Hello hello friends! Today’s topic is Intuitive Eating – what is it? Why should you care? How can you do it? Is it just another dieting trend?
*As always when it comes to health-related posts, I’m comin’ atcha with my best foot (and best information) forward, but I’m not a doctor or health professional. Always consult your doctor before changing your eating habits!*
Let’s dive right in!
What is Intuitive Eating?
Here are some quick facts:
- No, it’s not a diet
- Actually, it’s anti-diet
- It was popularized by dieticians Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
- They wrote a book on it in 1995
- It’s not a tool for weight loss
- Instead it helps you break up with unhealthy food relationships
- It’s non-restrictive
- It’s happiness-indulgent
- There are 10 principles in the practice
Now, allow me to elaborate.
Intuitive Eating (IE) is different. Instead of eliminating food groups, or restricting you to certain feeding times (though I AM a fan of Intermittent Fasting), Intuitive Eating is all about getting back to your roots.
We’re all born intuitive eaters.
We know when we’re hungry, full, thirsty. It’s once we grow older, and we’re exposed to all of the expectations and standards of the media and society and our families that we no longer honor that intuition.
The best way for me to explain is to simply share the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating – as created by Resch and Tribole. I got this info from their site, IntuitiveEating.Org, where you can find plenty more information on the topic.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
This, to me, is what IE is all about. I, like millions of others, have a difficult relationship with food. I go through periods of intense restriction, to overwhelming binging, and lately all I’ve been searching for is balance. IE reminds us of that balance. The “Diet Mentality” mentioned here is the idea that you need to majorly cut down your intake, that you must cut out major food groups, that you have to over-exercise in addition to under-eat in order to be healthy. But being healthy is more than hours on the elliptical and baby-sized portions.
Healthy living is nourishing your body, moving your body, respecting your body, and creating a healthy lifestyle around these habits. And this lifestyle can take time to create and implement. There simply is no quick-fix, healthy living takes time, intention, and dedication.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Your body needs calories. It needs energy, it needs fats, carbs, and proteins. Feed it! If you delay eating to the point of excessive hunger, you’re much more likely to make unhealthy decisions. So if you tend to get hungry 5 times a day, eat 5 small meals. If you’re able to stick to the traditional 3 meals a day, do that. If you need a snack, snack. Its okay.
3. Make Peace with Food
“Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.”(IntuitiveEating.Org)
Food isn’t evil. Depriving yourself of meals or calories during the day will only lead to either a) Starvation Mode, or b) a binge. We want neither of those things. Remember that food is energy, and you need it to survive. Stop seeing food as the bad guy.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Ugh. You know the food police.
They make you feel guilty when you have an extra slice of toast, or enjoy that slice of birthday cake. They applaud you when you’ve “barely eaten today – I’ve been so busy!” The food police tells you that you need to “earn” your food, or “work off” the eating mistakes you’ve made that day.
(The Food Police is a load of jerks.)
Principles 2, 3, and 4 work so hand-in-hand. Eat if you’re hungry, and stop feeling guilty about it. And as much as your goal should be to nourish your body, not every meal, snack, or bite has to be bursting with nutrients and proteins and healthy fats. Allow yourself some grace, some leniency. Understand that food is fuel, and use it to nourish your body, but also understand that food should be enjoyable. You’re allowed (and deserve) to live a little!
5. Respect Your Fullness
Are you done eating when you’re full, or when your plate is empty?
This principle works both ways.
You need to check in with yourself, and ask, Am I full? Have I eaten enough? If the answer is no, eat more. If the answer is yes, stop.
You are not obligated to eat child-size portions simply because you think that’s healthier, and you don’t need to clear your plate at every meal. (Us Americans actually tend to use plates that are much bigger than recommended portion sizes – so we often end up overeating for the sake of clearing our plate.)
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Something that diets, weight-loss gurus, and fitness fanatics tend to forget is that food is frickin delicious.
