Written by Dalindcy Koolhoven.
Remember back when you were a kid? You ate when you were hungry, and stopped when you were full. You were (most likely) a healthy weight en got plenty of exercise – because you played outside. There was no calorie counting, dieting and stress around food involved.
Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that sounds incredibly simple – and in a way it is – yet is requires some practicing, especially if you’ve been restricting food for years and put foods in the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ category. It helps you get back to the way you ate when you were a kid.
One of the most important things you can do to get yourself on the path to eating intuitively is to implement mindfulness during mealtimes and throughout the day. This will not only assure that you’re eating what you need when you need it, but it will also help you to discover if you’re using food to fill a deeper emotional need. Many of us are emotional eaters without even knowing it.
The approach to intuitive eating was first developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I highly recommend reading the book, that goes deeper into the 10 principles of intuitive eating. This is a summary of the 10 principles as found on the Intuitive Eating website:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created.
5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
Intuitive eating has helped me get comfortable with food and not worry about what I eat all the time. It’s definitely something you will have to practice – I still sometimes sit down behind my computer with a meal and eat mindlessly, only to discover that I am too full afterwards. But I’m way more aware of what I’m hungry, full or just craving something, and I’ve never been less stressed about it.