Have you ever struggled with food freedom? Felt guilty at just the thought of eating a certain food or food group? Been on every diet in the book?
I sure have. I have shared my obsessions with food and over-exercising several times before…and today, I want to share with you the freedom I have found with intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is such a big topic that I am going cover a few blog posts on. Today, I am going to break down what intuitive eating is and what it is not. It is my hope that if you struggle with food rules, deprivation, restriction, purging, or maintaining a healthy relationship with food that this may become one of your wellness goals: to become an intuitive eater.
What is Intuitive Eating?
When you think “intuitive” think “instinctive”. What are our actual physical instincts when it comes to hunger? Logically, when we are hungry, we *should* eat. Many restrictive diets cause us to completely neglect our true hunger cues and just eat a portioned amount of food based on society’s limitations.
Intuitive eating is also based on these 10 principles:
1. Rejecting the diet mentality
2. Honoring your hunger
3. Making peace with food
4. Challenging the food police
5. Discovering the satisfaction factor
6. Feel your fullness
7. Cope with your body’s emotions with kindness
8. Respecting your body
9. Exercising to feel a difference
10. Honoring your health
The Break-Down of The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Rejecting the diet mentality:
Transitioning the common societal view eating “healthy”. Especially this time of the year, many people go around saying “I am going to get back on track” or “my diet starts tomorrow”. When you become and intuitive eater, you honor your hunger and body by fueling it properly using gentle nutrition, but also know there is a time and a place for cookies…because let’s be real, a life without FUN foods is not as enjoyable.
- Honoring your hunger:
Have you ever been on a “diet” that gave specific times to eat food? Certain portion sizes? Only allowed you to eat certain foods? That’s a major problem with diet culture–not teaching you to really listen, know or honor your hunger cues. With intuitive eating, you base eating needs on your physiological hunger.What are the physiological signs of hunger??
Physiological hunger is your body’s way of saying “hey, feed me!”
Signs of hunger:
*irritability (HELLO hangry monster!)
- Making peace with food:
Any of you ever experienced fear foods? Foods you fear are going to make you gain weight? Foods that society has deemed “bad”?I used to have a huge fear of peanut butter and would only eat the powedered peanut butter because it was low in fat and calories. However, when I started studying nutrition in college, I learned that while peanut butter may be higher in fat and calories, it is also a great plant based protein source. The fat in peanut butter is actually beneficial for your hormone production and heart health. There is much nutrition in peanut butter, and I am happy to say now I am at peace with it and probably eat it daily.
You can make peace with any food. When you can break it down and realize your body needs fuel for survival. Truly think of food as fuel. Know that your body can handle eating a cookie on Christmas…a slice of cake on your birthday…a piece of chocolate on Valentine’s day. The bottom line is: with intuitive eating, you never feel deprived or restricted of any food…so when you allow yourself to have more indulgent foods, you don’t feel the need to eat as much as your body can hold.
- Challenging the food police:
Do you know how many times people have analyzed what I eat? Especially now that I am a registered dietitian. I remember my grandpa telling me I shouldn’t eat macaroni and cheese because it would “make me fat”. Or having family members say “Oh, you’re eating cake??” at Thanksgiving dinner. Those comments are annoying, and very difficult for those transiting into the food freedom lifestyle. As hard as it may be, my biggest advice is taking those comments with a grain of salt, and always think about what you’re gonna say next. You can always say “I’m at peace with food, and very thankful that I can enjoy this pumpkin cheesecake today”. 🙂
- Discovering the satisfaction factor:
Lots of times when we “diet”, we may not be satisfied with what we are being “forced” to eat. “Oh, I’m trying to eat healthy…guess that means I have to eat salad every day.”
When we are in that mindset of “I have to eat this because it is healthy”, then our bodies aren’t satisfied. We aren’t eating foods we actually enjoy…meaning we aren’t satisfied after a meal. With intuitive eating, you choose foods based on your preference and what you want to eat. You may choose a big mixed greens salad for lunch with some lean protein, avocado, and vinegar based dressing. Other times, you may choose to have a burger with roasted vegetables. Regardless, you learn how to be satisfied after a meal so in turn, you won’t binge and mindlessly eat later on.
- Feel your fullness:
Just as we should honor our hunger cues, we also need to honor our fullness cues, or our satiety level. As an intuitive eater, you learn how to stop eating when you are full. No one is perfect! Overeating happens to all of us, but intuitive eating can help us learn when to stop at our fullness level, which helps us not overindulge.
- Cope with your emotions with kindness:
This essentially means not to “fix” your emotions with food. Find other kind ways to handle your emotions. Find something that destresses you…that brings you comfort. It could be painting a mural, talking to a friend, journaling…whatever it may be, focus on that instead of food.
- Respecting your body:
This can be easier said than done. From a spiritual aspect, God created you the way He wanted you to be. He wants you to be healthy and develop healthy relationships with people and health. Your body is a celebration of His creation, and wasting time worrying about your size does not enhance your life. Respect your body and what it can do. You are more than the number on the scale or the size in your pants. Focus on your strength. Your talents. Your growth. Your relationships. Your happiness. Respect yourself.
- Movement-feel the difference:
This is all about shifting the mindset of “how many calories can I burn during this session” to “what movement brings me joy?” Don’t run if you hate running. Don’t spin if you hate biking. Find what exercise brings you joy and you’ll never feel “forced” to workout ever again…you’ll even look forward to your workout sessions!
- Honor your health using gentle nutrition:
This is my favorite one! There are so many misconceptions with intuitive eating, but intuitive eaters know how to eat well by using gentle nutrition. With gentle nutrition, you honor your food choices and taste buds with foods you enjoy. Bye, bye kale salads, hello burrito bowls! You don’t instantly become “unhealthy” from one snack, meal, or one day of eating. Intuitive eaters focus on eating well consistently over time versus eating perfectly 24/7. It’s all about progress over perfection with gentle nutrition.
What Intuitive Eating Isn’t:
Intuitive eating isn’t anti-health. It isn’t eating cookies all day long. It isn’t failing to eat nourishing foods. It isn’t mindlessly eating. It isn’t neglecting physical activity. It isn’t eating highly processed foods “just ‘cuz.”
Intuitive Eating is used to help people truly learn to fuel their bodies without a fear of food, without restricting, without guilt, without over-exercising. Intuitive Eating helps us learn to be comfortable choosing a big salad for lunch, but also realizing if you eat a cookie for dessert that you aren’t “unhealthy”.
I hope you now have a better idea of what this intuitive eating movement is all about, and it is my hope that we all can make peace with food. Life is too short to be a chronic dieter.
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Until Next Time,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
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