What is Intuitive Eating?

intuitive eating Mar 30, 2019

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet, weight inclusive approach to health and wellness that helps you make peace with food and your body.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a framework to help you get back in touch with your body’s natural wisdom, rebuild the trust between your mind and body, heal your relationship with food and discover what it means to YOU to be well-nourished. It’s about listening to YOUR body to guide your food and movement choices. It’s about following internal signals like hunger, fullness and satisfaction and rejecting external cues like diets, food rules and societal trends.

Intuitive Eating is NOT A Diet

It’s not surprising given the culture we live in that many people inadvertently turn it into the hunger-fullness diet. But, it’s not just about eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. If you’re just focusing on those two things, it’s easy to get caught up in obsessing over how hungry or full you are. Intuitive Eating takes into account much more than just hunger and fullness. It accounts for pleasure, satisfaction, your mood, your energy levels, emotional eating, social situations, etc. Intuitive Eating isn’t restrictive or rigid. Sometimes you’ll eat a cookie when you’re not hungry just for the hell of it. And that is OKAY.

Benefits of intuitive eating:

Overall, intuitive eating helps you develop a healthier relationship with food resulting in improvements in blood pressure, lipids, and cardiorespiratory fitness — even in the absence of weight loss.

Several studies have shown that intuitive eating is also linked to:

  • Low preoccupation with food
  • Less disordered and emotional eating
  • Better body image & appreciation
  • Greater emotional functioning
  • Greater self-worth
  • Lower rates of depression and anxiety
  • Greater quality of life
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure

What to expect with intuitive eating:

There is SO much to look forward to once you have truly found food freedom and body acceptance. Here’s some things you can expect and look forward to with intuitive eating:

  • You will be able to listen to and trust your body
  • You won’t feel guilty about your food or exercise choices anymore
  • Eating will become a pleasurable experience
  • You will no longer see exercise as a burden or punishment
  • Nutrition won’t be a tool to make you feel bad anymore but rather a path to feeling physically good
  • You’ll have space for the things that are actually in alignment with your life goals and values

Can you lose weight intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is NOT intended as a weight loss method. Some people might lose weight by listening to and honoring their bodies, while others may gain weight they’d lost from deprivation and restriction. Others might not see any change in weight. Intuitive eating is not a weight loss program; it’s a transformational and freeing tool to help you heal your relationship with food. Weight loss is not a goal of intuitive eating because making it your main priority inhibits you from truly being able to listen to your body and trust your intuition, which defeats the purpose of intuitive eating.

Don’t worry if initially you still have a desire to lose weight or change your body. That is completely normal. Instead of trying to “get rid of” it (which just amplifies it), see if you can get curious about it. What are you making it mean about yourself if you do lose weight? If you don’t? Are these interpretations or facts? Can you think of any exceptions to these beliefs? What are you missing out on by holding onto these beliefs?

The more you ask yourself “how can I truly care for myself right now?” rather than “what should I do to lose weight right now?”, the better you’ll feel in your body. Body acceptance, trust and confidence are built from treating your body with kindness and respect, not from having a certain body.

Fear of gaining weight and how to overcome it

Often times, wanting to lose weight actually has nothing to do with weight but with other areas of your life that are out of balance. I created this video to help you understand what the fear of weight gain REALLY about so you can completely and confidently trust that intuitive eating, over time, will support your body in finding it’s natural, healthy weight.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 core principles:

 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality:

Rejecting the diet mentality is a critical step in making peace with food and your body. The diet mentality is that sneaky voice in your head that tries to decide your food and exercise choices for you without factoring in your internal body cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction. This doesn’t just mean “being on diet”; you can still be caught up in the culture of dieting even if you aren’t “on a diet”.

First, it’s important to recognize how the diet mentality plays a role in your life. How much time and money do you spend thinking about your food and body? How does it affect other areas of your life like your relationships and mood? Once you are aware of these harmful beliefs, you can then take action to dismantle them.

Research has shown that 95% of diets fail and eating restraint is actually associated with weight gain over time. Not to mention, of those 5% who “succeed”, many of them are actually engaging in disordered eating behaviors. Our bodies literally can’t tell the difference between dieting and actual starvation. This leads to slowing of your metabolism and increased cravings. It’s not surprising that most diets result in weight cycling which is associated with increased mortality risk and inflammation. So WHY THE F**K is everyone so caught up in diet culture?!

Here’s why: the weight loss industry is worth over $60 billion dollars/year on the premise that you are “not okay” and need to be “fixed”. It’s interesting to think about it this way. The diet industry creates a problem by convincing you that you need to change your body. Then, they pretend to have the solutions to your “problem” (and they were the ones who created this fake problem!). Do you see now why diets literally make no sense?

Throw out your diet books, your scale and anything else you associate with dieting or trying to lose weight. Let yourself get angry at the lies you’ve been told that have led you to feel like you were a failure every time a diet didn’t work for you. It’s really important to commit to giving up dieting and the pursuit of weight loss for good because holding onto any diet mentality thoughts will inhibit you from becoming an intuitive eater.

