Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.
When tapping into your body’s inner hunger cues, you can create a healthy relationship with food, both mind and body. With the intuitive eating approach, you should be able to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional eating to help you eat without guilt or worry.
Here are the main principles to master intuitive eating:
1. Reject the diet mentality
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. A “diet” is a restriction of food or calories that’s temporary. Any diet or calorie restriction will cause initial weight loss, but the weight will come back on when you go back to your old ways, and screw up your metabolism in the process.
2. Honor your hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy from lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fat. When you are hungry, it’s your body telling you that you need fuel. Listen to it! Otherwise, you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, it is very hard to control overeating. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
3. Make peace with food
Call a truce, and stop the food fight! If you tell yourself that you can not or should not have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating is experienced with such intensity; it usually results in overeating and overwhelming guilt. Allow yourself some “indulgences”- schedule them in to your week!
4. Challenge the food police
Scream a loud “no” to thoughts in your head that declare you are “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. Chasing the food police away is a critical step to intuitive eating.
5. Respect your fullness
Before you start eating, ask yourself… “Am I really hungry? Could I eat a green salad right now?” Make it a rule to only eat when you start to feel hungry. Observe the signs that show that you are comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating a meal and ask yourself:
How does the food taste?
What is my current fullness level?
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
In our fury to stay or become thin, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence—the pleasure and satisfaction that is found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive is a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you have had enough.
7. Honor your feelings without using food
Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food will not fix any of these feelings. It provides comfort for the short term, distracts from the pain, or even numbs you into a food hangover. But food will not solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You will ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
8. Respect your body
Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a size 8 shoe would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size 6, it is equally as futile and uncomfortable to have the same expectation with body size. We all have different shapes, sizes, muscle mass, fat cells, genes etc. Learn to love what you have and use it to the best of your ability. It is hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise—feel the difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it is usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10. Honor your health
Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds, while making you feel well. Remember that you do not have to eat a perfect diet to stay healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, meal, or day of eating. It is what you eat consistently over time that matters.
~Think progress over perfection~
~Focus on consistency over time rather than perfection at a meal!~