Intuitive eating is a non-diet, evidence-based framework that teaches you to trust yourself around food again. How amazing does that seem?
After years and years of chronic dieting, it’s likely that the concept of life without diets seems strange and a little scary. It’s also likely that thinking about eating without following a diet seems overwhelming and that you might be at a loss of where to even begin. This is where intuitive eating can really help.
With intuitive eating, we don’t focus on the scale. Instead we focus on behaviors that promote your health, that heal your relationship with food, and that help cultivate a better body image. To do this, intuitive eating integrates your instincts, emotions, and rational thoughts. It teaches you to how to eat based on your own wants and values while promoting a healthy attitude toward food and your body.
As a dietitian, I prefer the approach of intuitive eating because it allows me to work with people on nutrition interventions that are behavior focused instead of nutrition interventions that are restrictive in nature or rule focused.
Before we take a quick look at the intuitive eating principles, let’s take a moment to explore what intuitive is not. Intuitive eating is not a diet. It is not the “hunger-fullness diet.” It is not the “eat whatever you want” meal plan. Intuitive eating is not about following a meal plan (but intuitive eating and meal planning can coexist). Intuitive is not giving up on your health. In fact, there are numerous health benefits associated with intuitive eating such as lower HDL cholesterol (this is the “good” cholesterol), lower triglycerides, better body image, more life satisfaction, better self-esteem, lower rates of emotional eating, and more.
Intuitive eating is also not giving up on your health.
Now, for the 10 principles of intuitive eating…
Reject the diet mentality
This is the first principle and it’s first for a reason. To begin your intuitive eating journey, you have to acknowledge the harm that diets cause. You have to acknowledge that you did not fail. The diets failed you! You start here by reflecting on your own dieting history.
Honor your hunger
Your hunger is normal. Your hunger is a gift. You deserve to be fed but dieting has taught us to suppress or ignore our hunger. Learning what you hunger feels like is part of the intuitive eating process.
Make peace with food
Give yourself permission to eat. Give yourself permission to eat all foods! No more labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Let yourself eat and enjoy all foods including those that have been on the forbidden list.
Challenge the food police
Those thoughts in your head that tell you what foods are “good” or “bad” or that tell you that you have been “good” for eating you veggies but were “bad” for eating a cupcake – those thoughts are the food police. It’s time to face them, acknowledge the, and flip the script on them.
Respect your fullness
Do you know what comfortable, satisfied fullness feels like? Like hunger, dieting has taught us to ignore what fullness feels like and to only eat a certain amount. Learning to recognize when you are full is an important part of honoring your health and becoming an intuitive eater.
Discover the satisfaction factor
Eating should be enjoyable. It should be satisfying. If you’re not satisfied, it’s likely that you’ll continue searching for the food or foods that will satisfy you. Knowing what textures, smells, and tastes lead to you being satisfied with a meal or snack will lead to being able to eat more mindfully and being able to stop eating when your body has had what it needs.
Cope with your emotions with kindness
It’s common to eat for emotional reasons and there are times when food really does help. But, we don’t want food to be the only coping mechanism so we’ve got to learn to recognize when we are eating for reasons other than biological hunger.
Respect your body
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. All bodies are good bodies. You don’t have to love your body to be an intuitive eater. You will need to work toward respecting your here-and-now body and showing it kindness as part of your intuitive eating journey.
Movement – feel the difference
Stop thinking about exercise as something that you should do. Instead, think about exercise from a perspective of something that you want to do because you respect your body and your health. This will take finding a type of movement that brings your joy and feels good.
Honor your health with gentle nutrition
Nutrition does have a place in intuitive eating. Nutrition is an important part of intuitive but to get here, we have to go through some diet reprogramming first so that we can focus on nutrition from a place of self-care and respect.