Food has the ability to bring such joy, and too often is it looked at simply as calories-in vs calories-out. While your caloric margin is incredibly important if your goal is weight loss, calories aren’t important in IE. What is important is enjoying your food. Eat the foods that make you feel good. Eat the foods that make you smile. When it’s meal time, put down your devices, turn off the TV. Focus on the meal you’re having, and enjoy every bite.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
This principle, for me, works with #2 as well. Honor your hunger, but realize – is it really hunger? Or are you feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated, sad?
I noticed within my own habits that often, I started eating just because I got in the routine of eating, not because I was hungry. I’d get off from work, finish up my homework while munching on dinner, shower, and head downstairs with a bag of popcorn, or (my beloved) gummy worms so I could veg out for an hour before going to sleep. Was I really hungry at 10:30 pm? Nope. Did I have a routine (and create cravings) for eating junk right before bed? Yep.
But this is always a quick fix for me. It’s like once I’m reminded that hey, food is for when you’re hungry, not when you’re watching TV, I’m able to ditch the habit. Instead, I can focus on eating full meals without grazing on snacks all day, and I don’t feel the need to stock up on snacks just to relax.
8. Respect Your Body
Listen here, this is important.
Your body is yours. It’s the only one you have. It carries you throughout your days. Hugs your loved ones. Lifts you when you’re down. Keeps you warm. Teaches you strength and endurance. Tastes all of the delicious food.
Can we make a pact to stop hating it?
When we change our relationship with food, we consequently change our relationship with our body. The focus now isn’t to “lose 20 pounds in 5 days! and keep it off!” The focus is on health – mental, physical, and emotional.
In order to eat intuitively and begin living intuitively, we must release this hatred and sorrow for our bodies and celebrate them as they are.
You wouldn’t ask a 6 foot tall person to become 4 feet tall. You wouldn’t expect your size 9 foot to fit into a size 7. Right now, you are as you are, and that is a beautiful thing.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
You know this!
You know that no matter how badly you don’t want to exercise, no matter how exhausted you’ll feel after, or how hard it’ll feel during, you know you’re gonna feel like a million bucks once you’ve finished.
Nothing motivates me to get to the gym more, like actually going to the gym. Once I’m there, I focus on how my physical health is doing. I’m able to push my body and know that I’m gaining strength – both in my body and in my mind.
If the gym isn’t your thing, I don’t blame you. You can still move your body in other ways and feel the benefits. Try walking, jogging around the neighborhood, rock climbing, a yoga/pilates/barre class. There are endless options for you, and they’re all guaranteed to give you a rush of endorphins, and do your body some good.
10. Honor your Health
Because that’s what this is all about, right?
All of these principles are easy to understand, they all work together. A lot of them are things you already know, but maybe have let slip in your daily life. But these are the habits that will help your relationship with food. These are the habits that will help you release any food-guilt or anxiety, help you foster a nurturing relationship with your meals, and help you create a healthier lifestyle overall.
The more you practice Intuitive Eating, and give in to any stray cravings, the more you will crave the good foods. My boyfriend and I once took a trip to Nashville, and while southern food has a special place in my heart (I looove me some BBQ pulled pork), we left the trip CRAVING vegetables. Like, someone get us a salad and 2 heads of broccoli please!
Your body instinctively wants nutrients, and once you no longer deprive yourself of certain foods, your cravings and eating habits will balance out. That has been the major benefit of IE for me.
I know this post was already long af (sorry!) but this is a FANTASTIC article about Intuitive Eating. If you have an extra 10 mins to check this out – it’s worth it. Kelsey Miller wonderfully explains the benefits that intuitive eating has brought her – including reduced cravings for junk food and carbs, and a more loving relationship with herself.
Let me know down in the comments if you guys would like an Intuitive Eating Part 2 with some more nutrition info – favorite recipes and ingredients maybe?