What Is Intuitive Eating?
Before I became an Intuitive Eating Coach, my impression of intuitive eating was pretty simple. You just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, right? Can’t be much more to it than that? Boy was I wrong.
Intuitive eating sounds simple but once you go through the journey of becoming an intuitive eater, you realise there’s A LOT of amazing (and challenging) components to it. So, keep reading. I will give you a short breakdown of the basics, so you can get an idea of what intuitive eating is all about.
INTUITIVE EATING - WHAT'S THE DEAL?
Do you feel crazy around food? Exhausted from overthinking carbs, fed up with being worried about sugar content, calorie counting and obsessing over your weight? Do you feel done with emotional eating and feelings of guilt and shame when you’ve eating too much or eaten “bad” foods? Then intuitive eating is for you.
Intuitive eating is about healing your relationship with food. Believe it or not, you have an inner wisdom and intuition which can tell you when to eat, how much and what. However, in the world of dieting and weight loss rules, we lose touch with our inner food intuition.
But… the intuitive eating journey teaches you how to get it back!
Intuitive eating teaches you how to ditch the diet mentality, eat in accordance with YOUR individual physical and psychological needs, honouring your hunger, respecting your fullness and deriving pleasure from food. It’s about listening to INTERNAL cues, rather than EXTERNAL cues. You're breaking up with the destructive diet culture and you get in touch with what your body REALLY needs.
Intuitive eating is a process that creates a healthy relationship with food, mind and body. It makes you the boss of your own body and food choices, making you able to make the best food decisions for yourself in any point of time! It’s a self-empowering journey, giving you the tools you need to be at peace with your diet and body image.
It’s important to note is that intuitive eating will be different from person to person. Therefore, intuitive eating is NOT a diet with set rules, numbers and time frames. Which is liberating!
However, There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, which gives structure and guidance to the approach:
1. REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY
Diet culture teaches us that we cannot trust our bodies to tell us what to eat, how much or when. Diet culture is full of messed up rules, which pressure people into believing their bodies cannot function properly, that everyone should lose weight, that they need to look like toothpicks, eat like birds and semi-starve all the time. Screw that. Why? Research shows that weight loss diets DON’T WORK. That’s right. Any weight loss comes back on within 1-5 years. Recognise that diet culture has a number of negative physical and mental consequences such as increased risk of depression, poor self-esteem and development of eating disorders. Flip your finger to diet culture, it does you no good.
2. HONOUR YOUR HUNGER
Diet culture also vilifies hunger. Hunger suppressants are sold everywhere, you’re told to drink water to feel full, skip meals and drink coffee to get energy when you’re actually just starving for food. Do not fall into the pressure to suppress your hunger. EAT WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY. Hunger is a biological cue to eat food in order to sustain yourself. Do not ignore it. Just like you satisfy your thirst, need to pee and sleep, you should satisfy your hunger. Many people need to learn to recognise what hunger feels like in their body and stop feeling guilty for feeding themselves. This is also part of the process.
3. MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD
This is about becoming friends (rather than enemies) with food. Pizza, chocolate, cake etc. you name it. You’re an adult and you can eat what you want. You don't have to fear food. You may think that you will binge on brownies all day due to this principle. But what you'll learn is that when you stop putting "bad" foods on a pedestal and you recognise that you can eat for example chocolate whenever you frikkin want to, these foods become less appealing. You will naturally gravitate towards natural and whole foods which make you feel good. You will learn to trust your body to tell you what to eat.
4. CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE
The food police are thoughts in your head such as “I ate cake so I need to work out”, “I shouldn’t eat X, it’s too high in calories” or “I ate really bad today so I will eat less tomorrow”. Ditch these thoughts, they only inflict guilt and encourages disordered eating. We need to eat to live, you don’t have to “earn” a meal through working out, you don’t have to label high-calorie foods as “bad” and you don’t have to feel guilty for feeding yourself.
5. RESPECT YOUR FULLNESS
Do you continue to eat when you’re full? This is common, especially for chronic dieters. When you restrict and suppress your hunger, once you eat it’s hard to stop as your body has no idea when it will get food again. However, embracing the fact that you can eat whenever you want and much you want will help to stop eating when you're full. The next meal is not far away.
6. DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR
Eating boring food is - boring! Food is meant to be enjoyed and a large part of becoming satisfied by a meal is the TASTE and pleasure you get from eating. If you eat foods that you don’t like (e.g. following a weight loss diet consisting only of salads and juices), you're more prone to a binge later down the road, as your mind will become fixated on having something delicious and high in calories. Make your meals taste amazing.
7. HONOUR YOUR FEELINGS WITHOUT USING FOOD
Emotional eating is a sign that something may not be right in your life. Emotional eating is not bad and it can sometimes be your only coping mechanism to get through a tough time. However, the intuitive eating journey will teach you other useful ways to comfort yourself, apart from food. Eating can sometimes help to soothe yourself but food will not solve your problems. You can download my free guide here on how to have a healthy relationship with food, which includes how to deal with emotional eating.
8. RESPECT YOUR BODY
This is an exciting part. Guess what - your weight does not determine your worth. You ARE worthy of loving yourself and your body as it is RIGHT NOW. Developing body positivity, self love and acceptance is a beautiful journey which has positive ripple effects on many areas of your life, such as your relationships with friends and family, your sex life and sense of well being. This takes a lot of practice, but it’s super rewarding.
9. EXERCISE - FEEL THE DIFFERENCE
Find reasons to move other than weight loss - there’s plenty! Exercise has tons of health benefits, can increase your confidence levels and make you feel really good. This is about choosing exercises that you enjoy and not punishing yourself with exercise to reach a certain dress size. If you find joy in exercise, you're more likely to do it.
10. GENTLE NUTRITION
There is no such thing as a perfect diet. Everyone is different and has different dietary needs and you can be healthy eating intuitively. You will learn which foods make you feel awesome and supports your well being and health. You don’t need to follow crazy fad diets and believe it or not, you won’t end up bingeing on processed foods all day by listening to your body.
My twist to gentle nutrition is to educate people about the benefits of eating plant-based. It’s well established in the scientific community that eating plant-based is health protective and that consumption of animal products are associated with negative side effects. NOTE: Educating people about eating plant-based is not intended to inflict guilt or shame for eating animals. The purpose is to empower people with scientific facts so that at the end of the day they can make informed choices for themselves. As a Nutritionist, it’s my responsibility to provide the best information available in order to help people engage in healthy behaviours.
I hope you found it useful to learn about what intuitive eating is and if you're ready to become an intuitive eater, don't hesitate to get in touch! You can read more about how we can work together here, I'm happy to help you on your journey towards empowerment!
Eat and be merry,