What is Intuitive Eating?Before we go into what intuitive eating is, let’s start with what intuitive eating is NOT. Intuitive eating is NOT another diet. In fact, intuitive eating flips dieting on its head.
Diets inevitably come from a place of weight stigma, deprivation, and self-control. The intuitive eating approach is so much more than that. Intuitive eating comes from place of love, self-care, body acceptance, and permission. Instead of telling you what you’re allowed to eat, intuitive eating gives you unconditional permission to eat.
While traditional dieting uses external cues to guide food and movement decisions, intuitive eating uses internal cues. Intuitive eating is all about tuning into your body, taking restriction and judgement out of the picture, and replacing it with mindfulness and self-respect.
In a nutshell, intuitive eating is normal eating. At birth, everyone is an intuitive eater. When babies cry because they’re hungry, they eat and then they stop eating when they’re full. It’s not until we grow up and are exposed to diet culture that we lose the natural ability to eat intuitively. Little kids are told to clear their plate at the dinner table. Teenagers are told that “bad” foods will make them gain weight. Adults are told that the only way to be healthy is to eat exclusively “good” foods. In short, diet culture strips our ability to tune into our body and “eat normally.” Rediscovering intuitive eating gives that back to us.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating“Intuitive Eating” was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in the mid-90s. Their evidenced-based approach is based off of 10 principles. Below, I listed out these 10 principles and briefly described them. If you want to learn more about what intuitive eating is and expand on these 10 principles (and I think you should!), check out their book: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. This is a big one. Without ditching the diet mentality completely, you won’t ever be free to really embrace intuitive eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger. Hunger is normal! Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body’s hunger cues and trusting them. Ignoring hunger cues and restricting food leads to cravings and binges. *
3. Make Peace with Food. Dieting inevitably ruins your relationship with food. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever! Embrace intuitive eating. Call a truce and make peace with food. This means giving yourself permission to eat guilt-free, no matter what.
4. Challenge the Food Police. There are millions of messages out in the media telling you that foods are “good” or “bad” - this is not true! It seems like the food police are shouting food rules at the top of their lungs. The next time you find yourself in the presence of the food police, challenge them. Or simply ignore them and listen to your intuition. Your body knows what’s right for you!
5. Respect Your Fullness. This is just as important as honoring your hunger. Your body will give you cues that you are no longer hungry. By embracing intuitive eating, you’ll be able to recognize those signs and assess your current fullness level. *
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. It’s entirely possible to be physically full but not satisfied. This leads to lots of cravings and binging. If you’re not satisfied, chances are you’ll keep looking for that one thing you’re craving (and probably overeat) until you are. When you eat what you actually want, you’ll be both full and satisfied at the end of a meal.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. It’s not uncommon for people to “eat their emotions.” Eating specific foods often results in a physical response that evokes an emotional reaction. And sometimes people eat for reasons other than physical hunger. That being said, it’s important to find ways to honor your feelings without turning to food.
8. Respect Your Body. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality, but it’s even harder if you’re overly critical about your body. Learning how to love and accept yourself as you are is a crucial component to truly embracing intuitive eating.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Throw everything you know about exercise out the window. Instead of exercising the way that you think you should, try simply moving in a way that feels good to you. Instead of focusing on burning calories, focus on how it feels to move your body.
10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Honoring your health by being gentle with yourself and your nutrition approach really sums up what intuitive eating is at its core. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be healthy. The human body is very forgiving. You won’t suddenly gain weight or develop a nutrient deficiency after one bout of eating. Your health depends on what you consistently eat over a long period of time, not what you eat at one meal. Be gentle with yourself and make food and movement choices that make you feel good in the moment.
Why You Should Embrace Intuitive EatingThere are tons of reasons you should embrace intuitive eating. Below I highlight why I think intuitive eating is worth embracing. My hope is that this list motivates you to ditch the diet mentality and embrace the intuitive eating approach!
Dieting is hard and not sustainable. Nobody likes being on a diet, right? That’s because dieting is hard! There are specific rules to follow, special foods to buy, apps to track your intake with, and exercise plans to follow. And these are just the first handful of reasons that came to mind. Trust me, the list of reasons that diets are hard is endless.
Not only is dieting hard, but it simply doesn’t work. There’s a reason that diets often come with a predetermined timeline. I’m sure you’ve heard of something like a “21-Day Weight Loss Challenge” or “How to Get a Beach Body in 3 Months.” Sounds promising, right? All you have to do is work hard for a few weeks or months and you’ll have reached your goal! Wrong. These short term promises are just that - short term. Sure, you can lose weight in 21 days or 3 months, but the chances that you gain the weight back (plus some) are high. This is because diets are not sustainable. Now don’t get me wrong, intuitive eating isn’t easy! In fact, it can be harder than going on another diet. But it’s worth it. If you really embrace intuitive eating, the benefits can last a lifetime.
Intuitive eating lets you reconnect with your body and improve body awareness.Reconnecting with your body and improving your body awareness is really important when it comes to your general wellness. By embracing intuitive eating, you’ll be learning how to listen to the subtle signals your body sends you throughout the day. Being in touch with your hunger and satiety cues really sums up what intuitive eating is in a nutshell. It’s not necessarily easy to reconnect with your body and rediscover those cues, but it’s what will allow you to always be in tune with what you need.
Intuitive eating is empowering.Like I said before, we are all born with the ability to sense our hunger and fullness. Diet culture inevitably takes that away from us and replaces it with rules. Ditching those rules and reconnecting with our bodies is extremely empowering! You know your body and your body knows you. Intuitive eating makes you the expert and allows you to choose how you want to live. And that’s empowerment in a nutshell.
Intuitive eating is backed by science. Yes, that’s right. Intuitive eating is an evidenced-based approach to health and wellness. Studies have shown that intuitive eating can be linked to higher self-esteem, lower rates of emotional and disordered eating, lower body mass indexes, better body image, and so much more. You can check out these research studies if you want to learn more!
Are you interested in the Intuitive Eating approach?While the intuitive eating approach can really enhance your quality of life, it can be a little complicated at first. Working with dietitian is really important so that you can have a qualified professional’s shoulder to lean on as you go through your own intuitive eating journey.
*Note: Respecting your fullness and honoring your hunger can be particularly tricky if you’re recovering from an eating disorder or are dealing with hypothalamic amenorrhea. This is because your body’s natural hunger signals might not be quite right. Be sure to consult with a dietitian to see if this approach is right for you.
Who Needs a Period? They are a pain in the a** anyway !