Babies are born knowing how to eat intuitively. When they are hungry, they cry and are fed. Once full, they stop eating. As we grow, we are taught there are “bad” foods, we shouldn’t surpass X daily calories, and diets are the fast-track to our goals. Intuitive eating aims to re-sync you with your body’s cues instead of listening to your mind that has been molded by varied opinions and media. It is an eating plan, not a diet, that breaks the cycle of sporadic dieting and promotes mindful guilt-free eating. The term was first coined in the 90s by registered dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and the duo has been educating the masses on their method ever since.
There are ten principles of intuitive eating:
Reject Diets. The foundational first principle of intuitive eating is to stop dieting because it’s not sustainable. Diets may lead to quick weight loss but the restrictions are oftentimes unrealistic to maintain.
Honour Hunger. Instead of weighing portions and counting calories, tap into when your body is hungry. Avoid reaching the point of excessive hunger that can lead to unconscious bingeing but rather keep it consistently fuelled with sufficient calories. When you’re able to recognise the biological signal of hunger, it becomes easier to trust your instincts and repair any negativity you may feel towards food.
Make Peace With Food. Give yourself permission to eat what you want instead of believing the complete avoidance of certain foods is the only way to eat healthily. If foods are seen as forbidden, you may feel a building deprivation that can result in bingeing and subsequent guilt. When you tell yourself you are always permitted to have any food, it doesn’t become taboo.
Challenge the Food Police. According to intuitive eating’s founders, the “food police” is the voice in your head that oversees what you eat and tells you you’re “bad” for not following the dieting rules you’veheard. Fight back and reject that you should feel guilty for eating dessert or not counting calories.
Respect Fullness. The same as how you honour your hunger, respect your fullness. Are you comfortably full? Are you continuing to eat to numb an emotional state like stress or boredom? Pausing mid-meal is helpful in assessing how you feel.
The Satisfaction Factor. The hub of intuitive eating is finding enjoyment in the process. Mindfully appreciating the food’s taste allows you to tap into the simple satisfaction of the process. It’s about being aware of what feels good in your body so you can be fully satisfied at the end of the meal.
Honour Feelings Without Food. Stress, sadness and anger are emotions we sometimes try to squash with food, whether we are aware of it or not. Though comforting or numbing for a period of time, try to resolve the issue without leaning on food because it will ultimately be required anyway.
Respect Your Body. Viewing your body with reverence and appreciation is a cornerstone of intuitive eating. Though the practice may lead to sustainable weight loss, that is not its goal. The idea is to love your body for the amazing instrument it is instead of constantly critiquing it.
Exercise. Shift your focus to the benefits of exercise other than calories burned. Exercise is empowering, mood-enhancing, increases productivity, improves sleep, builds muscle and strengthens the heart. Zero in on these paybacks instead of viewing exercise as a chore. Find a way to move your body that feels good to you.
Nutrition. While intuitive eating allows you to eat what you want, well-rounded nutrition should remain an important focus. If the preceding principles are followed first, however, healthy food choices will naturally ensue. Of course, it is about balance. If it feels good to treat yourself once in a while, enjoy that chocolate cake without guilt but look to nutrient-dense foods for the bulk of your nourishment.
Intuitive eating aims to bring you back in sync with your body’s cues. It says the answer lies inside instead of within the media and other’s opinions. It promotes self-respect and appreciation, and encourages you to enjoy mindful satisfied eating. With no restrictions and an improved relationship with self and food, it could be just what your intuition is asking for.