Intuitive eating may sound like yet another fad diet but in reality, it is the exact opposite.
It is an anti-diet. It doesn’t impose strict guidelines of what and when to eat, nor does it give you a list of foods to avoid. Instead, intuitive eating teaches you to listen to your body and understand its hunger signals.
While the idea behind intuitive eating is simple – eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full – there are 10 key principles that will transform your relationship with food and guide your eating.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the first three principles.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Rejecting the diet mentality is the most important thing when it comes to transforming your relationship with food. The key here is to notice the way your body reacts to a diet, the cravings, the fatigue and crazy thoughts that occur when you severely cut calories or eliminate entire food groups.
Start by answering some of these questions:
- How many diets, strict eating plans, detoxes, and cleanses have you tried to lose weight?
- Have any of them had actual long term benefits?
- Did you feel good adding up calories, measuring your food, counting down the time until your next meal?
As soon as you realize that diets don’t work in the long term, you can start to take a gentler approach to food and nutrition.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Your body has a very impressive hormone system that lets you know when it needs fuel:
At first, you’ll feel a small twinge in the stomach that’s telling you you’re getting hungry. Then, the twinge gets stronger and stronger, until your stomach is gurgling loudly and you feel actual physical hunger.
When you ignore these signals of hunger, the hormones start messing with your brain. You may feel like you can’t focus anymore or you’ll get a small headache. Some people get very moody (hangry) and lash out for no apparent reason.
That’s when you usually run into trouble. When you let yourself get THIS hungry, you’re almost 100% sure to make an unhealthy meal decision. Even worse, you’re probably going to eat way too much as you fork down the food at lightning speed without giving your brain the chance to signal that you’re full.
That’s when the second principle of intuitive eating comes in: by honoring your hunger, you are responding to the early signals of hunger and ensuring you are able to make rational decisions about what and how much you eat.
Following this principle also means trusting your body and giving yourself permission to eat whenever you’re hungry. You have to trust your body’s ability to let you know when it needs fuel. It doesn’t matter if you just ate an hour ago or what time it is. When you feel hungry, have a small healthy snack and see if it satisfies your hunger.
3. Make Peace with Food
The third principle is about letting go of all the previous food rules you have heard. Forget the idea that there are good foods and bad foods, that certain foods are “off limits” or that you shouldn’t have treats in the house.
Instead, ask yourself:
- What food do I feel like eating right now?
- What food would nourish my body?
- What food would make my body feel good?
If the answer is chocolate, have chocolate. If the answer is pizza, eat pizza. The goal of making peace with food is to eliminate feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment. And you do that by eating what you want.
The explanation for why it works is simple:
Think of all the times you were dieting and restricting foods that were “off limits.” Now think of how you felt the moment your diet was over. These same foods probably went back to your menu soon after? Then, after binging on your favorite foods and gaining weight once again, you felt shame and guilt which threw you into another cycle of dieting?
Now imagine eating what you want without feelings of guilt and shame. You’ll soon realize that you can have any food anytime you want! And what happens when you do? You will lose the desire to eat those foods – remove the rule and you remove the desire.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series of “The Principles of Intuitive Eating.”
Based on the book “Intuitive Eating. A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.