Intuitive eating is one of the main principles of animal biology. Animals eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. As a human, we are born with this intuitive eating instinct as well. Babies cry for food and stop when they are satisfied. The same goes for children. They have the ability to listen to their body and most know when they are hungry or full. As we grow older we lose our intuitive eating abilities due to the many rules and regulations set by society, and ourselves.
“You can’t have dessert until you finish your vegetables.” We are taught that dessert is a reward and can be taken away if we do not finish our greens.
Intuitive eating as an adult is, in part, getting back those humane instincts to listen to our body when it comes to the consumption of food. If you do a little reflecting on your childhood, you can pinpoint where these restrictions around food impacted your ability to eat intuitively.
The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
This is a big one. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of yo-yo dieting. In my world, I constantly hear about the new diet craze my mom is trying or the juice-cleanse that my friend is on in hopes of shedding a few pounds to look good in her new dress. They continually push their bodies to the edge in order to lose a few, fast. But it never lasts. Dieting is simply a short-term solution with many negative side-effects on your body. So ditch the diet.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Listen to your body. When we start to listen to our body’s hunger cues and properly fuel it, the idea of overeating becomes a thing of the past. Now I know this is easier said than done. It is hard to truly tell when we are hungry enough for a meal vs. a snack or even hungry in general. Something I have found helpful is using a hunger scale. You can create your own or look them up on the internet to help you understand your hunger cues. Honor your body by honoring your hunger.
3. Make Peace with Food
Rather than being in a constant battle with food, accept that it is a part of daily life and all foods are okay to eat. When you deem a certain food “off-limits” it leads to feelings of deprivation and uncontrollable, out of whack cravings. Remember that food is not our enemy. It is an essential part, and requirement, of a fulfilling life.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Sometimes we act as our own food police. Deeming ourselves “good” for restricting food groups or “bad” for indulging in sweets, we can be our own worst enemies. Having certain foods off-limits lead to feelings of intense guilt and sometimes over indulgence. When the thoughts come up, say no. Challenge the rules that we created for ourselves and don’t fall victim to the food police.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Similar to honoring your hunger, respecting your fullness is an essential part to eating intuitively. Again, this is a hard skill to learn. Turn to your hunger scale for help identifying the feelings of fullness, ultimately teaching you when it is okay to stop eating. Remember to periodically pause throughout your meal and reflect on the eating experience as a whole. Thinking about how the food tastes, if you are enjoying it, and where you are on your hunger scale will get you one step closer to eating intuitively.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
This principle is one of the most overlooked. For me, eating has become a chore and I often forget to enjoy the experience. Food is meant to taste good. Sometimes it can be hard to savor the taste of food when we feel so guilty about eating it in the first place. But when we enjoy the overall experience of eating it helps us to feel more content and satisfied, teaching us when we’ve had enough.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
Turning to food for comfort can lead to a vicious cycle of bingeing and restricting. Discovering various outlets for your emotions allow food to be left for what it is meant for, fuel and enjoyment. Writing, coloring, crying, or taking a walk are all healthy coping mechanisms that are more beneficial than the short-term fix that food provides us. Next time you find yourself overcome with emotions, find something calming and appropriate to express your emotions in a positive manner.
8. Respect Your Body
In our society, it is becoming increasingly popular to embrace your body at any shape, size, or color. Accepting yourself as you are is so important when it comes to your relationship with food and your being. Once you begin to do so, you’ll notice that you start to feel better about who you are as a person. Food becomes your ally, and no longer your enemy.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
Exercise can be a touchy subject for some. Overexercise is an easy trap to fall into. Feeling guilty about that cookie? Don’t head over to the gym. Exercise should not be used as a compensation for calories. It is meant to enhance your body, strengthen your heart, and boost your mind. Rather than spending hours going full power on the elliptical, get outside and move around. Go for a mindful walk or do some lunges around the house. Make your exercise routine a fun, uplifting experience.
10. Honor Your Health
Remembering that balance is key. 50% of our diet should come from macronutrients, 30% from fat, and 20% from protein. Eating a balanced diet is important in order to energize our bodies properly. Honoring this and the health needs of your amazing being will help with intuitive eating. Allowing yourself to eat that cookie will not immediately cause you to gain five pounds. Our bodies are so amazing and can do wonderful things. Giving them a wide variety of food groups and types allows us to live our best lives. When you go to choose what to eat, think balance.
Now that you have a better understanding about the core principles of intuitive eating, give it a try yourself.This is something I am still working on every day. My meals and snacks are still on a schedule, but I use these ten core ideas to guide my food choices and allow myself to start enjoying food again. The hunger scale I created is also super important in my daily routine. It helps me to identify my hunger and fullness values before, during, and after mealtimes.
As I work towards eating intuitively, and off my rigid schedule, I will continually keep you updated with my journey. Leave me a comment below so I can hear about your own intuitive eating journey!