Intuitive Eating for beginners
In recent years, Intuitive Eating has gained popularity as a new approach to health and wellness, especially as people are starting to reject traditional dieting methods that often lead to frustration and disappointment. In contrast, Intuitive Eating is all about listening to your body and responding to its cues. The practice emphasises self-acceptance, self-care, and mindfulness. Intuitive Eating encourages individuals to listen to their body’s natural hunger and fullness signals, instead of following restrictive diets. In this article, we will explore the principles of Intuitive Eating, how to practise it, address common concerns, and discuss how Intuitive Eating can improve overall health.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to eating that focuses on listening to your body and trusting its signals. It was developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. It encourages people to let go of traditional diets and instead rely on their body’s internal cues to guide their eating habits. Unlike traditional diets, there are no strict rules, calorie counting, or restrictions with Intuitive Eating. Instead, it focuses on building a positive relationship with food and your body. Intuitive Eating is based on ten principles:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with your emotions with kindness
- Respect your body
- Exercise – feel the difference
- Honour your health with gentle nutrition
The principles of Intuitive Eating focus on cultivating a positive relationship with food, ditching diet culture, and understanding how your body responds to hunger and fullness cues. Research has shown that Intuitive Eating can lead to improved mental and physical health outcomes, improved self-esteem, improved body image, reduced stress around food, and a more positive relationship with food and your body.
How to practise Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating can seem daunting at first, but with practice, it can become a natural way of eating. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Start with Mindful Eating – Pay attention to your food and savour every bite. Eat slowly, and take the time to enjoy your meals without distractions like television or your phone.
- Trust your body – Listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This may take some practice, but your body will adjust to your new eating habits over time.
- Ditch the food rules – Let go of any food rules you may have. Instead, focus on nourishing your body with a variety of foods that you enjoy.
- Focus on satisfaction – Eating should be enjoyable, and choosing foods you find satisfying is important. This can help you feel more content with your meals and avoid overeating.
- Practice self-care – Intuitive Eating is about more than just food. It is also important to take care of your emotional and mental health. Practice self-care, such as mindfulness or meditation, to help manage stress and improve overall well-being.
- Give yourself permission to eat: Let go of the guilt and shame around food. Give yourself permission to eat what you want, when you want it, and in amounts that feel satisfying.
- Keep a food journal: Write down what you eat and how you feel before and after eating. This can help you identify patterns in your eating habits and emotions.
- Connect with others: Surround yourself with people who support your Intuitive Eating journey. Join a support group or connect with others online who are also practising Intuitive Eating.
While Intuitive Eating has many benefits, some common obstacles to Intuitive Eating include feeling out of control around food, not trusting your body, and feeling guilty for eating certain foods. To overcome these obstacles, it can be helpful to work with a registered dietitian who specialises in Intuitive Eating. Also, some individuals may have concerns about weight gain or the lack of structure in this approach. Here are some common concerns and ways to address them:
- Weight gain – Intuitive Eating focuses on overall well-being, rather than just weight loss. While weight loss may occur for some people, it is not the main goal. It is important to remember that weight is not always an accurate measure of health, and focusing solely on weight loss can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
- Lack of structure – Traditional diets often provide strict guidelines on what and how much to eat. Intuitive Eating, on the other hand, focuses on listening to your body and trusting its signals. While this lack of structure may feel uncomfortable at first, it can be liberating to let go of strict food rules and trust your body’s natural cues.
Examples of Intuitive Eating in action could include listening to your hunger cues and having a snack when you’re hungry, ending a meal when you feel full, and enjoying a dessert without feeling guilty.
Addressing common concerns
- Clarifying misconceptions about Intuitive Eating: One common misconception is that Intuitive Eating means eating whatever you want, whenever you want. However, when you truly listen to your body, you will naturally gravitate towards making choices that make you feel good physically and mentally. Things like skin breakouts, tiredness or fatigue, constipation, heartburn, etc, are also ways that your body communicates with you and things we are supposed to listen to.
- Addressing concerns about weight gain: Intuitive Eating is not a weight-loss program, but it’s also not a guarantee that you’ll gain weight. Many people find that their weight stabilises or even decreases when they practise Intuitive Eating, as they no longer feel the need to overeat or restrict certain foods.
- Discussing the role of physical activity in Intuitive Eating: Physical activity is an important part of overall health, but it’s not necessary to engage in high-intensity workouts or exercise for a certain amount of time to practise Intuitive Eating. Simply finding movement that feels good and makes you happy can be a great way to support your overall health and well-being.
How Intuitive Eating can improve overall health
Research supports the idea that Intuitive Eating can lead to improved mental and physical health. Benefits may include:
- Improved body image: When you stop focusing on weight loss and start listening to your body, you may find that you feel better about yourself and your body.
- Reduced stress: Intuitive Eating takes the stress out of food choices, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life.
- Improved relationship with food: Intuitive Eating can help you develop a healthier relationship with food, free from guilt and shame.
- Improved physical health: Studies have shown that Intuitive Eating can lead to improved blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar control.
Intuitive Eating is a flexible, sustainable approach to eating that can improve both mental and physical health. By listening to your body, banishing food guilt, and practising self-care, you can develop a healthy relationship with food and improve your overall well-being. If you’re interested in trying Intuitive Eating for yourself, give us a shout.
Remember that Intuitive Eating is not a diet or a quick-fix solution. It is a lifestyle change that requires patience, self-compassion, and dedication. It may take time to fully embrace Intuitive Eating and to break free from the dieting mindset, but the benefits of improved mental and physical health are worth it. Give yourself grace, trust the process, and enjoy the freedom that comes with Intuitive Eating. Give it a try and see how it can positively impact your life.