Stop dieting, eat the way nature intended, make peace with food & your body.
If you’ve ever seen a baby eat, you know they are not concerned with calories, fat, carbs, or how their belly looks. They eat when hungry, stop when full, never regret a second helping and eat foods they truly enjoy. When and why do we lose this innate, guilt-free ability to regulate our eating?
Intuitive Eating (IE) is an evidence-based, anti-diet approach to health and wellness that empowers YOU to be the expert of your own body. IE utilizes mindfulness techniques, body acceptance, and a health at every size (HAES) mentality. It is about returning to that natural style of eating we excelled at as babies and toddlers but lost touch with somewhere along the way.
There are ten principles of IE which was created by Evelyn Tribole MS, RD and Elyse Resch MS, RD, FADA. Read on to learn how to reclaim intuitive eating.
1.Reject the diet mentality. We live in a society swimming in “diet culture”, or a system that values weight, shape and size over health and overall well-being. Diet culture is all around us and we often begin to pick up on these unspoken rules from a very young age. As you begin your IE journey, notice how diet culture creeps into many aspects of your life and reject this way of thinking about eating and your body. Research shows that about 95% of individuals who use traditional dieting methods to lose weight gain it back in the long term. It simply does not work for the majority of people and can result in feeling dissatisfaction, guilt, and shame. Instead, shift your focus to wellness in mind, body and spirit.
2. Honor your hunger. Cluing into our biological hunger can help us to eat appropriate amounts. This can be practiced by rating your hunger before a meal, as well as checking in throughout your meal or snack to rate your hunger or fullness. Our goal is to be somewhere between 3-7 at all times, avoiding feeling completely empty (0-1) or so stuffed we feel sick (9-10).
Sometimes, we experience other types of hunger such as taste hunger, emotional hunger, and practical hunger. Practical hunger is when we eat at our designated lunch break or eat a snack between meals to keep our blood sugar stable perhaps despite not feeling a hunger of 3-4 on the scale above.
3. Make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. There are no “good” foods, there are no “bad” foods. You may notice that foods deemed “off limits” become incredibly more desirable once they are labeled as such in our minds. This behavior often leads to uncontrollable cravings, overeating, and binging. Instead, work on embracing all foods.
4. Challenge the food police. The ‘food police’ is that internal voice that imposes food rules and regulations, judges food choices and inflicts feelings of guilt and shame. This judging voice is built by many sources over time: childhood experiences, family, peers, society and the media we consume. When the food police shows up, ask yourself if these thoughts are kind, helpful and true. Begin to see that internal dialogue as a separate entity from your true self.
5. Feel your fullness. Respect your fullness by checking in throughout your meal. Ask yourself, “does this still taste good?” and “am I satisfied?”. You may notice that when you are paying attention to your food, less becomes more satisfying. As mentioned before, try to avoid extremes on the hunger and fullness scale.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor. Eating should be enjoyable and pleasurable. Take time to make your meal special by feeling gratitude for your food, listening to music you enjoy, or sharing conversation with a loved one. Eat foods you love, and remember that food is more than just fuel.
7. Cope without food. It is OK to eat emotionally. Instead of using emotional eating impulsively or as your only option to feel comfort, see it as a choice. Add other soothing strategies to your self care toolbox so that you have a multitude of options when you’re in need of comfort. Some examples may include spending time on your hobby, moving your body, journaling, listening to music, getting outdoors, taking a bath, buying a non-food treat for yourself, or calling a good listener.
8. Respect your body. If body positivity or body love seems unrealistic, begin with body tolerance or body respect. This means accepting and respecting THIS body, today, right now. Honor all of the things that your body does for you. Remember that you are more than a body! Your size, race, gender, level of ability and age does not define your worth. This principle is key to aligning with other principles of IE.
9. Joyful movement. This principle is also known as “exercise, feel the difference”. Instead of using exercise to burn calories, out of obligation, to change your body or as punishment, notice what types of movement feel good in your body. Use movement as a way to express gratitude and respect for your body. Find a movement modality that feels good for you — dancing in your living room, bicycling, yoga, running, boxing, going to the gym, gentle stretching, exercise videos, walking around your neighborhood, and playing with your kids or dog are all great ideas.
10. Gentle nutrition. Certainly, eating more nutritious foods is good for our health. Honor your health by utilizing evidence-based nutrition science to inform your eating habits. Notice which foods leave you feeling good and move towards incorporating more of those. Eat with curiosity and self-compassion, and remember that there is no such thing as a perfect diet. This is the last principle for a reason; proceed to this principle once the others are integrated into your life.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole MS, RD and Elyse Resch MS, RD, FADA (1995, 2012) https://www.intuitiveeating.org/
Valerie Koschnick RDN, CD