What is Intuitive Eating?

Have you heard things here and there about Intuitive Eating, but wonder what it is, if it’s possible for you and how it can help you feel more free around food while still honoring your health values? In today’s post I explain what Intuitive Eating is, why principles of Intuitive Eating can benefit anyone, how it has helped numerous people feel less controlled by food and food choices and enjoy eating again, and how it can help you honor your health without feeling like it’s all or nothing.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is a self-care form of eating that values both physical and mental health. It is based off of 10 principles that help you take the focus off of external tools like diets and tracking apps and onto building trust within your body and it’s cues. It is backed by the concept of interoceptive awareness, which is your ability to perceive physical sensations from within the body. The same way you perceive a rapid heart beat or a full bladder, your body has the ability to perceive hunger and fullness and physical sensations that arise when emotions occur. However, through years of dieting or having rules around what, when and how much you’re allowed to eat, you have likely lost touch and trust within these signals. This may have affected your relationship with food and causes you to either feel obsessed with everything you eat, feel like you’re constantly losing control with food or both!

The 10 principles focus on re-building that trust within your body and around food, so that you can be at peace with food, enjoy eating again and honor both your mental and physical health. The principles are as follows:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Feel Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Exercise- Feel the Difference
  10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

Each of the first 8 principles really work together to build a foundation of food and body peace, so that you can then incorporate exercise and Gentle Nutrition without falling back into obsessive thoughts about food and exercise.

Why can Intuitive Eating benefit everyone?

Even though not every principle of Intuitive Eating can fully be applicable to every single person, meaning that someone with a chronic illness may not be able to give themselves unconditional permission to eat all foods (part of Principle 3 – Make Peace with Food), many aspects of all of the principles can be utilized to create a healthful relationship with food and body. Even someone who has diabetes, can benefit from a positive relationship with food because when food feels like it is “off-limits”, as humans we start to crave those foods more and that can turn into binge eating, which is not where we want someone with diabetes to be in order to maintain stable blood glucose levels.

How has Intuitive Eating helped numerous people feel more confident around food?

I speak more about the nuances of hunger and fullness and how understanding the two can help build trust around food in this blog post. However in general, when you no longer look at external tools, like dieting and food tracking apps to tell you what, when and how much to eat – you can focus your attention to your own body’s cues. These cues include hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Satisfaction of what you’re eating is basically the hub of Intuitive Eating, because if you are not satisfied by your meals, you are going to continually search for the food that does and find yourself overeating or bingeing and feeling really guilty, which only worsens your trust around that food.

The purpose of Intuitive Eating is to rebuild that trust in those cues, so that you are able to make an easy food choice that is going to honor your mental and physical health. Once you feel confident in those cues and have made peace with previous foods that you felt out of control with or untrusting of, it is much easier to make a mindful choice of whether or not that is what your body needs in that moment. Because of this, we have seen research that shows people who eat intuitively:

  • Eat more variety of foods
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Have greater body appreciation and satisfaction
  • Have more positive coping mechanisms to handle emotions
  • Have more pleasure from eating
  • Have greater life satisfaction
  • Have higher HDL (good cholesterol)

Sounds nice, right?

So how can Intuitive Eating help you honor your health?

Like I said above, when the focus is off of what you “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, you can make a food choice that honors your health with ease. When you have gone through your own Intuitive Eating journey, you will have made peace with all foods, built trust within yourself around those foods, made peace within your body and after all of that – you get to focus on how you can ADD to your life to make it more healthful and fulfilling. What happens when you’re dieting is that eating and exercising becomes an all in or all out type of thing. So when you start a diet – you’re all in. You eat perfectly and exercise daily, but this becomes draining after awhile. You start to feel deprived from the foods you really enjoy because they’re not allowed. You start to feel exhausted from working out and not fueling your body with enough food. You start to miss out on social events or start feeling withdrawn when you’re at them. And BAM! You fall off and now you’re all out. You binge on all the foods that weren’t allowed on the diet. You don’t exercise for weeks. This is the diet-binge cycle that I see with all of my clients.

But with Intuitive Eating, it’s no longer all or nothing. You’re allowed to eat whatever food you want, but you know that eating a lot of chocolate all the time doesn’t make you feel good. You can tell that when you nourish your body with more nutritious foods, you have more energy and feel better – so you choose that most of the time and don’t feel guilty for the times you choose the less nutritious foods. With Intuitive Eating you get to focus on exercise that feels good to you, that’s fun and motivates you to do it more often because you’re paying attention to how that exercise feels versus external things like how many calories it burns. When you place the focus on adding nutrition and movement to your life versus taking away foods and punishing yourself with exercise to earn your food – it’s much more sustainable. You don’t feel drained, exhausted, overwhelmed, withdrawn. You feel liberated, empowered, balanced, confident and free to live a healthful life that you truly enjoy!

Resources to check out!

If you haven’t yet read the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, I cannot recommend it enough! These women are the creators of  the 10 principles Intuitive Eating and break down each principle in this book! You can grab it here.

If you have already read the book and are unsure of where to start or have started trying to eat intuitively and feel confused – I offer 1:1 coaching and would be more than happy to chat and see if you’re a good fit for my program. Fill out the app here and we can schedule a free strategy call to chat more about Intuitive Eating and how it can give you food freedom for life!

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