What Is Intuitive Eating
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
As the weather gets warmer, we start to see snow melting, flowers blooming, and the sun shining. Unfortunately, we also start to see an increase in advertisements to help you get "bikini season ready" by pursuing this diet or that.
Don't get me wrong. I believe in health and that we can start at any time. Let's face it, that's the reason I got my degrees in exercise science and nutrition. However, what I do not believe is that dieting improves health and that a lower weight is the same as health. What science has identified is that 95% of people who set out to lose weight through some combination of diet and exercise regain the lost weight. That's because your body views dieting like a famine and makes metabolic adaptations to adjust for that.
What I usually ask my clients is: if your computer didn't work 95% of the time would you blame it on "user error?" I wouldn't. I would go and get a new computer. Similarly, we need a new paradigm for health behaviors because dieting just isn't working - and it's not because of user error.
So then what do I do?
Don't worry! There's a new(ish) paradigm that can help you radically transform your relationship with food. A relationship built on nourishing, not deprivation. Satisfaction, not discipline. What is it you ask? Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating 101
Intuitive Eating was created by two dietitians: Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. They have identified 10 principles that help people revolutionize how they view food and feel empowered to make health honoring food choices. These principles include:
Reject the Diet Mentality. The diet mentality puts an emphasis on the "thin ideal" and that attainment of that thin ideal will result in your every wish coming true. The trick is all you have to do is find the right diet and incur all the damages that can go along with dieting (low self esteem, low self worth, yo-yo weight cycling, disordered eating, eating disorders, etc). This principle says "STOP THE NOISE" and helps you truly identify the real costs of dieting. This step is critical to being open and free to explore intuitive eating.
Honor Your Hunger. You may find that you have a complex relationship with your body's cue that it needs fuel. This principle identifies the importance of attuned eating, identifying subtle hunger, and matching intake to how physically hungry you are and what you are physically hungry for. This is where we start to foster body trust.
Making Peace with Food. This principle is where we dig deep into those forbidden foods and start to re-incorporate them. You heard me right, you can eat those "don't" foods from your dieting/disordered eating past. Intuitive eating embraces all foods and removes labels so that we can truly enjoy the foods that we enjoy.
Challenge the Food Police. Are you tired of feeling guilty or ashamed after eating your favorite food? This principle gives names to different food voices that "help" us make food decisions and help us transform any negative voice around food into a voice that is kind, understanding, and attuned to our body's needs.
Feel Your Fullness. In our pursuit of restrictive eating patterns, we have lost touch with our ability to perceive gentle fullness. With this principle, we work on eliminating distractions (including food rules) and focus on attunement to our bodies' sensations for fullness. Learn your body's specific cues to help guide your eating experience.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Satisfaction and pleasure are super important. In our pursuit of thin bodies and clean eating, we have actually deprived ourself of satisfying eating experiences. Creating pleasurable eating experiences that match the body's biological and psychological needs will leave you feeling refreshed and content.
Cope with your Emotions without Using Food. All feelings fit. You are human and as such you will experience a full spectrum of emotions. It's important to identify, feel, and cope with those emotions using a variety of coping mechanisms, not just food. Food is great and it can't help you consistently cope with your emotions.
Respect Your Body. Your body was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and it's time we start embracing that. However, if we are new to body appreciation, it might be too far of a stretch to blindly believe the Psalms. This principle helps us learn how to take respectful actions towards and for our body as way to move "meter" from body dislike to body acceptance.
Movement - Feel the Difference. Movement is most enjoyable when we incorporate principles of balance, variety, and moderation while nourishing our body. This principle discusses the importance of decoupling exercise from weight loss efforts, the weight neutral benefits of movement, and the difference we feel when we nourish our activity.
Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition. This is the pinnacle of Intuitive Eating where we have food autonomy. We are able to make food decisions that are physically and psychologically satisfying without guilt, shame, or "shoulds." In this principle, we learn how we are able to honor and maintain our whole-person health in a way that makes sense to us.
Where to go from here?
That depends on where you are. Maybe you are still skeptical about intuitive eating - feel free to do your research here or with other intuitive eating professionals. Maybe you feel ready to dive on in and want professional support - I got you covered! Wherever you are is a great place to begin exploring your relationship with food.
I'd love to hear from you! Learning about intuitive eating -- what are your hopes and fears about intuitive eating?