What is Intuitive Eating?

By Victoria Q

The Basic

Intuitive eating is an approach toward food and body image by making peace with all types of food. This means you’re not restrict or ban certain type or group of foods and stop looking at food as “good” or “bad”. Instead, you listen to your body cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction and eat what feels right for you.

You’ll learn to trust your body around food and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full without feeling guilty. The idea is to help you focus on the foods that work the best for your overall physical and mental health. When you eat intuitively, you also let go of the idea of losing or gaining weight.

10 Key Principles

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

So, you get angry at yourself every time a diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight? Do you blame yourself for the lack of willpower that caused you to eat a whole bowl of rice for dinner? It’s actually not about your lack of willpower or you eat a whole bowl of rice for dinner. It’s the system of dieting that has been focusing on body size and make you feel like a failure every time your diet failed. Ditch the diet mentality that only allows you to live on salad. Get rid of diet books and magazines about easy or quick weight loss. Unfollow social media accounts that keep emphasizing diet and instead follow accounts that share positive mindset around food and health.

2. Honour Your Hunger

Hunger is not something you should ignore. When you’re on a diet or weight loss mentality, you tend to ignore your body hunger cue and not eating to achieve your goal, which your body will increase its cravings and appetite toward food. This will only lead to binge eating or feeling out of control around food. In intuitive eating, you’ll learn to honour each signal of hunger and rebuild trust in yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food

This principle is to stop telling your brain what you are allowed and not allowed to eat and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want. If you tell yourself that you can’t or are not allowed to eat a certain type of food, you will eventually feel deprived. This will lead to uncontrollable cravings toward the food and in the end, binge eating often occurs.

4. Challenge the Food Police

When you’ve been on diet for quite some time, your brain will automatically separate food into “good” and “bad”. Good food is super low in calories like green vegetables, meanwhile, bad food is high in calories or anything high in carbs, fats, or sugar. These unreasonable rules were created by diet culture. You feel guilty eating carbs/sugar/dessert and go on an even harder diet the next day causing the food police to be in charge of you around food. Challenging the food police is a critical step towards becoming an intuitive eater.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

In our current modern world that is filled with diet culture, we often look for foods that make us full and low in calories even when we’ve actually wanted something different. There is a difference between fullness and satisfaction. You can be physically full but not satisfied with what you had. If you overlook the pleasure and satisfaction of eating, you’ll probably keep looking for that one thing to make you satisfied and content and it can be hard to feel “done” eating. However, when you eat something you really want, including the food that you’re in the mood for and the taste of the food, the pleasure and satisfaction you feel will help you be content and feel “done”.

6. Feel Your Fullness

Dieting causes us to only eat at a certain mealtime and no food afterwards so leaving food on your plate is difficult because you know you won’t get to eat after this. However, feeling and honouring your fullness means allowing yourself to leave the food on the plate when you’re comfortably full. Also, considering putting the leftover away for later if you don’t want to waste the food. Listen for the signals your body send to you. Bring more awareness to your meals by pausing in the middle of eating and check in with your body. How full do you feel? How does the food taste? It’s absolutely normal to feel out of control when you first practice intuitive eating because your body is simply recovering from food restriction. Eventually, you’ll get better and your body able to discover the fullness level.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

We’ve all been through this stage before – eating out of boredom, sadness, anger, and loneliness. This is called emotional eating. It happens when we seek comfort from eating for what we experience throughout life. It may provide comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb us, but food won’t solve the problem. Instead, we should find out the trigger of emotional eating and work through it. Find kind ways to comfort, distract, and solve the issues such as brisk walk, painting, meditation and many more.

8. Respect Your Body

Respecting your body means that you listen to your body, serve your body with care physically and mentally with kind and appreciation. Respect begins when you recognize your values as of who you are. Regardless of how your body looks and how you feel about it. When you are comparing yourself with people on social media and speak badly about your body such as having a thick waist, not being tall enough or wobble legs, you’re sending a negative message toward your own body. Accept your imperfection and love who you really are. Stop comparing yourself to others and be grateful for the things your body did to you unconsciously.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

Many people see exercise as something they should do to burn off the calories they consumed throughout the day. Some people even force themselves to hit the gym for 3 hours every single day to lose weight. This lead to many people thought exercise as a punishment. We know exercise is good for our health, but if we forced ourselves into it without enjoying the ride, it will only lead to a negative view of exercising. Instead, we should see exercise as nourishment we give to our bodies. Focus on how you feel from exercising, such as energized, lighter or sleep better. This will make a huge difference between dragging your feet to the gym or getting excited about the next pilate class.

10. Honour Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Some people considered themselves failed to be healthy when they ate a slice of cheesecake or not eating enough greens. You don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. In fact, you will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy from one snack, one meal, or even one day of eating. It’s about being consistent with what you eat and how certain foods make you feel good as well as tasty and satisfying. Gentle nutrition means using food as a form of self-care and nourishment rather than control and restriction. Rather than thinking about what you should cut back on or eliminate, think of what you should add for the nutrient benefits.

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