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A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

From family to coworkers, nowadays it seems like everyone’s on a diet.

Intuitive eating fights the idea that you need to follow a diet. It helps you relearn how to trust your body and develop a healthy attitude towards food and your body image. 

Here is a quick guide to help you understand intuitive eating.

What is intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to taking back your health. 

It focuses on working with your internal cues, rather than the rules of a diet. The goal here is to help you learn to only eat when you feel hungry and stop when you’re comfortably full. 

To get started you need to learn how to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger:

  • Physical hunger: Your body telling you that you need to replenish yourself. It sends you signals such as irritability, a growling stomach, and fatigue.
  • Emotional hunger: Is hunger triggered by emotions such as boredom, loneliness, and sadness. These feelings can create cravings for food — often junk foods — and is often followed by feelings of guilt and self-hatred. 

Summary Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to taking back your health and involves listening to your internal hunger cues to know when you should eat and when to stop.

The 10 principles of intuitive eating

Intuitive eating focuses on 10 principles, laid out by Tribole and Resch in their book.

Keep in mind these aren’t rules, but principles you can incorporate into your life.

Here’s a quick overview of the 10 principles of intuitive eating:

1.  Reject the diet mentality

Ignore the noise, you don’t need to follow a diet.

2.  Honour your hunger

Listen to your hunger cues and feed yourself when you start to get hungry, rather than letting yourself starve — which makes it easier to overeat.

3.  Make peace with food

Food isn’t bad, so don’t tell yourself you can’t have a certain food. Doing so can lead to feelings of deprivation, which may spiral into cravings and binging.

4.  Challenge the food police

Ignore thoughts in your head that tell you you’re “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods.

5.  Discover the satisfaction factor

Make eating enjoyable and make meals that taste good to you. When eating is pleasurable, you may find it takes less food to curb your hunger.

6.  Feel your fullness

Listen to your body as you eat, and eat till you’re comfortably full — not stuffed. Pause while you're eating and ask yourself how it tastes and note your hunger levels. 

7.  Honour your feelings with kindness

If you normally use food to deal with your emotions, find kind ways to comfort, nurture, and resolve your issues. Use food for its intended purposes — nourishment and satisfaction.

8.  Respect your body

Don’t be overly critical. Respect your body and recognise it as capable and beautiful.

9.  Exercise — feel the difference

Don’t focus on burning calories, just focus on how exercise makes you feel and enjoy it. 

10.  Honour your health — gentle nutrition

Make food choices consistently that promote good health. One meal won’t ruin your health.

Summary Intuitive eating is based on the 10 principles above, outlined in the “Intuitive Eating” book. They aim to help you build a better relationship with your body and food.

Science-backed benefits

Research on intuitive eating is still new, but very promising. 

So far, research has found that intuitive eaters are more likely to have a healthier relationship with food, a lower body mass index (BMI), and maintain their weight.

On top of this, intuitive eating may help boost your self-esteem and improve your overall quality of life. Some people also found it can with their depression and anxiety.

Summary So far, studies have found that intuitive eaters are more likely to have a healthier relationship with food and body-image, a better quality of life, and a healthier weight (BMI).

How to get started

If intuitive eating sounds up your alley, it’s easy to get started. 

You can start by tracking your own eating behaviours and attitudes to food. The next time you eat, start by asking yourself if you’re feeling physical or emotional hunger. 

If it’s physical hunger, rate your hunger out 10 from very hungry to absolutely stuffed. Only eat when you’re hungry but not starving, and stop when you’re comfortably full, not stuffed.

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Blog written by Ryan Raman MHSC, RD
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