Most modern diets employ restrictions on food groups, meal timing, or portion size. However, such an approach makes it more and more challenging to understand your body’s needs. As a result, people with a long history of dieting may not recognize hunger and fullness signals, suffer from emotional eating, or simply cannot understand what they are craving at a given moment.
Intuitive Eating is an eating style that focuses on healthy relationships with food and positive body image. It is a non-dietary approach that promotes being attentive to your body’s signals like hunger and satiety. In addition, the concept of Intuitive Eating doesn’t consider any food to be forbidden.
According to the research, Intuitive Eating is associated with a healthier BMI, lower cholesterol levels, and improved metabolism. It is worth mentioning that such a nutritional approach is not designed for weight loss. However, it helps maintain weight in a healthy natural set point range.
People who eat intuitively notice improvements in their mental state, including healthier relationships with foods, better self-esteem, more positive body image, and less anxiety. Additionally, Intuitive Eating and the absence of strict rules decrease the risk of developing eating disorders.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, creators of this nutritional approach, outlined ten key principles in their book. These principles are:
- Give up dietary mindset. Diet culture teaches us to focus on scales and centimeters instead of being attentive to our bodies. Therefore, until you reject such a mindset, it will be impossible to listen to the body’s cues.
- Honor your hunger. Recognizing physiological signals of hunger and feeding yourself in response is essential. It is the first step toward rebuilding trust in your body. Constantly ignoring these signals and keeping yourself hungry will ultimately lead to overeating.
- Stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Thinking that you cannot consume particular food will cause the feeling of deprivation and a strong urge to eat it. Therefore, it is crucial to permit yourself to eat whatever you want.
- Challenge the food police. Those who tried plenty of various diets are probably familiar with the inner voice that calls you “good” for eating fewer calories and “bad” for eating a piece of cake. Getting rid of this inner judge is essential to begin eating intuitively.
- Make your eating experience pleasurable and satisfactory. By practicing eating what you want in a relaxing, calm environment and enjoying every bite, you find that you need less food to feel satisfied.
- Be attentive to the feeling of fullness. Your body will tell you when you have had enough through the feeling of fullness. Make pauses during the meal, check how the food tastes, and ask yourself if you are satisfied or if you want some more. However, to stop eating when you have had enough, you need to trust yourself and know that you will give yourself the food you want.
- Learn how to kindly cope with your emotions without food. Being able to deal with feelings like anger, boredom, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, etc., with methods that don’t involve eating, helps avoid emotional eating. In addition, trying to make yourself feel better using food won’t resolve the problem that triggered the emotion.
- Respect your body. After years of dieting, many people have unrealistic expectations about how their bodies should look. Different body types exist. There is nothing wrong with any of them, as they are all beautiful and deserve dignity.
- Make movements enjoyable. Start prioritizing how different types of activity make you feel instead of focusing on burnt calories. Choose exercises that help you feel your body and are empowering.
- Choose foods that make you feel good. Focus on making your meals healthy and tasty. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t need to eat perfectly all of the time to be healthy. Daily food choices are more important than one meal or day of eating.
Consult your doctor if you have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. People recovering from eating disorders should avoid Intuitive Eating and talk to a doctor or registered dietitian. People with intolerance for specific foods should continue to exclude them (for example, Celiac disease).
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
Since Intuitive Eating allows you to satisfy your body’s needs, you are unlikely to develop nutritional deficiencies while practicing it.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
Mindfulness during eating is key to becoming attentive to your body’s signals. Here are some tips you can use to stay focused and slow down during your mealtime:
- minimize distractions (phone, tablet, TV, book, newspaper, etc.)
- make small pauses while eating
- make sure you chew the food thoroughly
- put utensils on the plate while chewing the previous bite
- try eating with your non-dominant hand to eat more slowly
- avoid waiting for the extreme hunger to eat
Intuitive eating focuses not only on what you eat but also on how you eat, how chosen food makes you feel, and whether it satisfies you. This approach can help you build trust in your body, improve body image, and make life more enjoyable.