So, you want to know about intuitive eating? Maybe you’ve read something about it on Instagram, or a girlfriend told you about it at brunch. You could’ve happened upon the term when Googling feverishly for ways to stop obsessing over food and losing weight. However you discovered it, your intuition is what led you here.
And I’m glad it did. You want to learn about intuitive eating, and I have the time, so let’s do the dang thing – together.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a set of principles that help us make peace with food. The steps help you work through your relationship with food, identifying the aspects of the relationship that aren’t serving you, and working with you to alleviate those behaviors and thought patterns. This work results in the ability to eat without shame or guilt, allowing you to focus on more important things – like anything BUT how many calories are in that damn apple.
Think of intuitive eating like coming home to your truest self – the self who is in touch with her wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. The one who knows innately what she yearns for and isn’t afraid to give herself exactly that. Even if it’s Hot Cheetos.
What is intuitive about it?
Your intuition is your ability to understand something, without the need for conscious reasoning. It’s a knowing that’s already known. You don’t have to go seeking it. It is simply there. It’s the chill on the nape of the neck when you’re walking home and feel you’re being followed. It’s the drop in your gut when a friend suggests an idea that isn’t safe to execute. This intuition was strong when we were young, and it was just as strong when regarding food. This is proven by our ability to cry when we needed to eat, and stop when we felt full.
And somehow, we’ve lost most of that powerful inner-knowing when it comes to food. It’s because our relationship to food has been influenced over the years by our upbringing, our respective cultures, our peers, and other external factors. We are constantly receiving messages about what we should consume, how much of it, and when.
Because of this influence, we may find there is little room for our own unique and powerful intuition to have its say. This can lead to hyperawareness of food, loss of control around food, and even hypercontrol of food consumption.
How many intuitive eating principles are there, and what are they?
There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, and they are as follows:
1. Reject the diet mentality.
Instead of pining over losing weight, get angry at the systems that have planted that seed within you. To reject the diet mentality is to liberate yourself from the chains of what society wants you to look like. Welcome to the light.
2. Honor your hunger.
Give yourself adequate sustenance when your body is calling for it. Don’t turn your back on your nutrient needs. And don’t turn your back on your body’s cues, telling you when it’s had enough. It’s this reverence that will help you build back trust with your body.
3. Make peace with food.
Allow yourself unconditional permission to eat. You’ve done it time and time again, eating everything in your pantry, promising yourself this is the last time, and tomorrow will be different. Say, “No more.” It’s time to make peace with every type of food, so you can allow yourself to consume it without feeling out of control.
4. Challenge the food police.
There are no good or bad foods; it’s all just food! When you fill your mind with diet-centric thoughts as you eat *insert “bad” food*, release them. Not today, satan.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor.
When was the last time you truly enjoyed the experience of eating – without shame or guilt? When was the last time you savored each bite, enjoying the sensory experience of consuming food? I assume it’s been awhile. Now’s the time to get reacquainted.
6. Feel your fullness.
What signals have you been ignoring that tell you you’re no longer hungry? At what moments in life do you find yourself consuming past the point of fullness? What comes up for you after a moment of overconsumption? Start to get incredibly clear about your triggers, your emotional state, and what fullness means for you.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness.
Find kind ways to deal with your negative emotions. Notice whether you have a smaller or larger appetite in periods of high stress or sadness. How does food weave its way into your coping mechanisms? Is that serving you?
8. Respect your body.
Respect your genetics, your natural set point, and the shape your body takes when it’s being nourished. Reject the idea that you can, and should, try to change your body to fit societal standards. Remember, those standards will forever change, but forever is not a timeframe your soul gets to have.
9. Movement – feel the difference.
By removing the punishment from your exercise mentality, you make room for joyful movement. What types of movement do you love for the simple joy of it? What would exercise look like for you if you weren’t worried about the calories burned or how your body would transform?
10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition.
Consume things that both bring you joy and make you feel like you can move happily in this world. Food in its truest definition is a source of both pleasure and nutrition – nothing else! Make room for both nutritious and not so nutritious foods.
What are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to intuitive eating! But first, I want to explain why these benefits will seem, well… ass backwards. We’ve been programmed to place willpower and self-control on a pedestal, and intuitive eating can sometimes be referred to as a “free for all” when it comes to food consumption, and the opposite of self-control. This viewpoint seriously underestimates the goodwill of the human experience.
When we allow ourselves full permission to eat, we begin to decrease negative behaviors and outcomes (like yo-yo dieting, weight cycling, emotional eating, etc.). We also unlock the freedom to make choices that serve our highest good – nutritionally, physically, spiritually, and more.
Think of it this way: the more you tell a child not to do something, the more they’ll want to do it. We are all the same way! The more we tell ourselves we can’t eat pasta, the more we want to eat pasta. We then become so obsessed with pasta that we either end up eating so much of it that it makes us physically miserable, or we eat none of it and feel deprived.
So, what are other benefits of intuitive eating? While this is not a comprehensive list, here is a good start:
- Better psychological health all-around (lower odds of depression, binge eating, low self-esteem, etc.)
- Decreased disordered eating behaviors
- Improved body esteem and image
- Weight stability
- Decreased obsession with food and weight
- Greater feelings of wellbeing
- Higher intake of fruits and veggies (would you look at that!)
The idea here is that adopting an intuitive eating mindset breaks the notion that we’re out of control when it comes to food, and that we must go on diets to take back control and be healthy.
Who developed this philosophy?
Intuitive eating has its roots in the 1960s, during the rise of the fat acceptance movement. More recently, the principles of intuitive eating as we know them today were developed by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, more than 20 years ago.
Welcome to the start of the rest of your life
Intuitive eating is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give yourself. It’s truly a path towards coming back home to yourself. I’ve been on the other side before, and let me tell you, this work is worth it. When you’re free from the obsession that comes with the diet mentality, you find endless amounts of room to serve your highest purpose.
I am a budding certified intuitive eating counselor, and I’m so happy you’re here. Join me in my little corner of the internet as I talk about all things health, wellness, movement, and eating disorder recovery.
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