Many people have a complicated relationship with food. Unrealistic expectations about how we should look, a string of unsuccessful diets in an attempt to lose weight, and emotional triggers all contribute to eating patterns that may not be healthy. And it can be a vicious cycle. You tell yourself, “I’m not good enough, I need to go on a diet.” You lose a few pounds. You gain them back and feel shame for losing the battle. That shame can then lead to more self-judgment, more pain and a return to eating habits that aren’t healthy or sustainable.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Enter intuitive eating. You might call it the un-diet, because it’s not about losing weight. The idea behind it is that you regain a healthy relationship with food and body image. Intuitive eating means you eat when you’re hungry, because your body needs nourishment. And you stop eating when you’ve had enough, based on your hunger cues. Intuitive eating puts you in charge. There are no suggested or preferred foods, no scales, no calorie-counting…nothing that feels restrictive or makes you feel deprived.
10 Intuitive Eating Principles
- Forget about the latest weight loss diet fads that promise unrealistic results. Diets are restrictive, can cause feelings of deprivation and usually set you up for failure. In short, they don’t work in the long run.
- Hunger is part of being alive. It’s a physical signal that we need to eat. Ask yourself, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how hungry am I?” Try to eat before you get overly hungry and stop before you’re stuffed.
- Stop thinking about foods as “good” or “bad.” Make peace with food instead of fighting it. It’s just food. It’s our fuel.
- Food is not the enemy. And you aren’t “good” or “bad” based on what you eat. Try to nip those messages in the bud.
- Honor your body’s signal that you’ve had enough. Keep tabs on how you feel as you eat so you’re attuned to your body’s “I’m full” alert.
- Enjoy food fully. Savor the aroma, texture and taste with every bite. Make each meal an enjoyable, relaxed experience and be present. This may help you eat to satisfaction.
- Be aware of your emotions. Don’t judge them…acknowledge them. Try to deal with them in a way that doesn’t involve food. Call a friend, take a walk, meditate or read a book.
- Your body is beautiful. Stop the negative self-talk about your body. Look around you and notice all the body shapes and sizes you see, and be content with yours. Delight in what your body does for you each and every day.
- Move more. Moving more does not mean you have to spend hours at the gym with the goal of losing weight. Be active for how it makes you feel, and in a way that you enjoy. Enjoy having more energy, stamina and strength.
- Gentle nutrition. This means you should try to eat foods that are best for your health and wellness, knowing a treat or big meal isn’t going to affect you negatively in the grand scheme of things.
Physical Hunger vs Emotional Hunger
A key part of intuitive eating is paying close attention to both your body and mind when it comes to hunger. There are two types of hunger – physical and emotional. When you eat, take stock of which one you’re experiencing.
This is the biological urge that builds up and lets you know you need to replenish nutrients through signals like a growling stomach, fatigue or irritability. When acting on physical hunger, rank your hunger or fullness level on a scale of 1-10, from very hungry to stuffed. Try eating when you’re hungry but not starving. Stop before you’re stuffed – you want to be comfortably full.
Sadness, loneliness and boredom are a few of the feelings that can create the urge to eat (often, the craving is for comfort food). Try to find a way to cope with these emotions that does not involved food, but takes your mind off what you are feeling
In short, listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re hungry or full. Listen to those messages without judgment. Embrace the notion that you’re doing it for your overall well-being and happiness.
Are you looking to create a healthier relationship with food? Intuitive eating is definitely something to chew on. Reach out to one of our Registered Dietitians to learn more and find more healthy living tips here.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider