In this day and age of mindfulness and #cleaneating, it’s clear that we’re trying to create a more positive relationship with our food. Long gone are the days of greasy take-out every night and opting for soda over water – well, for most of us, anyway.
Conversely, super restrictive diets are no longer in vogue. While some variations of these eating plans definitely still exist, dietitians are mostly promoting healthier options for eating programs. Whole foods (not the chain of uber-popular grocery stores but actual whole foods, like lean meats, fruits, and veggies) are all the rage and are incorporated into programs like the Whole30.
Rather than saying "eat less," popular thought has drifted more towards "eat what you want, just try to incorporate these good foods more often." And that train of thought is perfectly encapsulated in the intuitive eating movement.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an approach to food that rejects rigid diet mentalities. People who eat intuitively eat what they want until they’re full and observe how certain foods affect how they feel.
This tends to create a healthier relationship with food, often increasing weight loss and boosting self-esteem.
The approach also incorporates some healthy exercise and gets you thinking about "good" and "bad" foods in a different way.
The Principals of Intuitive Eating
Here are the ten guiding principals of intuitive eating, as told by the two women who coined the term: Evelyn Tribole, RD and Elyse Resch, RDN.
1. Ditch Your Diet (or At Least Your Diet Mentality)
Diets have a funny way of making us feel terrible about ourselves. When we break them or can’t follow through, we beat ourselves up needlessly. Individuals who have tendencies to fall into unhealthy eating patterns will take dietary restrictions to the extreme, only inflicting further harm on their physical and mental well-being.
And the worst part? We’re condition to think this way, especially women.
So, the first step is bucking the idea that there are any good diets out there. Get rid of books and magazines that claim "instant weight loss results," and unfollow social media accounts that make you feel pressured to look or eat a certain way.
To put it simply, they’re full of crap.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Brace yourselves for this crazy idea – when you’re hungry, you should probably eat something.
In all seriousness, this isn’t easy for all of us to comply with, but satisfying hunger is a crucial part of intuitive eating. When you’re hungry, your body is telling you it needs nutrients. Denying it those nutrients is only going to set off cravings and binges.
If this is a difficult step to take, begin by observing when you are hungry and how you react to your hunger. Are there times when you purposely suppressed hunger? Why? How were you feeling in that moment?
3. Stop Categorizing Foods as "Good" and "Bad"
With intuitive eating, all foods are allowed in your diet. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want – yes, including that candy bar. The whole point is to stop depriving yourself of those foods we’ve been told are "bad."
We’re not saying those foods are good for you, but if you tell yourself you can’t or shouldn’t have a certain food, you will eventually feel deprived. More often than not, deprivation builds into uncontrollable cravings and overeating, creating a negative cycle.
4. Challenge the Food Police
The food police can be anyone – your co-worker who asks if you’re "actually going to have that piece of cake" or the critical parent who makes subtle jabs about your health or size. Feel free to tell them to take a hike.
5. Feel Your Fullness
Rather than stopping your meal because you’ve hit your carb limit for the day, try listening to your body. Pause partway through a meal or snack and check in with yourself. How does the food taste? How full do you feel? Bring more consciousness and awareness to your meals, this will help you stop when you’re full and prevent overeating.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
You can eat your fill of grilled chicken and be full, but are you satisfied? Eh, maybe not. Satisfaction may cause you to look for yummy foods to binge on, even if you feel full.
But when you eat what you really want, the feelings of satisfaction and pleasure you feel will help you be content (and often with less food).
7. Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
Emotional eating is something many people struggle with. We often use food to cover up unpleasant feelings and emotions. It’s important to find ways to comfort yourself and resolve your emotions without using food, such as journaling, therapy, and exercise.
8. Show Your Body Some Love
Learning to respect your body for how it is at this moment is an important aspect of intuitive eating. Naturally, we’re all going to have bad days where we don’t like how we look.
Try making it a habit to practice a little self-love. Admire your body in the mirror, look at your favorite attributes, and do things that make you feel fabulous. Accepting ourselves as we are is a huge step towards rejecting diets and the idea of the "perfect" body.
The calories you put in are important, but so are the ones you put out! Exercise is important in any and all lifestyles – but don’t confine yourself to the exercise you "think" you should be doing.
Forget about the calorie burning and think about how you feel after working out. Do you feel energized? Do you sleep better?
Find the exercises that work for you. Hate running? Then don’t run. Try Zumba, cycling, or other means of cardio. Do your research and try new things, and we guarantee you’ll find a workout routine that makes you feel amazing.
10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
Remember the golden rule: being healthy doesn’t mean eating perfectly. Yes, you should eat whole foods. Yes, you shoudn’t have McDonald’s every night or drink soda instead of water. But one meal or one snack or a bad weekend of eating your heart out is not going to damage your health. Give yourself a break.
Food is a part of life, so go out there and enjoy every delicious bite it has to offer.
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