What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based, non-diet framework designed by two American dieticians which emphasises listening to internal cues rather than external diet rules. The general idea is to encourage health-promoting behaviours without focusing on weight and regain trust in our bodies again.

We are born intuitive eaters. We stop when we are full and push food away, we cry when we are hungry. We move because it is fun, not because we’ve just eaten a chocolate bar and feel guilty. Intuitive eating is all about reclaiming the joy in eating and moving.

Intuitive eating is backed up by science. Although there is still more research needed in the area, intuitive eating now has over 120 studies assessing its efficacy. Intuitive eating has been seen to improve LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood glucose levels, reduce emotional and disordered eating, improve self-esteem and body image as well as increasing satisfaction with life. Intuitive eating is the anti-dote to dieting as there is no focus on calorie counting, macro counting, syns, shakes or restriction. It is becoming in tune with your body and silencing diet culture.

The Principles of Intuitive Eating

In the original framework for intuitive eating, there are ten key principles. It is important to note that these are not rules! You cannot do intuitive eating wrong, it is a process and will take time. The goal of intuitive eating is to redevelop a positive relationship with your body, food and movement. This looks different for everyone.

Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw away the scales, unfollow calorie counting accounts on Instagram and ditch the diet books. Consider the amount of time, money and energy you’ve put into trying to change your body shape. Think about what you could have been doing if dieting wasn’t taking up so much of your brain space. This first principle is vital because as long as the diet mentality is lingering, you’re not free to discover intuitive eating.

Honour Your Hunger

Learning to trust that your body will tell you when it is hungry and honouring it by feeding yourself is a vital step in regaining a positive relationship with food. We all need food to survive and who is better to tell you when you need food than your body?

Make Peace with Food

Leave behind the labels like ‘clean’ foods or ‘naughty’ foods. Making peace with food is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat and reaching food neutrality – all food has its place. Restricting certain foods can quickly lead to a ‘restrict and binge’ cycle – eating past comfortable fullness and feeling guilt.

Challenge the Food Police

Your inner food police will try to berate you for enjoying previously restricted foods. It is important to challenge this inner monologue and take away the morality out of eating choices. 

Respect Your Fullness

Learning to respect your fullness can be linked-to honouring your hunger. Being mindful during eating can help you rediscover when you’re truly full, the feeling of comfortable satisfaction after a meal.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Everyone has the right to enjoy the food they consume. Pleasure is a large part of eating and when we enjoy the food we are eating, we find it takes just the right amount of food to feel truly satisfied.

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Emotional eating is a normal part of life. Food can offer us comfort in certain situations but food will not fix the problem. Delving into the root cause of our feelings and developing other coping mechanisms can help us in the long-term.

Respect Your Body

Accept your body and respect what it can do. Body diversity exists in our world and we need to become better at accepting that it exists. It is time to free yourself from unrealistic expectations and start treating your body with kindness.

Exercise—Feel the Difference

Once you begin to uncouple exercise from weight loss then you can begin to truly find the joy in movement. I genuinely believe that there is some form of movement for everyone where you can find fun in movement, rather than punishing yourself.

Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

This principle is all about reintroducing some gentle nutrition to allow you to make food choices that honour your health and are pleasurable whilst making you feel good. There is a reason this is the last principle, nutrition advice can easily slip into obsessing over every meal and snack. It is important to remember that what we eat consistently over time is what will benefit our health. There is no perfect food, meal or way of eating.

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