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Intuitive Eating 101: What is Intuitive Eating and What Are its Benefits?

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Intuitive Eating may not only change your relationship with food and your body, but it may also change your life forever.

So...What is Intuitive Eating and What Are its Benefits? Overview of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating (IE) was originally founded in 1995 by 2 amazing dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It's an anti-diet, weight-neutral approach to health and wellness. It's not another diet and does not guarantee weight loss. People may either gain weight, stay the same, or lose weight. It's a compassionate, self-care eating framework that treats all bodies with dignity and respect (Tribole & Resch, 2020). There are 10 principles to intuitive eating that act as a guiding post rather than a set of rules:

Principle 1: Reject the diet mentality

Diets fail you, you don’t fail them, remember that. Diet culture is complete B.S. We know that diets are extremely harmful and they fail 95% of the time, yet the diet industry is worth more than 70 billion dollars. A quick and permanent cure to weight loss doesn’t exist. If you keep a small hope that a new diet might be better, it might prevent you from being free to rediscover your inner Intuitive Eater.

Principle 2: Honor your hunger

Keep your body fed and fueled so you avoid triggering a *normal* biological and primal drive to overeat. When you under-eat during the day or ignore your loud stomach gargles, your body reaches excessive hunger and it becomes harder to eat moderately or consciously. Learning to listen for and honor hunger signals sets the stage for rebuilding trust with your body and with food.

Principle 3: Make peace with food

You've been fighting for so long, it's time to give up the food fight. Stop fighting cravings and constructing food rules. Give giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself you can’t or shouldn’t have a certain food, it can lead to intense deprivation that builds up into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you make space for foods you used to restrict, your body will eventually learn that these foods will be around and there’s no need to overeat out of fear that they won’t be readily available later on.

Principle 4: Challenge the food police

Diet culture has created a voice inside your head aka the food police that tells you what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. It yells at you when you break its food rules and it pats you on the back when you reinforce its restrictive guidelines. You know what? f*ck the food police. Tell that inner critical voice to stop controlling your life and food choices. Be nice to yourself and approach any eating situation or difficult body image day with curiosity and kindness. Challenging the food police and chasing it away is a critical step in returning to your inner Intuitive Eater.

Principle 5: Discover the satisfaction factor

My favorite quote from the Intuitive Eating book is: "If you don’t love it, don’t eat it but if you love it, savor it" (Tribole & Resch, 2020). In our quest to be thin and “healthy”, we have overlooked one of the most greatest gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in an eating experience. Remember when food was simply fun and delicious? The pleasure and satisfaction you derive from an eating experience can be powerful tools in helping you feel content so you don't constantly scavenge the kitchen after a meal looking for that extra lil thing that'll satisfy you.

Principle 6: Feel your fullness

This one's a little tricky, because if you've never learned to listen for hunger signals, it'll take practice to hear them again. Honoring your body’s fullness signals becomes easier when you know your body will have access to food later. No starving person will consciously stop eating at comfortable fulness levels, especially if their bodies don't trust that food will be around and won't be restricted again.

Principle 7: Cope with your emotions with kindness

Food restriction, both physically and mentally, can trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Emotional eating is normal. It’s okay if you use food to cope with emotions; we just need to add some other tools to your coping toolbox for you to use when difficult emotions surface, so that food isn’t your only tool. This principle is all about teaching you new ways to comfort, nurture, distract and resolve your emotions without using food all the time. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Food may be a short-term source of comfort by numbing the pain, but it won’t solve the problem long-term.

Principle 8: Respect your body

Body diversity is a GOOD THING. We weren't all made in a one-size-fits all mold. Why are we okay with the fact that we all have different shoe sizes, yet we refuse to accept that we have various body sizes and abilities?! Respecting your body is treating it with kindness, even on days when you don't love it. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you have unrealistic views of your body or if you are overly critical of it. Take pride in what defines you, not in your body shape.

Principle 9: movement- feel the difference

You might look at this principle and think, ugh I hate working out. This is the beauty of this principle, though. It's not about militant, stringent exercise. It's about finding a fun activity you actually enjoy and shifting the focus to how you feel when you move your body. If you feel miserable while working out, if you’re looking at the clock waiting for the minutes to be done, if you are exercising to be able to eat more or to change the way your body looks, you might want to re-define your activity goals. There are so many goals you could focus on like being more energized, more flexible, more mobile, stronger, have more core strength, etc. It's not all about the calories.

Principle 10: honor your health – gentle nutrition:

Eating is not perfect, nor should it be. The process of returning to your inner Intuitive Eater is going to be long and bumpy, but patience is key. The day you plant the seed is not the day you enjoy the fruit. Eating intuitively will mean that you make food choices that honor your hunger, taste buds and health while making you feel good in your body. You won’t suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one meal or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters.

Benefits of Intuitive Eating (IE): Unlike diets, IE is backed up by evidence-based science. There are more than 100 research studies that have shown the benefits of IE which include: 1. Improved relationship with food 2. Increased pleasure from eating 3. Decreased stress and anxiety around food and body 4. Improved optimism and well-being 5. Higher self-esteem 6. Improved body appreciation & acceptance 7. Lower rates of emotional eating 8. Lower rates of disordered eating and eating disorders 9. Freed up mental space 10. Improved satisfaction and quality of life 11. Lower body mass indexes 12. Higher HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels 13. Lower triglyceride levels 14. Lower internalized thin ideal Have any questions about this?

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