obvious. But the best way to promote connection to yourself is actually to just “do”. No second guessing, just do what you think is right. That might be eating when you’re not sure if you’re hungry, stretching when you feel a bit tight, or resting when you need it.

Next steps for you

If you want to learn more about Interoceptive Awareness, I recommend these resources:

(*) Anything marked with (*) is an affiliate link. I earn a commission on any sales made using this link. I am an Amazon Affiliates Associate.

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