What is Intuitive Eating? Is it some weird woo-woo type of eating style? Or is it just mindful eating? And why is everyone starting to talk about Intuitive Eating?
First up, there is nothing ‘woo-woo’ about Intuitive Eating.
#fact – Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, that has a pile of supporting scientific evidence. It was created by two US dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in the mid ’90s.
Intuitive Eating is founded on the premise that our bodies have an inbuilt biological wisdom to know what foods and eating habits are best for us. Sound crazy?
>>>This only sounds crazy because our current diet culture teaches us the opposite. For example, we’re routinely told we need to weigh and measure our food, count calories, count macros, count points, follow strict meal plans and so on.
But the truth is you don’t need to count or weigh your food to be a healthy eater.
So how the heck does Intuitive Eating guide us to become healthier eaters then if it’s not a guide of what and when to eat?
Intuitive Eating is guided by 10 principles, that Evelyn and Elyse developed for their clients. These 10 principles of Intuitive Eating will help you in two key ways:
- By helping you to become attuned to the physical sensations in your body (e.g. hunger and fullness) and learn how to honour these in a timely manner to meet your own biological and psychological needs.
- By removing obstacles and disruptors to this attunement; these are typically rules, beliefs and thoughts (about food, your body, your worthiness etc).
Your Body Is A Super-Intelligent Machine!
What you’ll discover through the process of becoming an Intuitive Eater, is that your body has a pile of very handy signals that it sends to tell you when to eat AND when to stop eating.
These signals guided us when we were babies and young children in eating to meet our needs for growth and play.
But most of us have unlearned how to listen to these signals, for example:
- We were taught as kids to eat everything on our plates (starving children in Africa and so on); so we stopped listening to our fullness cues.
- And we were taught at school, home, work and while dieting, to eat at assigned times. So we stopped listening to when our body said it was hungry and just ate at the assigned meal-times whether we were hungry or not.
Intuitive Eating teaches us to ditch those external rules and instead RECONNECT with our body and listen to what it says about hunger and fullness.
Intuitive Eating is a truly holistic approach to healthy eating; and not in a woo-woo way. It is just truly about reconnecting your physical body and your mind; the way they were designed to work together.
Which when you think about it, is not that strange. It’s the way we listen to our bladder and go and empty it when we feel the urge to wee. You don’t try to ignore your bladder, and say “I can’t possibly need to wee yet, I only went to the toilet 2 hours ago, what is wrong with my bladder?!”
Nope. You trust your bladder to send signals and you respond. You know if you ignore the signals accidents will happen.
Thing is, accidents happen too when you ignore your hunger and fullness cues; a.k.a OVEREATING!
So what are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at diet culture that promotes weight loss and the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
3. Make Peace with Food
Call a truce; stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud no to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often overlook 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 derive 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 you’ve had “enough.”
6. 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. 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.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
First, recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.
8. 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. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feelthe difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.
10. 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 what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.
Mindful Eating versus Intuitive Eating
Mindful Eating is a process of intentionally paying attention to your eating experience, without judgement. It sounds easy, but it can be really hard to get out of the habit of multi-tasking and thinking about other things while you eat.
Intuitive Eating is a broader philosophy than Mindful Eating, as it also includes physical activity for the sake of feeling good, rejecting the diet mentality, using nutrition information without judgment, and respecting your body, regardless of how you feel about its shape.
So while you will find me discussing Mindful Eating, as a process within Intuitive Eating, a mindful eating tutor is unlikely to discuss these broader issues about diet culture, accepting your body and so on as a matter of course within a Mindful Eating program.
In my opinion, Mindful Eating is an absolutely essential skill we all need to learn. But more than that, we also need to grasp the broader set of skills that are contained with Intuitive Eating; because diet culture and the body image pressures within our current culture are massive and causing a lot of harm, these NEED to be addressed by each of us too.
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