What is Intuitive Eating, anyway?

You may have heard these buzzwords “Intuitive Eating” floating around your social media pages. You see photos of women enjoying themselves around food and embracing their bodies, but you still don’t know what Intuitive Eating really is, or how to integrate it into your lifestyle. 

Intuitive Eating is a scientifically sound nutritional philosophy designed by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The resurfacing of this framework is emerging stronger than ever in our modern day diet culture. Our culture perseverates on weight, and not so discreetly forces us to believe that we need to change our bodies in order to be successful, or even accepted. 

Weight loss is no easy task. Researchers and health professionals are starting to learn more about long term research on diets, or lack thereof. We are finding there is not one specific diet, whether it is low-fat, or low-carb, that is sustainable in the long run (defined as 3-5 years). Data actually shows that 95% of people who diet, fail. Individuals may lose weight in the short-term, but two-thirds of dieters that have lost weight, regain even more back. This research, along with the frustrating human experience of attempted weight loss, makes now the optimal time for Intuitive Eating to resurface and flourish. 

Intuitive Eating often begins by rejecting the diet mentality.

This is an important step in the process. As children we were free from dieting rules, life was simple, we ate when we were hungry, and we stopped when we were satisfied, even if that meant spoonfuls of ice cream were left in the bowl. With time, many of us internalize the message that our bodies are not good enough. Society tells us we must lose weight, lose fat, and get fit. So we try low-carb, and we try keto, we even try fasting. For the majority of us, we might lose weight, only to regain it, and then some. We now know that this kind of dieting is counter-productive and harmful. Rejecting the diet mentality says goodbye to everyone else’s rules, and carves out the space we need to welcome our own awareness as a reliable and sustainable framework. 

Honoring your hunger

Honoring your hunger means that you will be aware of the various hunger cues in your body. Everyone experiences hunger uniquely. You might feel hunger in your stomach, as a hollow feeling, whereas I might feel it in my throat. Tuning in to your body to know what hunger feels like to you is an important tool in this journey. When we know what hunger feels like, and can recognize the magnitude of it, we are better equipped in making comfortable meal and snack choices.

Making peace with food

Making peace with food goes hand in hand with rejecting the diet mentality. When we are able to remove the morality from food, all foods are on the same playing field. While it is true that different foods have unique nutritional properties, making peace with food focus on making all foods emotionally neutral, no one food is “better” than another. Sounds easy enough, right? Nope, not after years of diet rules and food policing. Together with a certified intuitive eating counselor, you can make a list of “off-limit” or “bad” foods and work through these foods with your counselor by doing food exposures. Once we give ourselves license to eat, our bodies will naturally give us variable and diverse hunger cues, ranging from pizza and ice cream one day to salad the next. We must trust in the fact that our bodies want balance.

Challenging the food police

Challenging the food police means we decipher accurate nutrition information from marketing, media and diet culture. Recently in teaching my Nutrition 101 class covering basic nutrition, a student critiqued MyPlate stating, “My Plate has an image of an apple, and aren’t apples bad because they are high in sugar?” (Cue dietitian deep sigh). Is this accurate information, or the food police that has been ingrained in our brains? With the help of a registered dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor, challenging these ideas with science will greatly move you along in your journey back to your body.

Feeling your fullness

Feeling your fullness, and respecting it is tough in the busy culture we live in. If you’re not able to carve out dedicated time for eating a meal, try checking in three times during your meal. How does that first bite taste? Is it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? What about halfway through your meal? Do you still feel hungry, or is that hunger starting to fade? Does the food still taste as good as it did during those first few bites? At the end of your meal, how did you do? Do you feel pleasantly full? A little uncomfortable? This is valuable data from your body. Take this experience and implement it into your journey.

Discover the satisfaction factor

Discover the satisfaction factor. Have you ever found yourself physically full, but still thinking about food? Maybe you’re at work and you just ate a voluminous chicken salad with low-fat dressing for lunch. Your stomach feels full, but you find yourself thinking about chips, or chocolate, or both, while sitting through an important meeting. The satisfaction factor gives you permission to eat foods that “hit the spot”. Allowing yourself the opportunity to integrate that forbidden food into your meal allows you to feel not only full, but satisfied! One of my favorite things about intuitive eating is the freedom gained. When our minds are free from thoughts and worries about food, we are better able to be fully present and authentic in our experiences.

Cope with your emotions without using food

Cope with your emotions without using food. When we know what hunger feels like in our bodies, we are better able to recognize if we are eating for physiological hunger, or emotional hunger. Eating for emotions is normal, it happens from time to time. But food does not fix our feelings, and the goal is to broaden the tools we have in our toolbox when it comes to stress management. Meditation, movement, community, or a counselor are some options. Finding what works best for you is key.

Respect your body

Respect your body. All bodies are good bodies, inherently benevolent. Respecting your body means that we respect size diversity. We know that bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and we respect where our bodies are right now in this journey. We can start small, but we need to start somewhere. It can be challenging to reject the diet mentality if we’re not able to accept our bodies.

Movement-feel the difference

Movement – Feel The Difference. Finding ways that you enjoy moving your body is key. Forget the trainer, the exercise that burns the most calories, or blasts the most fat. Focus on how you feel when moving your body. Do you enjoy the way your body feels in water? Does music move you to dance? Do you prefer hiking or running out in nature? What exercises make you feel better? Sleep better? These are the best exercises for you.

Honor your health with gentle nutrition

Honor your health with gentle nutrition by focusing on variety and balance. Eating a variety of foods from many different food groups provides the body with enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients necessary for energy and normal day to day functioning. In addition to how tasty certain foods are, honoring gentle nutrition integrates how foods make you feel. When we tune in to listen to our bodies, we will have a better understanding of what foods make us feel best physically and mentally!

If you’re intrigued by this blog post and curious about getting started, contact me for a no-obligation discovery call to see if we’re a good fit in working together on your intuitive eating journey!