What is Intuitive Eating?
We are all born with the natural instincts to be well-balanced eaters. Throughout our lives, many of us battle against and eventually beat down those instinctive eating habits. Recently, you might have heard more and more people talk about learning how to become an “intuitive eater.” But in reality, becoming an intuitive eater is not about learning something foreign or new (though it certainly might feel like that at first). Instead, intuitive eating is all about re-discovering and re-connecting with a physical and mental state that is naturally programmed in all of us. In other words, the process of intuitive eating is part of a broader process of accepting and then being our authentic selves.
Intuitive eating is founded upon ten main principles. I thought today’s article would be a great opportunity to outline those ten main principles of intuitive eating. I’ll then provide some explanation on several of the core principles, which I believe are key to “getting started” with your intuitive eating journey.
As a starting point, there are ten main principles of intuitive eating. Those ten principles are:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Discover the Satisfaction of Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Honor your Health
Each of these ten principles is important, and all of them involve similar themes. Together, these principles work in harmony to form the framework of the intuitive eating philosophy. However, for the purpose of today, I am going to briefly address just a few of the principles, which I view as foundational in making that initial (and often dramatic) mental shift back toward an instinctive and intuitive relationship with food.
- Reject the Diet Mentality– The diet mentality is so pervasive that many of us probably can’t even remember a time when food was just food to us, as opposed to something to be feared and combated. Honestly, for those reading this, can you remember a time in your adult life when you regularly ate purely for the enjoyment of eating (where some diet or exercise plan was not lingering in the back of your mind during your meal)? Intuitive eating requires peeling away the idea that your life has to involve a continual cycle of trying to lose weight, cut calories, and change your body. It also involves dispelling yourself of the myth you keep telling yourself that there is some new “miracle” approach that will alter your body. I know so many people whose lives are defined by a never-ending series of diets, cleanses, or weight-loss oriented workout programs. Leaving aside the hard evidence proving that diets are not sustainable and don’t work, living a life dominated by the diet mentality prevents you from adopting a healthy intuitive eating lifestyle.
- Make Peace with Food – I believe that making peace with food goes hand-in-hand with the principle above of rejecting the diet mentality. Food should not be feared. Food should not have control over you. You shouldn’t feel guilt or anxiety simply because you are eating a cheeseburger, an ice cream cone, or some other supposedly forbidden food. Making peace with food involves ridding yourself of the unhealthy fallacy that foods should be characterized as “good” versus “bad.” When you are finally able to stop viewing foods in such a rigid, binary way, food will lose its control over you. You won’t restrict, restrict, restrict, and then binge as if you’ll never be able to eat those “bad” foods again. You’ll stop being riddled with guilt at the thought of enjoying that dessert. Food will become food again.
- Honor Your Hunger – Making peace with food is a great segue to the next principle on today’s list, honoring your hunger. Listen to your body’s hunger signals and keep yourself energized and fed by putting satiating foods into your body. Or, more simply…feed yourself when you’re hungry. Sounds so easy, right? Well, as many of you reading this know, it’s not always so simple or easy. Because so many of us have let ourselves get so mixed up in the head with overthinking food (i.e. categorizing foods as good versus bad, obsessing over diets, having “cheat days,” etc…), we have somehow managed to make hunger – and how our body responds to this biological state – incredibly complicated. Honoring hunger is all about to getting back to basics and re-building trust with yourself and food.
From the Author: Christine Yoshida
I want to thank Star Meadow Counseling for letting me make a special guest appearance on their blog. Ericka Martin, with Star Meadow Counseling, also wrote a terrific article, “How to Cope with Emotions (Outside of Food),” which I’ve posted on my own website for Christine Yoshida Counseling at ChristineYoshida.com. If you found this blog helpful, please subscribe to my Blog. I’ll be posting more articles on intuitive eating in the coming weeks and months, including going more in-depth with some of the other ten principles of intuitive eating. As always, if you have any questions, want me to post on a specific topic in the future, or would just like to share your thoughts or experiences, let me know!