How to Form a Healthy Relationship with Food through Intuitive Eating
Move over intermittent fasting and keto diet, Intuitive Eating is having a moment in the spotlight, and it is gaining attention for a reason! Some things you may have heard about Intuitive Eating are that it can help you form a healthy relationship with food and your body. It can also help you give up dieting. However, because of its trendiness, there is the potential for the meaning and nuance of Intuitive Eating to become misconstrued or “watered down”. Read on to find out more about this unique approach and what it is and what it isn’t.
What is Intuitive Eating?
The concept of intuitive eating means trusting your body’s innate ability to know what, when, and how much food to eat on a daily basis. While this process may seem obvious to some, it can be very challenging to understand or trust your body’s signals for various reasons. If you’ve been off and on various diets for some time, you may have lost the ability to tune into what your body actually needs. It may also be hard to trust your body and the signals it gives. Consider these questions in order to better understand how Intuitive Eating may shed some light on your relationship with food.
- Do you feel like you are unsure about what hunger and fullness feels like in your body?
- Do you find yourself getting upset or disappointed in yourself whenever you “cheat” your diet or eat a “bad” food?
- Are you restricting certain foods in order to achieve a specific body type, but end up feeling more out of control with those foods whenever you do eat them?
- Do you sometimes cope with your emotions (stress, sadness, anger, anxious) by eating?
- Are you caught in the dieting cycle of restricting (losing weight) then binging (and gaining weight back)?
- Are you compensating for what you eat through exercising or eating less regardless of how your body feels?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, Intuitive Eating can open the door to viewing food, eating and your body in a new way.
What Does it Entail?
Intuitive Eating presents ten principles to help you achieve food freedom and the ability to honor and trust your body. Here are the basics of each of the ten principles.
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Learn how to let go of thoughts, tools, and rules that are keeping you trapped in the cycle of dieting. Often, people pursue weight loss for health reasons. Know that you can achieve good health without dieting or focusing on weight.
- Honor Your Hunger: Become aware of even the faintest signs of hunger in your body. You will choose to no longer ignore or dispute these feelings your body gives.
- Make Peace with Food: Understand that food is neither “good” or “bad” and should not have moralistic values in the first place. Depriving yourself of the foods you love which you label as “bad” or “off limits”, will only set you up for intense desire and guilt for eating that food.
- Challenge the Food Police: Negative thinking is not helpful to support healthy behaviors or a healthy relationship with your body. Develop new ways of thinking which support rational ideas about food, eating and your body.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Food should be enjoyed! Think about what foods, tastes, textures, etc. are the most pleasing to you. Enjoy these often and without guilt or shame!
- Feel Your Fullness: Leave your meal or snack feeling comfortably satisfied and not overly full. This can be done through mindful eating and various exercises which strengthen your ability to do this.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness: Food is a coping mechanism to many of us. Sometimes it is a sign that we just aren’t meeting our emotional/psychological needs enough. Self-care practices, learning to identify your feelings and/or speaking to a professional therapist can help.
- Respect Your Body: Being hard on yourself for the body type you have is a learned habit created by society. You can change this by exercising self-compassion, finding clothes that you like and that fit the body you currently have, and decreasing comparing yourself to others.
- Exercise: Feel the Difference: Exercise should never be used as a punishment or solely as a means for weight loss. If you find yourself dreading exercise, this principle can help you find the fun in movement again just like when you were a kid.
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: This is the last principle for a reason. Nutrition guidelines have been distorted under the guise of “wellness”, but this has only fueled a perfection and fear-based mindset with food. Before you can begin to think about this principle, it’s important that you work through the beginning principles. While nutrition is a factor in our health outcomes, it is not the major factor. Nutrition should be viewed as a complementary part of your overall health which focuses on what to add to your routine, not what to take away or limit.
How is Intuitive Eating Different?
Intuitive Eating is radically different from all diets and “wellness” programs in that it does not promote weight loss. Intentional weight loss efforts inevitably fail for the majority of people and it is not anyone’s fault, but the diet or the person who prescribed the diet. There are many studies and anecdotes that prove this to be true (*See resources below). While many people pursue weight loss in order to fit into society’s “thin ideal”, this is often the source of the disordered eating patterns and troubled relationship with food. That’s why Intuitive Eating does not put the focus on weight loss. Healing the relationship with food is the objective rather than using changes in body composition as a sign of success.
Thinking about trying out Intuitive Eating? Check out these resources to get you started! (Links Included!)
Get the course, Intuitive Eating Basics,
to develop a healthier relationship with food and your body!