What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach to nutrition that focuses on listening to your body’s natural cues to help you make healthier and more balanced food choices. It is based on the premise that by recognizing physical hunger and fullness cues, responding appropriately to them and honoring our individual preferences and needs, we can develop healthier relationships with food, our bodies and overall wellbeing.
Intuitive eating is based on the theory that with consistent practice, individuals can develop a greater understanding of their body’s needs and maximize their physical and mental health. Unlike most diet or nutrition plans, intuitive eating is not about following strict rules or programmed meal plans but rather about understanding your eating patterns, emotions and the connection between food and your body.
5 Principles of Intuitive Eating
According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, there are ten core principles of intuitive eating. For this article, we have summarized the five principles that are essential for understanding intuitive eating and incorporating its practices into your life.
Reject the Diet Mentality
The first step to practicing intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality. This means rejecting any use of rules, restrictions or food “dos” or “don’ts” that often come along with diets. Restricting certain foods or adhering to stringent dietary guidelines typically leads to feelings of deprivation, guilt and overeating.
The goal with intuitive eating is to remove the stigma and guilt associated with certain foods. Instead of labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad”, we encourage individuals to focus on overall nutrition and to view all foods in their diet as having nutritional value.
Honor Your Hunger
The next step is to honor your hunger by recognizing and responding appropriately to your body’s natural hunger signals. This means not ignoring them or allowing them to go on for extended periods of time. When you ignore your basic physical hunger cues, it can lead to overeating, binge eating, and feeling physically and emotionally drained.
Try to incorporate regular patterns for eating, eating when you’re physically hungry and stopping when you feel satisfied. It’s also important not to allow yourself to get too hungry as this can also become a trigger for overeating.
Make Peace With Food
Once you honor your hunger, it is important to make peace with food. This means rejecting guilt and all negative thoughts around food and focusing on the joy, pleasure and satisfaction that food can bring. Making peace with food means respecting your body, loving the roof and loving yourself enough to pour nourishment into it.
To make peace with food, focus on the connection between nutrition and health by trying to understand your individualized needs and wants, and focus on the bigger picture instead of overly focusing on minute details like calorie counting or dieting.
Challenge the Food Police
The fourth principle of intuitive eating is to challenge the food police. Food police, or the internal dialogue that tells you that you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat certain foods, can be a major hindrance to your path to improved health.
Instead of following the food police’s voice, challenge and question these beliefs. Ask yourself if these are truly your beliefs and values, or if they are imposed by the diet industry or societal norms. When challenging the food police and making food decisions based on your own beliefs and values, you can start to build and maintain a healthier relationship with food.
Respect Your Fullness
The final principles of intuitive eating are to respect your fullness. This means listening to your body’s fullness signals and stopping eating when you feel satisfied. This does not mean “stuffed” or “overstuffed”, but rather leaving the meal feeling satisfied and without that feeling of guilt or deprivation.
Learning to recognize and respond appropriately to satiety signals can help you avoid overeating and feeling bloated or physically uncomfortable. Respect your fullness by continually checking in with yourself throughout a meal and stopping when you feel full.
Why You Should Practice Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based healthy lifestyle that can help improve overall wellbeing by providing nourishment to both the body and mind. It helps individuals gain a deeper understanding of their body’s needs, build a healthier relationship with food and learn how to respond appropriately to hunger and fullness cues.
Practicing intuitive eating can provide long-term physical benefits, such as improved digestion and nutrient absorption, better weight management and a stronger immune system. Intuitive eating can also significantly improve mental health, leading to increased confidence, body acceptance, self-empowerment and improved overall wellbeing.
Tips for Practicing Intuitive Eating in Everyday Life
If you’re looking to start incorporating intuitive eating principles into your life, here are some tips to get you started:
Start with Baby Steps
Intuitive eating can be daunting and overwhelming at first, so it’s important to start small. Make small, manageable changes to your diet or lifestyle that you can follow through on.
Listen to Your Body
The most important part of intuitive eating is to listen to your body and recognize its hunger and fullness cues. Start by stopping when you feel satisfied, not “stuffed”, and tap into what emotions influence your food choices.
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is another great way to listen to your body’s needs. Instead of rushing through a meal, take your time and give yourself the opportunity to savor the flavors and the social aspect of eating with others.
Cover All Nutritional Bases
When making food choices, make sure to cover all of your nutritional needs by including a variety of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fats. You don’t have to follow any strict guidelines or meal plans, just make sure to include all of the major food groups to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach to nutrition that empowers individuals to make their own decisions when it comes to food choices. It helps you develop a healthier relationship with food, recognize and respond appropriately to hunger and fullness cues, and make peace with food without guilt and without dieting.
By understanding and incorporating the five principles of intuitive eating into your life, you can enjoy the physical and mental benefits that come with a healthier and more balanced relationship with food.