Food & Nutrition Science

What is Intuitive Eating?

New diets are continuously emerging onto the health and wellness scene. The latest and greatest, however, is not so much a diet but more of a non-diet and a lifestyle choice. This most recent trend to show up has, in actuality, been around for decades but thanks to social media, wellness experts and influencers turning away from the diet culture, intuitive eating has made its way back to the health scene. So what is intuitive eating? Intuitive eating breaks away from the traditionalism of diets and instead embraces a mind-body holistic approach to eating and nutrition. Intuitive eating believes that nothing is off limits and “good or “bad” foods don’t exist.

No one is programmed the same and what may work for some may not work for another. Following intuitive eating principles can be a great way to rediscover your relationship to food and your body. It may lead to trying plant-based, keto, paleo or whole 30. This lifestyle-based approach is about becoming more aware of how and when you eat. It’s honoring the true mind-body connection.

Intuitive eating started with two dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch who founded this approach to eating in the 1990s and promoted that the weight-loss diets that rely on restrictions and limitations ultimately did more harm than good when it came to healthy living and that, healthy living is getting in touch with how hungry or satisfied you are at any given moment. Today, intuitive eating is a way to listen to body cues, become curious about your body and reconnect or strengthen your relationship to food. Healthline says, “to eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to trust your body.” Intuitive eating principles may or may not be an effective weight loss strategy, as that is not the focus of this way of eating. As an opposition to weight loss, intuitive eating presents a myriad of physical and mental health benefits outside of dieting and weight loss/gain.

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Intuitive eating believes that once you stop limiting yourself the more attuned you are to the body and the more you crave healthy foods. Unhealthy weight loss and weight gain cultures could lead to mental and emotional problems down the road where you become focused on the “image” or the result rather than how the body is feeling and the journey to more balanced and vibrant health. More nutritionists, dietitians, therapists and professionals who support intuitive eating encourage the notion to develop the relationship one has to food without worrying about weight, number, result, size, etc. Intuitive eating centers around 10 core principles:

1. Reject the diet mentality: Intuitive eating is about the anti-diet or the idea that there is something out there that magically works for you and your body.

2. Honor your hunger: This principle explains that by paying attention to the body’s hunger cues you can begin to trust your instincts and repair an unhealthy relationship surrounding food. The most powerful tool we have is being able to listen to our bodies.

3. Make peace with food: Take away any restrictions you have around food and give yourself unconditional permission to eat.

4. Challenge the food police: The food police decides whether food is good or bad and whether you are good or bad though what you eat. This intuitive eating principle challenges these thoughts, instead asserting that food is neither good or bad.

5. Respect your fullness: Just as the body can tell you when it’s hungry it can also signal when it’s full. Pay attention for body cues of comfortable fullness during a meal.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor: When you receive satisfaction from your food you begin to truly understand what feels good and what doesn’t. Appreciating the texture, taste and environment in which you’re eating can all play a role into how satisfied you are with a meal. Intuitive eating develops the practice that meal time becomes a more sacred and mindful act.

7. Honor your feelings without using food: Discover ways to comfort and cope overwhelming emotions outside of emotional eating. Become aware of a feeling that might look like hunger but may be based in emotion.

8. Respect your body: Intuitive eating is also about finding love and appreciation in your own body. It’s appreciating the way it moves during a workout at the gym and the way it feels after feeding it a lot of vitamins and nutrients. It’s understanding that we’re all uniquely made and appreciating the journey we’re on to achieve our highest health potential.

9. Exercise – feel the difference: Find ways to move your body that bring you joy. Shift the focus from losing weight or gaining muscle to finding strength, energy and feeling alive.

10. Honor your health: The food you eat should nourish you from the inside out. It’s more about the progress you make and the food patterns you develop over time rather than the one meal or one snack.

The 10 principles of intuitive eating can help you regain confidence in your own skin and mend the relationship you have toward your eating habits. It’s finding food freedom away from the should’s and should not’s of diet culture. Of course, no way of eating works for everyone and after eating intuitively you may find yourself want to try a specific diet. You may find yourself intermittently fasting or moving toward a plant-based diet. This lifestyle-based approach is about rediscovering your own unique relationship to food in whatever form that may look like. Tapping into what you’re feeling into the present moment and what you deeply feel like eating outside of what you “crave” can open up possibilities.

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