Intuitive eating is the complete opposite of dieting......and when most people hear that their internal panic meter rises. However, intuitive eating can be beneficial to anyone and there are a lot of health benefits that come with it. When I work with clients and groups on intuitive eating I like to describe it as writing with your non dominate hand. It's awkward, uncomfortable and takes work to get comfortable. The same applies to IE, it's usually the complete opposite of what we've been told to do over our lifetime but it's an ability we were all born with.
What is intuitive eating?
IE (or intuitive eating) is listening and honoring our bodies needs and wants. It's listening to and trusting our bodies cues and giving our body what it needs. It has nothing to do with meal plans, will power or a specific diet to follow. IE is a non diet approach that helps individuals break the chronic diet cycle and build a healthy relationship with food and their body. It is taking into consideration that each person is unique and needs and craves different things.
The 10 principles
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Take a look back at all the diets you have tried over your lifespan. Have they worked (and by worked I mean been able to be maintained for a lifetime and given you freedom, health and nourishment)? For 95-97% of people the answer is no. Diet culture is everywhere. It can be found in our desire to cut out certain food groups, weigh and measure things, letting the scale dictate our health and so much more. Diet culture is everywhere we look and you have every right to challenge these things and be an advocate for yourself.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body nourished and listen to your hunger cues. Opposed to going off of a serving size, meal plan or calorie count, listen to your body and its hunger cues.
3. Make Peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Allow all foods in your diet. There are no "good" or "bad" foods. Once we begin labeling foods they begin to become off limits. And what do we want when we can't have something? You know the drill. When we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat our bodies want balance and nourishment. All foods can have a place in your life.
4. Challenge the Food Police .
Challenge your thoughts that tell you you're "good" for eating something or "bad" for doing something else. This is #dietculture These are the types of thoughts that cause shame, anxiety and unhealthy thoughts/behaviors around food.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Tune in to your body and notice if you are full. Respect your bodies fullness cues. This takes mindfulness practice and being aware of how your body is feeling as you're eating. You can practice this by pausing throughout your meal and checking in with your body.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Choose foods that satisfy you. Before you eat check in with yourself and see what your body is craving. Something sweet? savory? hot? cold? listen to your body and allow yourself to have what you want.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
How can you comfort yourself without using food? Sometimes this means feeling your emotions instead of avoiding them. Sometimes we need to journal, connect with a friend, go for a walk or a different activity that brings us comfort in a time of need.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint.
As humans we love to compare. It is part of our nature. It is important that we respect our body and respect who we are though. Our bodies have this amazing ability to keep us at a size and weight where we perform and function best. When we dictate that through extreme dieting we are robbing our bodies of doing the job they know how to do best.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
I love to call this joyful movement. Find things that you love doing (and this might be different everyday). Move in a way that you enjoy and feels good for your body. This might be yoga, running, dancing, swimming, lifting weights among a lot of other things. And it's OKAY for this to look different every day.
10 Honor Your Health–
Make choices that honor your health, values and also your tastebuds. No need to be perfect. Consider how certain foods make you feel. Find foods that honor your health and nourish your body.
Over 60 research studies have been done that have shown IE leads to
Resources to get started
These two books are great resources to get started
Health at Every Size
Additionally I have ongoing groups throughout the year based around Intuitive Eating as well as resources through social media.
Hanna Kuyper is a wife, a mom and a lover of all things outdoors. She has owned a women only wellness studio, sat on the board of a non profit dedicated to eating disorder and body image awareness and has volunteered as a mentor for girls in school. Hanna has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in eating disorders and body image. She is a currently a virtual body image and recovery coach at The Eating Disorder Center.