Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with over 100 studies to date.
It’s a personal and dynamic process, which includes 10 principles:
Reject the Diet Mentality
Many of us are aware that dieting doesn’t work in the long run, but a lot of people are surprised to learn that dieting actually increases your risk of gaining more weight. So, throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new, better diet or food plan might be waiting around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover intuitive eating.
Honour your Hunger
Hunger is a natural biological cue that lets you know that your body needs nourishment. Nourishing your body is as essential to life as breathing and is an important part of intuitive eating. Strict diet plans often asks us to deny our biological hunger cues and this sets off a biological cascade, both physically and psychologically and a primal hunger which is an urgent intense desire to eat – which often results in overeating. Learning to honour this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
Make Peace with Food
Making peace with food is a critical component of intuitive eating, which involves eating the food you desire while staying attuned to your hunger and fullness levels. It’s the process of making your food choices emotionally equal, without placing shame or judgement on them, whether you’re eating a chocolate biscuit or a piece of broccoli. Your dignity remains intact, regardless of your food choices, you’re not a bad or good person based on what you eat.
This is also an important principle because it shifts you out of the deprivation mindset, which can cause food cravings and a longing for the foods you have forbidden.
Challenge the Food Police
The food police is a strong voice that is developed through dieting and diet culture. They are the sum of all our dieting and food rules, and they get stronger and stronger with every structured food plan we follow. These thoughts, negative taunts, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking comments are housed deep in our psyche, as a result of diet culture. Having tools to quiet the food police, is a critical step in returning to eating intuitively.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Unfortunately, for so many in our culture, the pleasure of eating promotes feelings of guilt, and dieting plays right into this ethos. It can cause us to make sacrifices and settle for less. If we regularly settle for unsatisfying food, we’ll likely continue to search for satisfaction, even though we’re no longer hungry.
In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often miss out on 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 gain 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 when you’ve had “enough.”
Feel your Fullness
Feeling your fullness is just as important as feeling hunger when it comes to intuitive eating. In order to honour your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. Listen for your body’s 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.
Bearing this in mind, there are several factors that can influence how much food it takes for you to experience comfortable fullness including your initial hunger level, your unconditional permission to eat with attunement (as it might be hard to stop if you believe you will never eat a particular food again), timing, the amount of food, social influence and the type of food.
Cope with your Emotions with Kindness
Using food as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable feelings can lead to feelings of guilt and disconnection from our hunger and fullness signals, eating when we’re not hungry and not stopping when we are satisfied.
Learning how to cope with your emotions with kindness, without turning to food, can help you connect and respond to your hunger and fullness cues, whatever emotion you are experiencing in the moment.
Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life, each have their own solution and it’s helpful to remember that food will never solve the problem.
Respect your Body
Respecting your body means treating it with dignity and kindness, as well as meeting its basic needs. When it comes to respecting our bodies, it’s essential that we accept that our body is always striving to maintain its genetic blueprint that we are born with. This blueprint determines our potential height, weight and health along with lots of things like eye colour and foot length.
Respecting your body means being kind to yourself and really appreciating your body, as it’s what’s going to be taking you through the rest of your life. Also, it will be very difficult to move away from engaging in diet mentality if you’re unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape.
Movement - Feel the Difference
There’s no question that exercise is beneficial on so many levels when it comes to achieving optimal health, the issue for many can be the art of doing it consistently.
If we base our exercise choice purely on how many calories we will burn, then it’s quite common that the choice of exercise isn’t very enjoyable, and it can feel like another chore that we need to tick off the list.
Reframing our approach to exercise is key for making movement a consistent aspect of our lives. Removing the link between exercise and weight loss and focusing more on how movement makes us feel is key. Moving only as a bid to lose weight can result in a very short term approach to exercise.
Honour your Health - Gentle Nutrition
This principle is around making food choices that honour your health and taste buds, while making you feel good. Remember 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.
A little note here too…there’s a reason why this principle is left until the very end. It isn’t because it is the least important, but because by the time you get to this principle, you will no longer be engaging in diet mentality, and therefore you won’t be at risk of using any nutritional guidance, as another way of creating rigids rules around food. The most important thing to remember when it comes to nutrition is that you know your body better than anyone else, you’re the expert .
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