2. Honor your Hunger:

Honoring your means learning to notice and honor the natural, biological hunger cues from your body. Sometimes, it’s hard to notice the early, more subtle signs of hunger. But, once you learn to, you are able to make food choices from a place of self-care rather than from a place of feeling deprived and like you need to have self-control. It’s kind of crazy if you really think about it. Why the hell do we listen to diets to tell us when and what to eat when our bodies are designed to notify us when we need nourishment?

When your body trusts that you will consistently and adequately nourish it, you build trust between your mind and body and no longer feel out of control around food.

3. Make Peace with Food:

Say goodbye food rules and restrictions. No more labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat anything at anytime. The goal here is to have the same emotional response regardless of if you are eating a kale salad or cookies, for example.

This video breaks down why all foods are equal and how you can start letting go of the “good” vs “bad” mentality to help you listen to your body and find long term sustainable wellness without any of the guilt, stress or obsession.

When you have completely made peace with food and know that what you want will always be allowed, you’ll be able eat amounts/types of food that feel right for you in any given moment. If you don’t fully believe you have unconditional permission to eat anything at anytime, intuitive eating won’t work because you will still feel a sense of deprivation. It’s normal to find yourself eating more of the foods you have restricted in the past. Your body is like “OMG I better stock up now before I’m not allowed to have this again”. However, once your body trusts that you won’t deprive it anymore, these foods will become a balanced part of your eating.

4. Challenge the Food Police:

Say FUCK YOU to that inner voice in your head or anyone who tries to tell you that you’re “good” or “bad” for eating a particular food. In today’s culture, we are constantly bombarded with unreasonable messages about what we “should” or “shouldn’t” eat, how are bodies are “supposed to” look, what diet we should be on, etc. These rules and messages hinder us from being able to tune into and satisfy our bio-individual needs. Stop giving these mother fuckers (the food police) control and re-claim your freedom by shutting these messages and thoughts down.

5. Feel your Fullness:

Check in with yourself when you’re eating. Ask yourself how the food tastes and listen for your body’s signals that you are no longer hungry. When you know you have unconditional permission to eat whatever you want whenever you want, it becomes much easier to stop when you are full.

Try to eat mindfully and without distractions. Check in with your body throughout your meal. Notice the food with all of your senses. Ask yourself if you’re satisfied yet and what your hunger/fullness level is.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor:

Allow yourself to eat foods that satisfy you and give you pleasure. Learn to tune into what feels good and what doesn’t feel good in your body. Ask yourself, “If I could have anything in the world to eat right now, what would that be?”. When you release judgement and guilt and eat the foods that you really want, it’s much easier to feel satisfied.

The emotions you feel when you are eating definitely affect the experience. If you’re eating a plate of pasta and really present, enjoying beautiful scenery or in good company just taking pleasure in the meal at ease, that’s going to be nourishing. But if you’re eating the same pasta and filled with anxiety over eating it or totally distracted, that may not be nourishing. It’s a totally different experience when you allow yourself to enjoy your meals without guilt or judgement.

Remember, intuitive eating isn’t all or nothing. It’s flexible, which means it doesn’t have to be perfect. There will always be another opportunity to honor your hunger and fullness and have satisfying meals.

7. Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food:

Eating should be enjoyable but it’s not an effective coping mechanism for working through your feelings. Yes, sometimes it’s totally okay to eat to soothe emotions. This is a normal part of eating and being human (just take it as an opportunity to learn and move on). It’s when it becomes your only coping mechanism that it becomes problematic.

Our relationships with food are a blessing. They let us know what’s going on inside the body. Becoming aware of coping mechanisms can give you information about something you are trying to avoid in your life that may need attention.

Ask yourself “what do I really need in this moment?”.

8. Respect your Body:

Recognize your body for all that it does for you instead of criticizing it for all of the ways that it’s not perfect. When you respect your body, you’re able to nurture it in a way that feels good for you.

Here’s some questions you can ask yourself to better understand how you relate to your body and shift towards feeling less awful about your body:

  • What would an ideal relationship with your body look like?
  • If you knew what your body dissatisfaction was really about, what would that be? What parts of your life do you maybe need to address to feel better?
  • What would it be like to love your body? What changes might take place in your life?

9. Exercise – Feel the Difference:

Exercise, or better referred to as joyful movement, can definitely be part of your life as in intuitive eater as long as you dissociate it from the pursuit of weight loss. The goal here is to think about movement from a place of self-care rather than self-control.

Shift from focusing on burning calories or losing weight (or whatever diet mentality thoughts you have tied to exercise) and instead focus on how movement makes you FEEL. Ask yourself “Do I feel like moving my body? Do I need to rest or will movement feel good? What kind of movement would feel just right?”.

10. Honor your Health:

Eat what tastes good to you and what makes you feel good. The goal isn’t to see all foods as equally nutritious; it’s to have the same emotional response regardless of what you eat. Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want ultimately results in variety and balanced food choices. You’ll want to feel good and feeling good comes with listening to YOUR individual needs. Our bodies have bio-individual nutrition needs and intuitive eating is what allows you to really listen to them.

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