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September 22, 2019

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.

 

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Intuitive eating is a trendy term these days, which of course is a wonderful and terrible thing all at once.

A simple hashtag search on Instagram is bound to leave you confused. Half of the posts are people bragging up weight loss, posting pictures of their abs, and many food rules disguised as intuitive eating advice. So, let’s clarify a few things and take the guesswork out of intuitive eating once and for all.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based mind-body health approach to eating, moving, and thinking about food and our bodies. It was developed by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in the 90s as an attempt to rework the ineffective way they were helping their patients live healthier and happier lives.

Dieting was not working, but the principles of intuitive eating were developed and have since helped thousands stop dieting and live according to their own values and needs. It is not all anecdotal evidence, as there have since been over 90 studies validating the effectiveness of intuitive eating at improving health outcomes.

Intuitive eating is not the hunger-fullness diet, the eat-whatever-I-want movement, or just eating mindfully. Intuitive eating is the process of applying these two basic foundations:

1. Rejecting any external rules about how you should eat or move your body.
2. Learning how to attune to your body’s needs and honor what it is trying to tell you.

The best part of adopting intuitive eating into your life is that there is no failing, as long as you are working toward these two things. Every day, every meal, every experience is a learning opportunity.

Food should be just one thing that we think about when living our best life. All too often, food becomes the only focus put on health. This leaves little room to focus on other things like stress relief, sleep, joy, and movement, and keeps us from enjoying life events. Intuitive eating could be the answer you are looking for.

 

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The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is made up of 10 principles, which can be addressed in any order (with the exception of the first principle) to help you tune out diet culture and tune in to your unique body’s needs.

1. Reject the diet mentality 

This is the essential first step in beginning your intuitive eating journey. It is the acknowledgment that dieting has not worked for you and will most likely not work for you. What do I mean by “work?” It hurts your emotional well-being, interferes with living an authentic and pleasurable life, and, importantly, dieting does not result in sustained weight loss for the majority of us. In fact, dieting is actually a precursor to future weight gain.

This first step can require you to take a close look at your dieting history, examine your feelings and physical symptoms during those times, identify which dieting tools you have been or are using, as well as commit to a compassionate approach to your health.

2. Honor your hunger

One of the first ways to learn to cue into your body’s needs is to start working on identifying and honoring your hunger. We spend most of our dieting lives figuring out ways to ignore hunger out of fear that we are going to eat too much. This principle increases your awareness of biological hunger and encourages the act of honoring that hunger to be treated as self-care.

3. Make peace with food

You begin the process of giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. This is based on the principle that deprivation leads to intense cravings and binges. Habituating yourself to these forbidden foods takes the allure away, and makes all food morally equal. You are then able to truly tune in to how much you enjoy a certain food or how it makes you feel as you work on later principles.

4. Challenge the food police

The food police is your internal dialogue and thoughts that monitor your food rules and judgments for keeping to or breaking them. By bringing awareness to and challenging these thoughts, you make more room for curious awareness and healing.

5. Feel your fullness

Just like you tuned in to your hunger, you will develop an awareness to your fullness cues. Disrupting habits, creating a more mindful eating practice, and understanding how different foods impact fullness happen here. The eating until you are uncomfortable, stuffed, and sick feeling will lessen and the awareness as to how much your body really needs and wants will become sharper.

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6. Discover the satisfaction factor

Make your eating experiences enjoyable to truly feel satisfied and pleased with what you are eating. Taking away the “food is only fuel” idea and replacing it with a pleasing mind-body experience allows you to end your meal feeling satisfied, happy, and comfortably full.

7. Cope with your feelings without using food

You will find ways to cope with, distract from, comfort, and resolve your issues that do not involve eating. The focus is on basic self-care and then identifying what is triggering your emotional eating. You will create a toolbox to address and prevent persistent emotional eating.

8. Respect your body

This is coming to terms with your genetic blueprint and doing some solid body image work. It isn’t about loving your body and being positive about it all the time. It is about getting to a place where you are not constantly trying to change it and feeling awful about it. Sticking with a non-diet mentality is tricky if your body image is not at a place of acceptance.

9. Exercise: Feel the difference

You will shift your focus from burning calories to honoring how movement makes your body feel and the benefits that it brings you. Using weight loss as a motivator for movement is not effective and can create a dangerous relationship with exercise. You will work on overcoming barriers to activity and discover movement that you enjoy and leaves you feeling good.

10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

Eating to feel well and eating foods that you want to eat are not mutually exclusive. This is the last principle for a reason. When we are so wrapped into diet mentality, learning gentle nutrition practices make slipping back into dieting too easy. This sets the stage for paying attention to how foods feel in your body and looking at nutrition as a form of self-care.

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If you are looking for a more guided way to work through and learn how to apply each principle to your life, you can check out Kelsey’s Intuitive Eating Group Coaching Program.

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author: Kelsey Lorencz

Image: Author's own via Instagram

Editor: Naomi Boshari