Posted on Sep 22, 2023, 6 p.m.
Intuitive eating is gaining attention again, being billed as the anti-diet, and people seem to like it. The idea behind this is to prioritize listening to your body and building a more healthful relationship between yourself and food. However, it is being twisted from what it was designed for by those using it to just freely eat what they want, and that just isn’t healthy at all.
The term intuitive eating was coined in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who wanted to help people struggling with weight and eating disorders. The concept behind intuitive eating is meant to empower people to listen to their bodies more, to eat enough, and learn to recognize feelings of hunger as well as signs of being full. The free eating being promoted by some on social media these days of what intuitive eating is couldn’t be further from the truth.
Intuitive eating has 10 principles that can be used separately or together depending on the person and/or situation:
- Reject the mentality of diets because it generally refers to a short-term plan that is restrictive. Most diets fail because they are not sustainable over the long haul. Rejecting the mentality of being on a diet does not give you leeway to freely eat what you want, it means to think about what you are putting into your body and the long-term effects, this way you can create a sustainable way to eat, you are creating a lifestyle feature, not diet.
- Honor your hunger, yes, but learn to know when it is hunger. Food is everywhere, in fact, it has become so much of a convenience that people confuse being bored or thirsty with being hungry. Your body will actually tell you when you are hungry, the problem is that people forget what that actually is. When you learn to listen to your body and are able to understand what it needs, when it needs it, and follow through with the signs can be hard for people stuck in the diet mentality. Next time you are hungry, try drinking some water and wait a bit to see what happens.
- Make peace with food, food is not your enemy, nor is it your best friend, it is your fuel, and you need to eat to live. Obviously, some foods are better than others, but completely cutting out everything is often why diets fail. Eating healthy shouldn’t feel like a massive struggle, if you want a scoop of ice cream you should be able to have it. The key is control, you need to be aware of portion size, and as with most things, moderation is important, meaning you can’t just freely eat everything, like those not-so-healthy choices, all day every day.
- Challenge the food police and critics, everyone has an inner food critic when they are trying to lose weight, and most times inner voices are worse than other people. That voice may be telling you that you’ve ruined everything by having that slice of pizza. You need to challenge that voice to make sure that those negative beliefs associated with traditional diets and food do not become unbearable. Stay positive, that slice of pizza isn’t going to ruin everything that you have done, that is as long as it wasn’t an entire pizza and you are largely eating healthfully.
- Discover the satisfaction factor, pleasure is one of the goals of healthy living but we most often overlook the joy of eating. People eat faster than they used to, and with that have lost most of that satisfaction factor. Food is more than fuel, it is also for satisfaction. When you are on a restrictive diet you could be missing out on the protein, fats, carbs, and fiber that helps you to feel full. Being full, that feeling of satiety is satisfying.
- Feel your fullness, and learn to understand when you are full, maybe you are actually thirsty not hungry, or maybe you feel full physically but mentally you feel unsatisfied. Not knowing how to feel your fullness is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people overeat and binge. Slow down when you are eating, really chew your food before swallowing, and take time to listen to your body giving you signs of getting full. Portion size also falls in this area, you are not obligated to clear your plate, stop when you are starting to feel full, and you can save the rest for a snack later.
- Cope with your emotions with kindness, not food. More often than not people forget about the importance eating has on mental health, especially while on a diet. One of the most common reasons for under/overeating is when people are not in the best place emotionally, and the stress-laden world we live in really doesn’t help with our emotional well-being. Food will not solve your problems, but kindness and mindfulness can help. It is important not to let stress build, address it on a regular basis so that you don’t find yourself reaching for food as comfort rather than support from friends, family, or other comforting and nurturing activities.
- Respect your body, no one is perfect, and you don’t need to be either. You are uniquely you, do not compare yourself to others, just be you. Stop caring what other people think, and stop trying to fit into their perceptions of perfection. Learn to respect yourself, this step can be hard, but it is very important. Whether it be your height, your body frame, your hair, your freckles, your nose, your lips, or something else, learn to accept your makeup. You will never be able to out-exercise or out-diet a person when it comes to freckles, body frame, or height, so stop comparing yourself to others. Love yourself.
- Movement helps you feel the difference. There is no way around it, healthy weight loss requires exercise, but there are many other reasons why exercise is so important other than burning calories. For starters exercise is a great stress buster, it cures boredom, gives you more energy, helps you sleep, builds confidence, and improves mental health. It may help to stop thinking of exercise as a boring chore and think of all the positive impacts it can have. Look for activities that you like to do as well, and you don’t need to do the same thing every time, it is easy to spice up your day by trying new activities. You may not even realize that you are exercising because you are having so much fun.
- The final principle involves honoring your health with gentle nutrition by encouraging following a healthful, balanced, nourishing diet that fulfills what your body needs. You can get pretty much everything your body needs by consuming fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Just keep in mind that you do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy, meaning that you do not have to refuse that tasty treat all of the time, indulge in that cookie every now and then, moderation is the key.
This concept has helped countless people, however, the true meaning behind intuitive eating appears to be getting lost among a mountain of misinformation on social media. Diets fail because they are restrictive and short-term, for sustained loss you need to change your lifestyle. According to this concept, what you are eating consistently over time is more important, look for progress, not perfection, and stay positive.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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