Intuitive Eating is a lifestyle approach to eating, weight and healthy habits that rejects the idea that dieting is healthy and an effective approach to losing weight. It involves implementing 10 principles of intuitive eating that help you change your views on dieting and restriction in order to develop a healthier relationship with food.
This lifestyle was developed in the 1990’s by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who realized that dieting simply wasn’t working for their patients. This led them to develop this approach that eliminates dieting and is focused on discovering and reestablishing a healthier relationship with food.
There is a ton of science supporting the 10 principles of intuitive eating. The science demonstrates that the body sees dieting as a form of starvation and actually prevents weight loss by activating a chain of mechanisms in the body. Furthermore, there is science showing how dieting or restriction leads to behaviors of overeating and bingeing.
The principles of intuitive eating
Reject the diet mentality
The process begins here with fully accepting the ideas that diets don’t work.
Honor your hunger
Relearning what it feels like to really be hungry.
Make peace with food
Embracing the idea that there is no such thing as good food or bad food.
Challenge the food police
No one has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat. Who is policing you? It may be family or friends around you or even yourself.
Feel your fullness
Just like you need to relearn your hunger, you may need to relearn what it actually feels like to be comfortably full.
Discover the satisfaction factor
Make meals pleasurable and discover what it feels like to fully appreciate and enjoy the food you eat.
Cope with your emotions without using food
Overeating and bingeing may be a response to dealing with difficult emotions. Intuitive eating opens your eyes to how you are using food to deal with emotions.
Respect your body
Learning to love your body especially if it doesn’t look the way you want it to may be extremely difficult and reframing this idea as respect for your body is part of the journey. Over time, this respect will lead you to want to make food choices that support your body the best.
Exercise – feel the difference
Shifting your thoughts about exercise from a focus on changing your appearance to a focus on how moving more makes you feel, makes it easier to enjoy the movement.
Honor your health with gentle nutrition
Your body needs certain nutrients to help it function at its best. Part of intuitive eating is recognizing and prioritizing nutrition, while also choosing foods you enjoy.
What I’ve learned about the principles of intuitive eating
Since implementing intuitive eating into my own life, eating has been a roller coaster at times. Making the shift from a diet mindset, which has been my way of thinking for over 25 years, has been challenging, but my relationship to food has definitely changed and will continue to do so as my journey continues.
Here’s what I’ve experienced, discovered and learned so far since beginning my intuitive eating journey.
Intuitive Eating is not a diet.
You will not receive a list of foods you can and can’t eat. There are no good or bad foods with intuitive eating. Rather, implementing intuitive eating is learning how to allow your favorite food to be a part of your meals without feeling guilt.
It can be difficult to make that switch permanently and I must admit that sometimes my own inner Food Police shows up, telling me I shouldn’t eat a certain food. However, now I find that I am better equipped to dismiss to those thoughts and simply move on.
Making the change to Intuitive Eating is a process.
It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. If you are like me and have spent 20+ years going from diet to diet and trying to lose weight, feeling confident about all the principles of intuitive eating will take time. And for sure some principles will be more difficult and take longer than others.
It also takes some work on your part to really take a look at your behaviors surrounding food. In my opinion I see intuitive eating as a lifelong process that perhaps gets easier with time. You’re always learning and discovering new things about food and its place in your life.
Everyone’s experience with Intuitive Eating is different.
Everyone will have different struggles with the principles of intuitive eating. And there is not a right or wrong way to do it. This means that you don’t necessarily need to work through the principles in order but rather identify where’s the best place to start for you.
For some, you may want to start with something that’s easy first and for others maybe you want to tackle the principle that you struggle with the most to get past it first. However, you move through and implement the principles is completely up to you.
Intuitive Eating doesn’t involve rules and there is no black or white.
The intuitive eating journey is about learning from your behavior. As a rule follower by nature (maybe that’s inherently why I liked dieting for so long) it feels a bit scary for me sometimes to be able to eat freely and not stick to diet rules. So I understand the fears here.
In addition, I’ve also discovered that there are many gray areas in intuitive eating. For example, honor your hunger doesn’t mean that you only eat when your hungry. That simply isn’t practical. There are nuances here to understand that sometimes you will eat cake in celebration without being hungry or you may need to eat prior to leaving the house so you don’t get hungry later and not be able to eat.
It is soundly based in the idea that you can be healthy at any size.
Intuitive eating isn’t about weight loss. Some may gain weight when they begin to eat normally and others may lose weight. The focus is on repairing your relationship with food and beginning to eat and move in ways that are better for your overall health. Just because you may be a slightly higher weight doesn’t necessary mean that you are less healthy than someone at a lower weight.
It’s not a free for all to eat whatever you want.
Yes, you are free to eat the foods you enjoy but nutrition and health do play a role. One thing I have learned for sure during my journey so far is that there are foods that make me feel better than others. Knowing that one choice will provide me with great energy and I won’t crash later on makes it easier to make healthier choices.
And actually, the process of giving yourself permission to eat the foods you want, takes the power that food holds over you away. It may feel scary at first and you may fear being out of control (I know this from personal experience) but it actually doesn’t work that way in the long run.
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Getting started with Intuitive Eating
Are you interested in learning more about intuitive eating but don’t where to start? Here are some top ways to get started!
Get the book
This is a good place to start especially if you are still on the fence and aren’t sure about intuitive eating. The book takes you through all the principles in detail and backs up this lifestyle with science in ways you will easily understand. I find it to be a handy reference tool to keep on hand for me to go back and revisit the principles from time to time.
Check out these other blog posts on intuitive eating
Join my Facebook group, Journey to Health with Intuitive Eating
I am building a community of women interested in learning more about intuitive eating or who are already practicing it but want a place to share or to receive support from others.
In the group, you can post questions about intuitive eating or comments about your own experiences. I post in the group as well about my own experience, tips, recipes and much more.
Sign up for group coaching
I offer an introduction to intuitive eating in my course, Building Healthy Habits with Intuitive Eating for a Healthier and Happier Life. In this four week group course we tackle some of the principles of intuitive eating to get you started on your journey! The course includes group meetings, support in between and activities to help you begin to implement the principles of intuitive eating.
If you have any specific questions about beginning your own intuitive eating journey or want to contact me for more information, please click here to contact me and complete the form or send a direct message to me using the chat button in the bottom right corner of the screen.