What IS Intuitive Eating?

I started this new year with the most food freedom I’ve ever felt, and I talked about why it can feel really scary as we move to this new way of thinking and eating. But what IS intuitive eating anyway?

The following is an excerpt from intuitiveeating.org:

“Essentially, Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs. It’s a form of self-care, a way to be truly in tune with our own body and emotions, a true mind-body approach.

Intuitive Eating is not a diet or food plan. Period.  There is no pass or fail, therefore there is no “blowing it”, rather it’s a journey of self-discovery and connection to the needs of your mind and body.  There is nothing to count: this includes no counting of calories, carbs, points, or macros.  If a health professional or coach is offering you Intuitive Eating for the purpose of weight loss–run away. Fast. There is not a single long-term study that shows that weight-loss dieting is sustainable. Study after study, shows that dieting and food restriction for the purpose of weight loss leads to more weight gain. Worse–the focus and preoccupation on weight leads to body dissatisfaction and weight stigma, which negatively impacts health.

Ultimately, you are the expert of your body.  Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like.  Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.  Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool–it’s time to unleash it and liberate yourself from the prison of diet culture and weight obsession.

Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 Principles and created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. It is a weight-neutral model with a validated assessment scale and over 90 studies to date.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at diet culture that promotes weight loss and the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.

3. Make Peace with Food

Call a truce; stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police

Scream a loud no to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating. 

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence—the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had “enough.”

6. Feel Your Fullness

In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire.  Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is. 

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

First, recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.

8. Respect Your Body

Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.

9. Movement—Feel the Difference

Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.

10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition

Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”

by intuitiveeating.org

How would your relationship with food, and how you eat change if you didn’t view each food choice or day of eating as something that makes or breaks you?

I’m excited to continue this conversation. Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss any of the posts. 

If you’re ready to start your journey to intuitive eating and need support, check out my Limitless Lifestyle Coaching community membership.

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