What Is Intuitive Eating?
If you have found yourself here you are probably wondering, what is Intuitive Eating? Let’s dive in!
Intuitive Eating is a non-numbers, non-diet, weight-neutral approach to health that will allow you to heal from the negative physical, mental, and emotional effects of chronic dieting and food restriction. It teaches you to ditch the diet mentality and make peace with food. It will help you regain confidence in your ability to acknowledge, listen to, and trust your body’s internal cues surrounding hunger, fullness, satiety, cravings, desire for joyful movement, and much more. It will help you understand that food is fuel for the physical body, but it’s also so much more than that. Food provides satisfaction and can be pleasurable. You will learn what it means to respect your body and honor its needs.
Intuitive Eating is the way that babies and young children eat. It’s the way you were born eating! As a baby you knew what, when, and how much to eat without even thinking about it. You knew how to ask for food when you were hungry and stop eating when you felt that you’d had enough. Maybe you have lost touch with this ability throughout months or years of dieting, restriction, and exposure to diet culture messages that say, “that food is bad, eat this instead” or “you need to eat less.” Maybe you no longer trust yourself to eat without an app telling you how much. Maybe you only eat that pizza if your smartwatch tells you that you’ve reached a certain number of steps. Those external cues can really mess with your mind and body. They can totally throw off your internal signals that tell you when, what, and how much to eat!
But know that there is a way to relearn how to trust your body and its internal signals so that you can once again eat for enjoyment, nourishment, and self-care, instead of restriction, punishment, and self control. You can heal from years of dieting and disordered eating!
It’s important to note that Intuitive Eating is NOT a diet. It’s a program designed to heal your relationship with food and make peace with your body, no matter what its size or shape may be. Your body may or may not change in size throughout your Intuitive Eating journey. There are many factors that play a role in determining body size and a big one is genetics! Just think of your best friend whose shoe size is an 11 while yours is a 5…you wouldn’t expect to be able to change the sizes of your feet to comfortably swap shoes, would you? Feet (and bodies!) naturally come in all shapes and sizes. Intuitive Eating will allow your body to find the size at which it can exist happily and safely without external measures rooted in control and restriction. Know that your body is worthy of care and respect regardless of size.
More technically speaking, Intuitive Eating is a framework of ten research-informed, Health At Every Size® aligned principles outlined by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD in their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. A new, updated version is set to be released on June 23, 2020. And the title has had a slight change! It is now called: Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Revolutionary Approach.
Here are the Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating as outlined by The Original Intuitive Eating Pros® :
- Reject the Diet Mentality
Break up with diets for good and with that rid yourself of the guilt you have felt when a diet hasn’t worked. Stop looking for the next diet trend to follow. Reject diet culture and its promotion of weight loss.
- Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body fed with adequate energy by learning to follow your innate hunger and fullness signals.
- Make Peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat! There are no good foods, bad foods, or forbidden foods. Food is fuel with no moral value.
- Challenge the Food Police
The food police monitor whether or not you are following the rules that diet culture has created. The food police are the voice in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. Challenge this voice and scream, “no!”
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
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.
- 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 rather than external cues such as caloric value and portion size. 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.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food may sometimes be an appropriate tool to cope with emotions, but it does not have to be your only coping tool. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.
- 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. Respect your body as it is and recognize that it is worthy of care. All bodies deserve dignity.
- Movement—Feel the Difference
Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. Forget the exercise rule and restrictions, heart rate monitors, and step counters. Move your body in a way that feels good. Do activities that you truly look forward to and enjoy.
- 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 adequately nourishing your body over time that matters.
Interested in exploring Intuitive Eating on an individual level? Do you want to unlearn all of the negativity, restriction, and rules surrounding food so that you can relearn how to find peace, satisfaction, and enjoyment with food? Click here to learn more and apply for 1:1 coaching with Claire!
About the author:
Erica Langford is a Yours Chewly Nutrition Intern and graduate student at Winthrop University studying Human Nutrition and Dietetics. She is working to become a Registered Dietitian with the goal of practicing with a HAES® and Intuitive Eating approach.