Returning to Intuitive Eating
Looking to hop off the diet train before the next stop? Heal your body and mind from the perils of yo-yo dieting with Intuitive Eating.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive Eating is based on our natural eating habits—it encourages us to eat when we are hungry, stop when we are full, and eat mindfully. It eliminates food rules and restrictive diets from our eating repertoire.
Who coined the term?
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two Registered Dietitians from California.
Are all diets inherently bad?
The short answer: no. Why? Because not all diets are for weight loss. Folks might be on a special diet because of
- their faith,
- their ethics,
- their preferences; or
- their health.
However, individuals who follow a diet (or diets) for no other reason than to lose weight—especially when they have little to no weight to lose, health wise—are chasing rainbows. As you might have gathered from reading this far, most weight loss diets fail.
It’s time to ditch the diet and return to our natural way of eating. Begin your journey by familiarizing yourself with the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the diet mentality: Buh-bye, crash diets! See ya never, restriction! Pound sand, fear foods! Intuitive Eaters do not diet; they laugh in the face of society’s assertions that we’re all overindulgent fatties in need of a quick fix.
- Honor your hunger: When we’re over hungry, we overeat. Intuitive Eaters are urged to eat when they are hungry to avoid stuffing ourselves silly.
- Make peace with food: Try to let go of your food rules and fears. No food (that you enjoy and can consume) is off limits. As soon as we restrict, the cravings come.
- Challenge the food police: Intuitive Eaters know that they are not “good” for eating vegetables or “bad” for eating candy. They know that what they eat does not equate to who they are, and no little voice in their head can convince them otherwise.
- Respect your fullness: In Intuitive Eating, it’s important to re-learn what it feels like to be full. You don’t need to clear your plate if you’re not hungry; you can have a second helping if you are.
- Discover the satisfaction factor: In diet culture, we are told that food is fuel. In reality, humans derive a great deal of pleasure from food—cooking it, eating, smelling it, and even just looking at it! Embrace the satisfaction you feel from savoring a piece of cake or a hearty pasta dish. It’s so worth it.
- Honor your feelings without using food: Just like we derive pleasure from food, we also sometimes seek comfort from it. Though comfort food has a time and a place, (like soup when we’re sick or grandma’s cookies when we’re missing home), it should not take the place of self-care practices like therapy, exercise, or a chat with a friend.
- Respect your body: All bodies are different. To expect that all of us can fit into the mold of ideal beauty and thinness is ludicrous. Accept and embrace that your shape is yours; find the bits that you love and remind yourself daily just how beautiful and unique you really are.
- Exercise—feel the difference: Moving our bodies feels good. Find a form of exercise that feels best for you without considering whether it will make you “fit.” Skip a workout? No big deal. Exercise should be enjoyed, not dreaded.
- Honor your health: Eat foods that make you feel good mentally and physically. Nourish your body with foods rich in nutrients and health benefits. No one has a “perfect” diet, but we can all try to pick healthful foods as much as possible. Just be mindful that you cannot make or break your physical health with one salad or one Pop-Tart.
Eating intuitively, requires mindfulness. In order to return to a more natural way of eating, you must embrace the 10 Principles with an open heart and mind and let go of food rules. By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one. More importantly, by increasing your recognition of physical hunger and fullness cues, you are able to distinguish between emotional and true, physical hunger.
To guide you through the mindful eating process, we compiled a list of questions and exercises about the eating process. Give them some thought next time you sit down to enjoy a meal. Remember to take your time and savor every bite!
How hungry am I?
What food(s) am I craving?
Am I feeling bored, stressed, or sad?
What do you taste, smell, see hear, & feel?
How does this food make me feel?
Why intuitive eating over macro counting?
With intuitive eating comes an array of positive outcomes. Studies show that individuals who practice intuitive eating manage their weight better, have less anxiety, increased mood, better body image, reduced eating disorder symptoms, increased acceptance, better cognitive functioning and awareness of body signs and signals which will allow you to be in tune with yourself.
How do I shift away away from the diet mindset?
Place focus on body function and body appreciation. Change your goals and rethink your rewards and punishments. Remember that food is fuel, and at the end of the day, it is just food! Try writing down your negative mindset and talk to yourself as you would a friend.
Steps to take to stop counting macros:
- Honor your hunger. Trust yourself and your body that it knows what it needs.
- Feel your fullness. Eat mindfully without any distractions. Taste and enjoy your food. Recognize when you are getting full.
- Make peace with food. Put no limits on rules on food. If your body wants dessert, have a dessert and move on. Erase the emotional attachment food holds. Food is just food and that’s it.
- Honor your health. Learn to get in tune with your body. Recognize what food makes you feel good and digests well. If your digestion is off, your mind is off which can make it harder to be at pease with food.
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Descriptions of the 10 Principles based on information found on https://www.intuitiveeating.org/
Tribole E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. New York NY: St. Martin Press: 2012.