Intuitive eating is following your body’s hunger signals instead of giving in to cravings or eating simply because it is ‘lunchtime’. Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body.
Principles of Intuitive Eating
Become at peace with food
Forbidding certain foods (aka ‘bad foods’) will form negative feelings towards being healthy and will leave you feeling deprived. If you don’t allow yourself to enjoy food, cravings may start to become uncontrollable which can lead to binge eating. By allowing yourself to occasionally indulge in foods you love, you will have more control of cravings and will create a friendly relationship with these so called ‘bad foods’.
Listen to your hunger
Eat every three to four hours to keep your cravings at bay, but only eat if you are hungry. If you are not hungry and force yourself to eat because ‘it’s time for lunch’ you are not listening intuitively to what your body needs. Also, don’t let yourself get too hungry; excessive hunger decreases your ability to regulate how much you will consume and will lead to overeating. Start to trust your body’s ability to regulate hunger.
Pay attention to fullness
It is equally important to pay attention to your body’s fullness signals. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry and are comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal and ask yourself, “what is my current level of fullness?” If you are still very hungry, continue eating. But if you are starting to become full, take your last bite and put the fork down.
Create a peaceful environment
Eating should be a pleasurable experience. Take your time when eating and enjoy the tastes and textures of your food. Try not to have distractions during meals. Watching TV distracts you from listening to your body’s signals; people who watch TV while eating usually consume 25% more calories. We call this mindless eating. If you only ate when you were being mindful, think about how much you would eat. It would be much less.
Dealing with emotions without food
Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. The act of eating allows us to focus on our food instead of our feelings. While this may make us feel better in the short-term, it is no long-term fix. In fact, overeating can create an even greater sense of shame and loneliness. Learn how to nurture your needs without food.
Respect your body type
Let’s face it: most of us are not meant to be a size 0. When we put so much pressure on ourselves to be skinny, we often end up feeling defeated. When we try to attain super-low weights, we become destined to fail. At some point, your body will refuse to get any smaller. To fight the ‘famine’, your body will increase your hunger and decrease your metabolic rate. It is for this reason that normal weight people who try to lose weight usually wind up gaining weight in the end. Learn to accept your body type! Once you come to terms with your body, you will have a higher self-esteem and may actually lose weight. Remember, the goal is to live a healthy lifestyle- not to become as super-skinny as possible, so let go of the unrealistic ideals and be comfortable in your own skin.
Instead of thinking of exercise as a chore, shift your attention to how exercise makes you feel. It is very difficult to get moving some days, but starting your workout is the hardest part. Once you are moving, take a moment and enjoy how you feel; notice if you are able to breathe better, have more energy or even feel happier. These feelings are what should motivate you to exercise, not because you feel obligated to or because you had a bit too much to eat at dinner.
It all comes down to health
Remembering that to be truly healthy, we must have a healthy relationship with our food, mind, and body. Focusing on only one aspect of health will not be as effective. This does not mean you have to follow a perfect diet to be healthy, but understand the normal give and take of everyday life and adopt the motto “all things in moderation.” We encourage progress, not perfection.
What are the Benefits of Intuitive Eating?
- Gaining body acceptance.
- Learning how to avoid eating for emotional and external reasons.
- Responding to individual body signals and reacting in a healthful manner.
- Being in charge of your choices.
- Honoring your hunger, honoring your body.
- Knowing what your body is asking for and accept when it is full.
- Learning to eat the foods you love and stay healthy.