Listen up!! This is the diet that ditches the idea of dieting…! The term intuitive eating was coined by Evelyn Tribole, RD, and Elyse Resch, RDN, in the 1990s. In short, it means an approach to eating that removes restriction and eating within a set food framework. It lets us break free from the on-and-off cycle of dieting and learning to eat mindfully and without guilt. Here are the 10 principles…
The first principle is the realisation that dieting is futile. Intuitive eating wants you to rebel against the sinister dieting industry and not to play their game. Start to learn to eat intuitively and trust your body to tell you when, how much and what to eat.
Honouring your hunger is about rebuilding faith and trust in your body’s cues. Learning to be more aware of your hunger and how to respond appropriately before you become ravenous is key to this. For example, try before each meal at home to rate your hunger levels. Write down internal cues that you have observed at that time of day. Once this is noted for one week and you will become more in tune with your appetite, as well as which foods deliver long-lasting energy and satisfaction. With this, you will also start to notice which foods are fast burning and deliver only short stints of satisfaction.
Making peace with food means eliminating the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Eat what will be satisfying and will make you feel good. The ‘all or nothing’ approach typical in conventional diets can lead to craving those ‘forbidden foods’ followed by binging and self-loathing. Intuitive eating says that food should always be a life-enhancing experience. In short – eat what you want but in moderation.
Similar to making peace with food, challenging the food police is to challenge the judgement in your head. Typically we see food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ which encourages restriction and paradoxically further overeating. The food police can be people, too: friends, family, and acquaintances who offer up judgment about what and how you’re eating. In either case, “chasing them away” is an important step in embracing intuitive eating.
This goes in tandem with principle #2. Yes, it’s important to eat when you’re hungry, but it’s also important to stop when those hunger cues are no longer present. Listen for the physical signals that tell you that you have had enough. Listen for the signs your body sends you when it’s satisfied, approaching fullness and full — and make your decision about whether to stop eating considering this feedback.
In our drive to be healthy or thin, we often miss one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure derived from eating itself. Start by asking yourself what you’d really like to eat NOT what you “should” eat. Set the table, turn off distractions – make your meals special. Focus on the taste and texture of what you are eating. Enjoy your food and the whole experience of eating.
It is important to find ways to comfort, nurture, distract and resolve issues without using food. Difficult emotions such as anxiety, loneliness, boredom and anger are a part of life and food cannot fix these things. It may soothe you temporarily to eat an entire tub of ice cream but, in the long term, it just creates further issues. Cope with these feelings by taking a walk, meditating, writing in a journal or calling a friend. Become aware of the times when a feeling that you might call hunger is actually based on emotion.
Intuitive eating is about respecting yourself and your genetic blueprint. This is the body you have and live with, and you should not strive for unrealistic expectations beyond what is achievable. It is difficult to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body. Try thinking about it like this – a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, and it is equally as futile to have the same expectation with body size. Understand that intuitive eating is not a weight-loss plan – it is a new way of thinking about food and our relationship with it.
Getting active will help you feel the difference. Shifting focus from weight loss to feeling energised and awake is the key here. Intuitive eating doesn’t mean 7 days a week in the gym – it means realising the importance of moving your body and being active on a regular basis. Find something that is sustainable and that you enjoy. That can be anything from yoga to pilates to running! Exercise not only helps our bodies but it boosts mood too.
Remember that it is your overall food patterns that shape your health. Yes, you should eat the food that tastes good and makes you feel good but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about good nutrition. Eating intuitively should still include more fruit and veg than chocolate and crisps, but at the same time, be gentle with yourself. Realise that one meal or snack isn’t going to make or break your health. It’s your overall food patterns that shape your health, and progress, not perfection is what counts.