It’s a pretty neat sounding concept, but what exactly does it mean?
In a nutshell, intuitive eating is about getting back to how you used to eat before food was a source of numbing, judgment, and reward. Back when food was easy.
Intuitive eating focuses on honouring your hunger and fullness signals and making food choices that leave you feeling your best both physically and emotionally.
But most importantly, intuitive eating is about making peace with food.
Have I sparked your interest yet? If so, I urge you to read on.
In their widely popular book, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch layout ten principles of intuitive eating.
Each principle builds upon the other, and in my experience – it’s important that you master each principle before moving on to the next. You’ll always struggle to respect your fullness unless you’re faithfully honouring your hunger.
Principle One: Reject the Diet Mentality
The first step towards intuitive eating requires you to break up with “diet talk” – to rid your life of any and all apps, magazines, and blogs that keep you stuck in a diet and weight loss mindset.
I view this principle as an exercise in setting boundaries. It’s about protecting what messages you’re letting into your heart and your mind.
Principle Two: Honour Your Hunger
Principle two is all about eating when you’re hungry. What a novel concept!
But where the challenge lies is that most chronic dieters have completely lost touch with their hunger signals. We only know extremes, and by time we actually feel hunger we are past the point of no return and raiding the pantry for any quick fix.
As part of principle two, you need to get back in touch with the more subtle hunger cues – lethargy, thoughts of food, and irritability (hangry!) to name a few.
And if you’re unsure whether or not you’re hungry – err on the side of eating.
I’ve found that most of my clients are apt to do the opposite, and then they’re back to square one.
Principle Three: Make Peace with Food
This – along with principle number four – are my favourites.
Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat is pivotal to healing your relationship with food.
But it HAS to be unconditional. Otherwise you’re going down the path of mental restriction. And psychologically speaking, mental restriction is no different than physical restriction.
Read more on mental restriction here.
Principle Four: Challenge the Food Police
Get rid of food labels. Period.
Food is neither good nor bad. It’s just food. And by association, you are neither good nor bad for what you do or do not eat.
Principle Five: Respect Your Fullness
This is a tricky one. Most often I don’t address this principle with my clients until later in the intuitive eating process.
Why? Because this is the point at which too many women turn intuitive eating into yet another diet and beat themselves up for eating beyond that first hint of fullness.
What you need to keep in mind is that eating beyond fullness is completely “normal” and is very much a part of a healthy relationship with food.
Think of someone you know who has a healthy relationship with food. Do they not over indulge during the holidays?
Food is more than fuel. It’s also a source of pleasure, tradition, and community.
And if you strip that away you’re yet again back to mental restriction.
So PLEASE use the fullness scale with caution. Hunger and fullness are not black and white.
Principle Six: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
As much as is reasonably possible, sit down to eat your meals. Turn off the TV, get off your cell phone, and focus on the taste, texture, and flavor of your food.
Allow yourself to experience the pleasure of eating. After all, being in a state of pleasure improves digestion and nutrient absorption!
Principle Seven: Honour Your Feelings without Using Food
This principle is all about self-care. It’s about taking care of YOU and allowing yourself to feel and express your emotions.
Now that food no longer holds so much power, you won’t be inclined to abuse it for numbing. But that also means that you may feel more raw and vulnerable as the emotions bubble to the surface.
Now’s the time to find some new coping tools to fill your toolkit.
Principle Eight: Respect Your Body
We’ve been fed a pack of lies when it comes to weight and health.
So get yourself connected to body positive blogs, websites, and communities ASAP.
Principle Nine: Exercise – Feel the Difference
Principle nine is about learning the art of intuitive exercise. Truthfully, this principle alone could fill an entire book. It was certainly the last piece of the puzzle for me.
Intuitive exercise is about moving your body for pleasure and energy; not punishment or to atone for what you ate.
I won’t pretend that this is easy for someone whose identity is wrapped up in their physique. But I will say that the freedom I’ve gained from breaking up with the gym is equal to – if not more – than the freedom I gained from making peace with food.
Principle Ten: Honour Your Health
Last but not least, principle ten is about making lifestyle choices that leave you feeling your best both physically and mentally. And truthfully – if you’ve mastered principles one through nine you’re already there!
There you have it. Intuitive eating 101.
You deserve a high five if you made it all the way to the end of this post. It certainly wasn’t short and sweet.
Then again, neither is the journey to heal your relationship with food and body.
But I promise you that it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself and the most precious lesson you’ll ever teach your children.
If this post resonated with you, follow along on my website as I share more thoughts on food and body image http://kristenmcdiarmid.com/.
Kristen is a food and body image coach sharing her message on www.kristenmcdiarmid.com. Having overcome an eating disorder that took her to the brink of death, Kristen knows firsthand how it feels to live a life ruled by food, guilt and shame. But she also knows what it takes to make to the other side.
Kristen is passionate about guiding women to find their true selves through her personalized 1:1 coaching and group programs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.