Intuitive eating is the philosophy where you are the expert of your body, and instead of following a standard diet, you trust your hunger signals to tell you what and when to eat.
A traditional diet, no matter which one, is full of restrictions and guidelines you must follow; there are foods and beverages you need to prioritize, and foods and beverages you have to avoid. Intuitive eating, however, doesn’t have any limitations to what you can or cannot eat, because as an intuitive eater, you trust yourself to know your body best.
What is intuitive eating?
The core purpose of intuitive eating is to promote a healthy, positive relationship between yourself, your body and food.
For many people, we rely on the expertise of dietitians, fitness instructors and doctors to tell us what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, because we don’t trust listening to our own bodies.
Professional guidance can be highly beneficial to fine-tuning your intuitive eating skills, but a dietitian or doctor’s knowledge is meant to support your intuitive eating habit, not dominate it. At the end of the day, intuitive eating makes you the expert of your body and its food needs.
Benefits of intuitive eating
There are countless benefits to eating intuitively, mentally, emotionally and physically, and many of which you will experience on your journey to healing your relationship with food.
Some of the most exciting benefits of intuitive eating include:
- Eating your favorite foods (even the unhealthier ones) without guilt or anxiety
- Exercising because you love your body, not because you hate it
- Keeping “treat foods” in your house without binging
- Being kinder and more compassionate to yourself and your body
- Experiencing a greater sense of happiness and freedom in your life overall
Whether you are actively working on becoming an intuitive eater or you are preparing to start for the first time, you will experience numerous benefits that will, quite literally, transform your life.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating
There are, officially recognized, 10 intuitive eating principles to follow, designed to help you heal your relationship with food in a healthy, positive, long-term way.
The first is to reject the diet mentality. Diets, while sometimes temporarily effective, are not sustainable, and because of phrases like “cheat day” or “guilty pleasure food,” they tend to do more harm than good.
The second is to honor your hunger. Simply put, this means when you are hungry, eat. Honoring your initial, biological signal of hunger — instead of ignoring or avoiding it — will help rebuild your trust in your body, as well as shift you out of the restrict-and-binge cycle.
The third is to make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. The less you restrict yourself, the more you defeat the deprivation mindset that causes overeating.
The fourth is to challenge the food police. Food police are people — including the voices in your mind — who promote the rules of diet culture, who make you feel guilty or ashamed for what you eat. They might be intelligent, but they don’t know your body better than you.
The fifth is to discover the satisfaction factor. To truly have a balanced relationship with food, it’s important to treat and appreciate food not just as fuel, but as a source of joy. Eat in a way that satisfies both your body and your mind.
The sixth is to feel your fullness. Just as you honor your body’s hunger signal, so you also honor your body’s signal of fullness. When you’re eating, pay attention to how your stomach feels, and stay aware of whether you’re eating out of hunger and enjoyment, or autopilot.
The seventh is to cope with your emotions with kindness. Emotional eating, while it can feel comforting, cannot fix the feeling or problem that triggered it. More often than not, it only makes you feel worse in the long run, adding onto the feeling or problem you still have to eventually address.
The eighth is to respect your body. Accept and appreciate that your body, your genetic blueprint, is uniquely yours, meaning what, when and how much you eat will also be unique for you.
The ninth is to feel the difference of movement. Instead of forcing yourself to stick to a fitness plan that you very well might hate, focus on exercises that both you and your body enjoy.
The tenth is to honor your health. This is not about eating perfectly healthy all of the time, but eating in a balanced way that brings you good health, true food freedom and joy.
There is not a certain order in which you must apply these principles; there is no one right way to heal your relationship with food. And while you might feel inclined to look at this list as another set of dietary rules, they are not so. Rather than looking at this as a list of rules, think of it as a set of gentle nutrition truths who offer the surest way to food freedom.
Want some help?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the idea of starting or continuing on the journey of eating intuitively without a personal guide, consider reaching out to the team here at Seeds of Hope.
A leading authority of eating disorder treatment, our team of counselors will work with you to achieve the food freedom and peace you deserve.
Give us a call today at 610-644-6464.