Intuitive eating is an technique that teaches individuals how to create a healthy relationship with their food, mind, and body. The goal is to become the expert of your own body through one’s internal cues. In order to do so, a person learns how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. It’s also a process of making peace with food by working to eliminate constant “food worry” thoughts. Lastly, it is focused on understanding that health and self worth as a person do not change, because of the type of food eaten.
The underlying premise of Intuitive Eating is that you will learn to respond to your inner body cues, because you were born with all the wisdom you need for eating intuitively. On the surface, this may sound simplistic, but it is rather complex. This inner wisdom is often clouded by years of dieting and food myths within our culture. One common example to explain how difficult this concept can be is the notion that we all “eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full.” This may sound like common sense, but when someone has a history of chronic dieting, disordered eating patterns, or of following rigid “healthy” rules about eating, it can be quite difficult. According to research published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, people who are eat intuitively do better nutritionally, have healthier body weights, have higher HDLs, and have lower triglycerides and blood pressures. Remarkably, they are also healthier emotionally and socially; they feel more effective, are more self aware and are more trusting and comfortable both with themselves and with other people.
Early childhood is the ideal time to provide support for a positive relationship with food through familial and parental influences. The ability to self regulate intake is born with each child, but is influenced through family and societal pressures. Throughout childhood the behaviors formed may become permanent staples throughout adulthood. Those around children may reinforce certain behaviors as a result of perceived problems, such as pickiness and weight. In turn, they may be pressured to eat certain
foods, or to eat more or less of specific types of foods. Poor feeding practices can lead to serious conditions such as eating disorder, anemia, dental caries, and non-organic failure to thrive. Most importantly, by helping a child develop a healthy relationship with food, it is setting them up for the greatest success in implementing intuitive eating as an adult.
For adults, the Intuitive Eating Principles are as follows:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently.
2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments.
5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference. Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10. Honor Your Health Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.