I’ve been talking about intuitive eating but haven’t taken the time to actually lay out the principles, both as a nice refresher for myself and as a guide for anyone who happens to find this blog and wants to know more.
For the most in depth information I would suggest visiting Intuitiveeating.com as they have great information for beginners and pros alike as well as a forum.
There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, listed below. They are not necessarily listed in order of importance and some principles may be more critical for one person than another. This is all about honoring your body and finding what fits best for you!
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Diets fail for a number of reasons and leave people feeling like a failure. If you have gone on a diet and did not lose weight and keep it off, it isn’t because you’re a failure. It’s because dieting doesn’t work. Diets place too much focus on calories and not enough focus on building a healthy, sustainable lifestyle including healthy foods, healthy eating habits and healthy mentalities. Diets cause you to feast or famine, ignoring the signals your body sends you to tell you when it is hungry or full.
2. Honor Your Hunger. This is one of the hardest parts of intuitive eating for me. I am an expert at ignoring my hunger until it is so overwhelming that I can’t help but overeat. Instead of keeping our bodies fueled at all times, many of us cut back until we can’t stand it anymore then overindulge, never keeping our bodies on a steady and even keel. You must learn to acknowledge when you are hungry and listen to your body when it asks for food.
3. Make Peace with Food. Another problem with dieting is that it imparts the idea that some foods are “good” and others are “bad”. The idea is extended to ourselves–if I eat good foods then I am good and if I eat bad foods then I am a bad person. You must make peace with food! You must give yourself permission to eat the things you like, to stop judging foods as good or bad. Once you have made peace with food you will realize that you can have the foods you love.
4. Challenge the Food Police. This is tied closely with making peace with food. Many people have an internal voice that tells them they are good or bad for the food choices they make. You must stand up to your internal food police for your right to eat what you like when you’re hungry. You must challenge your food related guilt and shame and learn to trust your body.
5. Respect Your Fullness. You must also learn to respect your fullness. For me this is tied very closely to honoring my hunger. I have a habit of ignoring my hunger then overeating well past the point of satiety. Your body will tell you when it has had enough. You must overcome the fear of leaving food on the plate, learn to listen for cues that your body has had enough and stop when it’s time to stop. There is no need to overeat because there will always be more food available later!
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Do you eat for reasons other than hunger? Does that food even taste good or is it just going down the hatch, almost unnoticed, while the TV blares in the background? If you’re like me, you often take no joy in eating and instead don’t even notice the taste, smell and texture of your meal. Learn to savor, eat slowly, mindfully notice the qualities of the food. If you take the time to enjoy what you are eating, it’s easier to stop when it’s time to stop.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. This one is very difficult for me. I am a boredom eater. During the daytime when I’m busy at work I don’t get many cravings. At home when nothing is going on I feel the need to munch on something almost all the time. According to intuitiveeating.com:
Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, 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.
8. Respect Your Body. We aren’t all meant to be supermodel thin. Your perfect body may be a little heavier, a little rounder, a little more bottom heavy, a little more buxom. We all have different qualities that make us unique and we must learn to accept and respect that.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. This could mean different things for different people. For me it means lifting weights and doing yoga. For you it could mean running, walking, baseball, hockey, swimming, etc. Find an activity you enjoy and do it. If you aren’t in great shape, do something anyways, just don’t push yourself too hard. You don’t have to exercise for hours a day to get in great shape. Take the stairs, park farther away, walk around the block at lunch and stretch out while you’re watching TV in the evening instead of mindlessly snacking. Instead of focusing on losing weight, focus on feeling good.
10. Honor Your Health. Instead of focusing on foods that are low in calories, focus on foods that make you feel good. Maybe you want to keep a journal and track how you feel after you eat different foods to see which ones are best for your body type and which ones you need to avoid. Some people may need more carbs and some may need more protein. Focus on what feels best for you, focus on eating high quality foods with good nutritional profiles and focus on staying healthy rather than focusing on staying thin. And remember, one dessert won’t kill you.