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The Basics of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body … something that is much easier said than done. Often referred to as the “anti-diet,” this eating style means tuning into your hunger cues to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. It seems simple, right?

Believe it or not, our daily diet is heavily influenced by the media and the people we’re surrounded by. We lose faith in the fact that our bodies know what they need. We must commit to getting into the habit of listening to our bodies. So yes, intuitive eating is an extremely simple concept, but getting ourselves to trust our own bodies is a beast all on its own.

Luckily, we’re here to give you the basics of intuitive eating to find out if it’s right for you, and to give you some helpful hints on getting started.* Let’s dive in!

What is intuitive eating?

While the concept of intuitive eating is pretty basic, there are 10 principles that encompass what this eating style really means:

  1. Reject the diet mentality. 
  2. Honor your hunger. 
  3. Make peace with food. 
  4. Challenge the food police (a.k.a., that voice in your head that rewards you for eating well and gets upset when you give in to dessert). 
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor (i.e., when you’ve had enough to eat). 
  6. Feel your fullness. 
  7. Cope with your emotions with kindness. 
  8. Respect your body. 
  9. Focus on the way exercise feels rather than the calories burned. 
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition.

It may seem like way too many rules to keep track of, but at the end of the day intuitive eating comes down to one thing: respecting your body and fueling it with the foods that are going to make you feel good, not just look good.

Does this mean I get to eat cake all the time?

You may be thinking, “Great! Intuitive eating said that I can eat whatever I crave! Awesome, bring on the baked goods!” … but that’s not exactly what it means. Let’s take a deeper look at the last principle of intuitive eating: Honor your health with gentle nutrition.

If you’re like 70% of Americans, you’ll have dessert about once a week and that’s okay! Our bodies crave cookies, candy, and ice cream, but it’s important that we also listen to them when they need fruits, veggies, and proteins, because contrary to popular belief, your body craves those things too. Long story short: Eat that cookie, but don’t be afraid to reach for the leafy greens as well. It’s all about balance and what’s going to make you feel your best!

Let’s talk about hunger cues.

In our culture, we’re taught to finish everything on our plates, so we do … and we get past the point of full as a result. It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness.

Tuning into your hunger cues is the best way to get yourself to eat when you’re truly hungry and to stop when you’re truly full. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Slow down your eating. 
  • Stop periodically throughout your meal to ask yourself if you’re truly still hungry. 
  • Drink some water before your meal so you aren’t starving by the time you start eating. 
  • Try eating small, frequent meals throughout the day rather than three big meals (this is called grazing and you can read about the basics of it here!).

Tapping into your hunger cues and being fully comfortable with them takes time, but it’s important that you stay disciplined and work on trusting your body … after all, it knows best!

Intuitive eating is about fueling.

This eating style is about so much more than just looking good. It’s about giving your body the fuel it needs to thrive. We can throw all the information we want at you regarding this anti-diet, but it’s up to you (and your doctor!) to decide the best eating plan for your life!

*Consult your physician or other healthcare professional before starting this or any other lifestyle change or weight loss program to determine if it is right for your needs. 

Switching to this eating style will be difficult at first. But for all things difficult, discipline comes in handy. Check out our blog “Developing Your Discipline” to learn how to do exactly that!