10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Although almost any weight-loss plan can yield short-term benefits, over time the pounds creep back, and it’s not unusual to end up weighing more than you did before you started dieting. Sun Basket’s Director of Nutrition, Lindsey Kane explains how research on intuitive eating, done by Evelyn Tribole MS RDN, and Elyse Resch MS RDN can help you get off the diet-go-round for good.
1. Reject the diet mentality.
For years we’ve chased one diet to the next, letting the latest fad dictate what, how much, and when to eat. This rigid lifestyle of restriction and deprivation can lead to a toxic relationship with food. The first step of intuitive eating is to make a commitment to trust your gut when it comes to food choices.
2. Honor your hunger.
While most diets require you to resist a growling stomach, intuitive eating is about rebuilding faith in your body’s cues. You’ll learn to be more aware of your hunger and how to respond appropriately to it before you become ravenous. Try this at home: Before each meal, rate your level of hunger, jot down a few internal cues that you observed, and the time of day. Do this for a week and you’ll become more in tune with your appetite, as well as which foods deliver long-lasting energy, and those that are fast burning and deliver short-lived satiety.
3. Make peace with food.
Intuitive eating asks that you abandon the idea of good and bad food. That approach fuels a dangerous ‘all or nothing’ mentality that can lead to cravings for ‘forbidden’ foods, followed by binging and a rush of self-loathing and shame. Intuitive eating promotes the idea that food should always be a life-enhancing experience.
4. Challenge the food police.
A thorough mental house-cleaning and reframing attitudes toward food are crucial. Take note of any food-police thoughts you may have, such as “I was bad today” or “I shouldn’t eat that.” Resist the notion that your food choices define you and the value you bring to this world. Look out for people who may be consciously or unconsciously manifesting a food-police mentality, then share your intuitive eating philosophy with them and ask them to support you by keeping their negative comments to themselves.
5. Respect your fullness.
The flip side of honoring your hunger is to respect when you’re full. Because diets limit what, when, and how much you eat, it’s easy to become disconnected from the internal signs that signal satiety. When you practice intuitive eating you start a meal with a lower level of hunger and in a frame of mind that allows you to be more sensitive to cues that you’re full. Plus, you know that you can refuel whenever you’re hungry again, and you won’t feel pressured to clean your plate. Try this at home: Use a satiety scale during meals to train your mind to get in touch with cues of satiety. Jot down observations of how you feel and what you ate. This will help determine when to put your fork down and walk away from a meal feeling comfortably nourished and energized.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor.
Intuitive eating encourages you to identify foods that truly make you feel good—not just during a meal, but afterward, too. You’ll find yourself gravitating towards and returning to the foods that make you feel your best. In addition to savoring your meals and eating foods that taste good and make you feel good, you can engage all your senses: slow down, appreciate the way the food looks, respect how it arrived at your plate, breathe in all of the aromas, and eat in an environment that feels good—bring on the flowers and candles—and with people who light you up.
7. Honor your feelings without using food.
Yes, food can be comforting, but that pleasure only lasts as long as the meal. Afterward, whatever was eating you is still there, buried under food, perhaps now served with a side of guilt and shame. Intuitive eating encourages you to identify whether you’re feeling anxious, bored, lonely, sad, or angry and then seek a true solution. Go for a walk, call a friend, practice yoga or meditation, get a massage, read a book, or write in a journal. You’ll know you’re responding appropriately when the response makes you feel better, not worse.
8. Respect your body.
Our differences are our superpowers, yet we live in a world that idealizes a cookie-cutter body type. The idea that we can radically transform our bodies is unfair and unrealistic. Intuitive eating challenges you to embrace your genetic blueprint, set realistic expectations, and celebrate your uniqueness. Try this at home: Anytime you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s, respond as you would if a friend said something similar about themselves.
9. Exercise and feel the difference.
People who practice intuitive eating enjoy exercise because it gives them energy, improves their mood, promotes self-efficacy, and makes them feel strong, flexible, and agile. Working out isn’t about which activity will burn the most calories, but rather about which activity is the most fun and energizing. It’s another example of how the satisfaction factor can make habits stick. Exercise you enjoy is exercise that you’re likely to repeat, creating the momentum that drives sustainable, long-term happiness.
10. Honor your health.
Acknowledging how your health impacts the richness of your life erases superficial reasons for health goals and grounds your motives in what truly matters: your personal values. Getting perspective on why health is important helps you understand that no single meal or bite can make or break your self-worth. Align your health with your ambitions and you’ll be more motivated to cultivate habits that support your life goals.
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