Your Ultimate Guide To Intuitive Eating
You’ve tried every diet in the world and you’re getting frustrated. You’ve tried eating healthy, you’ve read all the books and follow the most inspiring Instagram accounts. Still, you can’t seem to make peace with food, and it’s taking a toll on you.
Perhaps we can introduce you to Intuitive Eating? As a life philosophy, Intuitive Eating is a rather simple idea: it aims to create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, so you can unlearn the negative messages about hunger that society has taught us all from an early age, and incorporate more --yes-- intuitive eating habits.
Here’s your ultimate beginner’s guide to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about eating intuitively, and making peace with food.
What’s Intuitive Eating, and how can it help you make peace with food?
Intuitive Eating is “an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach” that is entirely personal to the individual and their own feelings of hunger and satisfaction. It simply asks you to entirely disengage from what we know as diet culture and instead to work to tap into your body’s natural ability to tell you when you’re ready to eat, when you’re full, and when you might be hungry again after that.
Intuitive Eating is based on the belief that humans are inherently in tune with their hunger cues, but that modern society --pervasive unethical messaging and punishing ideas about thinness, fatness, hunger, and women’s desirability in particular-- made us unable to listen to our own bodies and what they are trying to tell us at any given moment. So, all you’re trying to do when leaning into Intuitive Eating is… simply tuning into your own “knowing.”
Is Intuitive Eating A Diet?
No! Unlike traditional diets, Intuitive Eating is all about trust and fluidity: there’s no “right” or “wrong,” so there’s no way to end up back in old schemes like sticking to the diet or breaking the diet --that’s actually what makes it so forthcoming, and why so many people find it helpful!
Intuitive Eating centres acceptance, grace, and recognition of your own personal needs, both psychological and physiological. If diets like keto, intermittent fasting, paleo, Atkins, Dukan, Weight Watchers and so on are based on rigid schemes and tough rules ––which are so hard on people’s willpower and emotions, thus often doomed to fail–– Intuitive Eating, instead, asks you to not ignore the signals your body is sending you, and actually learn to be in conversation with them all the time.
The many benefits of Intuitive Eating
The Intuitive Eating framework was developed by Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and publicised in their 1995 book Intuitive Eating as a “a weight-neutral model” honouring people’s health, emotions, and personal awareness.
A review of close to 100 studies on the short and long-term results of Intuitive Eating ranked its many benefits high: these include lower rates of disordered eating, higher general well-being, and positive body image and self-esteem in people following the framework. These are, in turn, linked to higher distress tolerance, appreciation of the functionality of the body and what it is capable of, and even sexual satisfaction.
The Principles of Intuitive Eating
Reject the Diet Mentality
The most important thing, as we’ve seen, is to reject old and antiquated frameworks we’ve inherited from diet-centric mentalities and strict weight-loss-focused structures. Any type of dieting fails to account for what the individual truly needs and desires, and that’s why it’s doomed to fail.
Honour Your Hunger
In order to eat intuitively, you need to honour both hunger and fullness in the same way. Eating is nourishment, it’s what keeps us alive ––and as such, food should satisfy our full selves, including our physical and emotional hunger, every time we sit down to eat.
Make Peace With Food
Food is the enemy. Eating can harm me because I will hate myself after a meal. I don’t need that much food to get through the day. This principle goes hand in hand with the rejection of diet mentality, and you need to take it seriously in order to seriously benefit from eating intuitively.
Challenge The Food Police
While you’re at it, challenge any type of “right” or “wrong” framework around food! When it comes to eating for survival, eating for pleasure, or simply eating because you feel like it, there’s not a correct way or a wrong way to do it… there’s simply what you truly feel like doing, and what you’ve been conditioned to think you want.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Eating is a pleasurable experience, and it should be considered as such. The more you take your hunger cues seriously, and the less you hurry through each meal hoping you’ll stop feeling hungry after two almonds and a single salad leaf, the more you’ll learn to enjoy the moment and look forward to the next meal.
Feel Your Fullness
Your body is an expert not only when it comes to telling you it’s hungry, but also when it’s full. It’s important that you learn to recognize what this feels like, and how to stop when you feel like you don’t need or want more food.
Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Emotional eating is a classic coping mechanism, and a very common one at that. By tuning into awareness, and treating your emotions with the kindness and grace they deserve, you might be able to find better suited strategies for giving your body what it needs without succumbing to emotional cravings or binges.
Respect Your Body
Reject society’s messaging, reject other people’s ideas about bodies and worthiness, reject every negative thing you’ve ever been taught about the way you “should” or should not look. Each body is amazing for what it does for us every single day, and it needs to be respected!
Intuitive movement is the other side of the coin, as it relates to eating intuitively and doing everything in your life a little bit more intentionally. Incorporate movement into your life because it makes you feel strong and gets endorphins cracking, not because you feel like you should exercise in order to look a certain way.
Honour your health
That’s the most basic principle of all, and perhaps the most important! Your health is what really matters, and giving your body what it needs is the best way to make sure it’s as healthy, strong, and energised as it’s capable of being.
How to start Eating Intuitively today
You can dive into the world of Intuitive Eating right now, and your life could change in an instant!
Begin by taking some time to go over your current eating habits, emotional and physical needs, and your overall behaviour around and in relation to food. Ask yourself whether you’re hungry, and learn to listen to what your body is telling you. Then, listen for signs it’s full, and do it all over again.
Aim to start eating when you’re peckish, but not fainting from hunger… and in the same vein, you want to stop eating when you’re full, not can’t-get-out-of-your-seat stuffed. You can learn more about Intuitive Eating from Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s bestselling book, and their website www.intuitiveeating.org for lots more resources!