Imagine a world in which you could forget dieting and calorie counting and still reach your healthy weight. With intuitive eating you can eat what you want, without rules or forbidden foods. You learn how to practice mindful eating and listen to your body telling you when to eat and when you’re full.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is when you listen to your body and the signals it’s sending you. This gentle nutrition is all about self love. The model for intuitive eating was developed in 1995 by two dieticians in California, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
We were all born eating intuitively. Young children are a great example of this. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. The amount they eat changes almost every day. One day they want two servings at lunch and on the next they’re full after just a few bites.
The older we get, the less mindful we are about food. In childhood we learned that we had to clean our plate or behave ourselves if we wanted dessert. We learned that there are good foods and bad foods. And the result of these lessons? As adults, when we eat “good” foods we feel good about ourselves. But if we eat “bad” foods, we feel guilty about it. The goal of intuitive eating is to change the way we think about food, and this can be a long learning process.
Intuitive eating is not a diet; it’s completely the opposite. You don’t have to count calories or macronutrients and there is no meal plan. All foods are allowed. If you eat according to how you feel, you will learn to be more mindful of the signals your body is sending you. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. You’ll notice what your body needs. It might be a salad, but it could also be a piece of chocolate cake. And that’s totally okay.
Benefits of intuitive eating
There are now more than 100 studies documenting the benefits of intuitive eating. These include:
- more self confidence
- healthier body image
- greater well-being
- positive impact on mental health
- reduced rate of eating disorders
- higher “good” cholesterol (HDL)
- lower triglycerides
Learn to listen to your body
Have you been counting calories with an app for years or tried a million different diets? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when all the rules are gone and you can eat whatever you want…try to listen to your body. Ask yourself what you need at the moment. It takes some practice to understand the signs.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch explain the ten principles of intuitive eating in their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Diets are often doomed to fail and they’re definitely not a long-term solution if you want to reach a healthy weight. Most diets eventually lead to weight gain, cravings, and feelings of guilt or failure when you don’t reach your weight goals.(1) Intuitive eating is based on the principle that diets simply don’t work.
2. Honor your hunger
Hunger is not the enemy. It is your body’s way of protecting itself from starvation. We’ve all seen the advice recommending that we distract ourselves from hunger or supress hunger pangs by drinking a large glass of water. Forget it. Eat when you’re hungry, no matter whether you ate one or four hours ago.
Signs of hunger:
- Growling stomach
- Inability to focus
- Mood swings
3. Make peace with food
Stop thinking about food as being good or bad. Everything is allowed. When you eat mindfully, you eat what you want. Be aware of flavors and the way you feel after your meal.
- Did it taste good?
- Am I full?
- How does my body feel after eating?
You’ll see, intuitive eating will get easier with practice.
4. Challenge the food police
This is a very important step on your road to mindful eating. The food police are those thoughts you have that tell you to feel good or bad about yourself after you eat. Stop them in their tracks and stop punishing yourself for eating a bag of chips.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
The goal of eating is not to get full. Food should satisfy you and make you happy. Sit down and enjoy a meal with all your senses.
6. Feel your fullness
Learn how to listen to the signals your body is sending you when you’re full. If you eat slowly, you’ll quickly be able to feel when you’ve had enough. You haven’t cleaned your plate yet? No problem. Pack up the leftovers and eat them tomorrow instead of forcing yourself to finish.
Signs of fullness:
- Feeling pleasantly full
- Signs of hunger disappear
- Appetite is reduced
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
What do you do when you’re stressed out or sad? Reach for chocolate, perhaps? It’s completely ok to feel sad, anxious, angry, or lonely. A lot of people use food to make themselves feel better. (2) But keep in mind that food won’t solve any problems. Find other ways to cope with your feelings. Try a long walk, a yoga session, call a friend, or keep a mindfulness journal. There are plenty of other ways to feel good besides indulging in chocolate.
8. Respect your body
Remember: to thine own self be true! Accept your body and learn to love yourself. This is the most important principle of intuitive eating.
9. Movement – feel the difference
Instead of thinking about which kind of exercise burns the most calories, reflect on which activity is the most fun and makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, dancing, biking, or bodyweight training. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it.
10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition
Choose foods that are good for your health, taste good, and make you feel good. You don’t always have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. There’s no food that will make you sick if you eat it once or twice. It’s all about progress.
Intuitive eating is not a diet or nutrition plan. Eating mindfully means not feeling guilty and not having rules. It’s all about tuning into your body and take care of yourself. You know yourself best – you are the perfect person to decide what you need to feel good.
Are you ready to leave all those diets behind you and get to know your body better?