Intuitive eating is an eating style that allows YOU to be in control of your body and what you eat. Within this framework, no foods are “bad” or “good” and no foods are “off-limits.” Let’s be real, does food really have a moral value? When you intuitively eat, you learn to trust your body and your hunger/fullness cues once again. Think about a toddler, a quintessential intuitive eater. They eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full, and eat the foods that they crave. This is the type of eating that intuitive eating promotes. This may sound rather simple, but for most people, who have tried dieting and other facts of diet culture, this is far from intuitive.
Intuitive Eating is a term created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Evelyn and Elyse described 10 main principles of Intuitive Eating, which will be described below.
1) Reject the diet mentality: Intuitive eating is an anti-diet. Research has shown that food restrictions lead to excessive or binge eating. Think about it—let’s say that I tell you that your favorite foods (mine are donuts) are off-limits indefinitely. Over time, my craving for a pistachio lemon old fashioned donut will grow and grow. After a few weeks, I finally reach a “breaking point” and eat 6 donuts in one sitting. I feel sick. If I honored this craving when it first arose, I would have only eaten 1 donut. I would have simply been satisfied. Remember, no foods are off-limits even if diet culture tells you so!
2) Honor your hunger: Honor yourself when you are hungry. If you are hungry, eat! As living creatures, we need food to survive. If you allow yourself to become very hungry, you will likely overeat.
3) Make peace with food: Understand that food is part of existing. Sometimes we will choose to eat a salad and sometimes we will choose to eat a slice of pizza. That is more than okay and natural.
4) Challenge the food police: Do you have negative thoughts when you pick up a piece of cake such as “this is so bad for me!” or “I can’t afford all these calories and fat!”? It’s time to challenge those thoughts. No foods are “good” or “bad.”
5) Respect your fullness: Begin to recognize your fullness cues again. Practice mindfully eating. Ask yourself: how does this food taste now? How hungry do I feel in this moment?
6) Discover the satisfaction factor: Help yourself make eating a satisfying and pleasurable experience rather than a shameful one.
7) Honor your feelings without using food: Many times, we use eating as a method to cope with emotional distress. Search for other ways to cope, such as journaling, talking to a friend or family member, or going for a walk. When you find yourself about to emotionally eat ask yourself: what do I feel right now? Am I actually hungry or am I using food to sooth my emotions?
8) Respect your body: Rather than engaging in negative self-talk about your body image, try to practice self-love or body-positivity/neutrality. Challenge negative thoughts and recognize the power and strength in your body.
9) Exercise-feel the difference: Don’t engage in excessive exercise as a method of self-harm. Rather, engage in mindful movement that makes you feel joy. This can be going on a walk rather than running 6 miles. Do what feels right for you!
10) Honor your health- gentle nutrition: The food you consume should make you feel good. It’s more than okay to have that donut or slice of pizza. It’s about finding the moderation that works for your body and allows you to feel your best.
With this information, I hope that you start your journey to intuitively eating and finding peace with yourself—your body, mind, and spirit.
Jenny Weissman, M.A.