What Is Intuitive Eating? The Principles Of Intuitive Eating

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There are very few topics that are universally spoken about, across all ages, races, and countries. Every person has a different body, a unique mind, and personal life experience. But there is one area which everyone can bond over at any level, no matter their background or beliefs- food.

Whether you consider yourself a “foodie,” you obsess about eating, or you have a simple palate, eating, weight, and diets are among the most spoken about topics worldwide. Specifically, dieting is so popular that in 2018, the weight loss market grew to about $72 billion. It is seen to be shifting upwards by 2.6% increases annually through 2023!

Food is a ubiquitous pleasure, and the rate of obesity is rising before our eyes. Therefore, people are turning to all sorts of weight-loss strategies. Between nutrition books, fad diets, apps, and fasting regimens, most people find that their dieting efforts are unsuccessful and frustrating.

This is where a new concept comes into play. It is stronger and more effective than any popular diet plan you may have heard of. You can throw all the diet books and gimmicks in the trashcan, as this weight loss technique is always with you, free, and effective. Time to expand your palate and learn about: Intuitive Eating.

What Is Intuitive Eating? Intuitive Eating Explained

Assorted toasts with different toppings.

Variety of toasts.

What is intuitive eating? It is a weight-loss philosophy of eating that utilizes the power of your body and hunger cues to guide healthy weight loss and maintenance. This self-care eating idea was formulated in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They co-authored a book called (yes, you guessed it) Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program That Works. This is the ‘bible’ for learning about formulating a healthy body image and forging a healthy relationship with your food, body, and thoughts.

Tribole and Resch state that the obstacle with typical diet plans is the unattainable, unrealistic rules, and limitations that are associated with dieting. These diet rules and statutes prevent individuals from heeding to their internal body signals, instead of having them focus on universal rules. By following the steps of intuitive eating, you can refocus your attention on your internal cues of hunger and satiety, by retraining your way of thinking and relating to food.

Although mindful eating carries similar properties to intuitive eating, the two ideas are not the same thing. Mindful eating emphasizes paying attention to the physical process and experience of eating, leaving judgmental thoughts behind. Although this idea may sound simple, it can be challenging. Mainly for those who have busy lives or are prone to multi-task. Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is a broader concept. It encompasses 10 basic principles that focus on eating for physical (instead of emotional) reasons. It tunes in to your internal hunger signals and removes strict food restrictions.

With intuitive eating, you can be free of incessant diets, re-establish a healthy body image, relate to food in a positive way, and view eating as an enjoyable (not stressful) part of life. Time to master the 10 steps of intuitive eating and reframe your food thoughts!

How To Eat Intuitively

Woman holding bowl and eating in kitchen.

The rules of intuitive eating are different than other diets.

Before you throw away all your diet books and stop your intermittent fasting practices, it’s important to fully understand how to eat intuitively. Unlike typical diets, intuitive eating does not follow strict guidelines and practices. Foods are not off-limits and there are no fasting periods. Instead, eating intuitively focuses on reframing your mindset with food. This influences your thoughts, behaviors, and overall mood.

There are 10 key principles of intuitive eating that allow you to form a healthier relationship with food and eating in general. These principles function in two main ways. First, they help you pinpoint your body’s physical and psychological needs from internal sensations, by acknowledging hunger and satiety cues. Second, they allow you to move away from the usual culprits that clutter our minds with unhealthy associations with eating, such as rigid regulations, beliefs, and mindsets.

Keep in mind that eating intuitively is not an all-or-nothing concept. Even if you find yourself veering from your intuitive eating practices one day, it doesn’t mean you should stop cold turkey. This frame of mind should be viewed as an overall mentality shift. It should encourage you to stay on track in a broad sense. Getting bogged down with the times you don’t follow it thoroughly and ending this way of thinking altogether will likely lead to increased weight gain.

Intuitive Eating Principles Breakdown

Below are the Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating:

1. Reject The Diet Mentality

At large, our society places a huge emphasis on losing weight. We tend to look for quick methods, easy solutions, and fad diets. While some weight loss regimens may lead to short-term results, they are usually not sustainable. People typically end up regaining more weight than they started with! These strict diets control how much, as well as when and what we eat. This can lead to an unhealthy association with food. As you start to incorporate intuitive eating into your lifestyle, take a step out of your comfort zone, reject the diet mentality, and start listening to your gut!

2. Honor Your Hunger

Girl smirking while holding a pencil and laying in grass.

Write down internal cues to better track your eating needs.

Feeling hungry is a normal, biological sensation that is your body’s way of telling you it needs more energy to function. Unlike other diets, which promote restricting food despite feeling hungry, intuitive eating encourages you to honor your hunger by acknowledging your hunger cues and taking proper action before you enter starvation mode. If you ignore this sensation, the likelihood of giving into cravings, overindulging, and binge eating increases tremendously. By listening to your hunger cues, you are setting the foundation for a healthier relationship with food.

Tip: Prior to each meal, assess your level of hunger by writing down the internal cues you feel and the time of day. After a week, you will see a pattern forming with your appetite, energy-boosting food selections, and foods with short-lived satiating effects.

3. Make Peace With Food

Despite what you may have heard, now is the time to allow yourself an unlimited allowance to eat whatever you’d like. Making peace with food intends for you to include eating any food, without considering it ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ The danger with labeling your foods is that if you tell yourself you cannot eat a certain item, it will likely result in feelings of deprivation and increase cravings. The more cravings you have, the higher chances you will overeat, go on food binges, and feel guilty afterward.

4. Challenge The Food Police

One of the most powerful tools that tarnish our relationship with food is our thoughts. Ideas such as, “Today I was bad,” or, “I’ll get fat if I eat that,” are detrimental to our association with food and our feelings of self-worth in general. These kinds of thoughts and statements should be removed from our thought patterns altogether. Steer away from the idea that your food choices represent you and your importance to the world. Challenge the food police. If people around you are making negative comments, try explaining your intuitive eating outlook, and ask them to keep their negative comments to themselves instead of sharing them with you.

5. Respect Your Fullness

Friends clinking glasses while dining together.

Assess how full you are periodically throughout the meal.

Consider your body to be your partner in your weight loss efforts. It will provide cues when you are comfortably satisfied and have received sufficient energy. When these feelings kick in, your body is indicating that you are no longer hungry, and it’s time to stop eating. Throughout your dining experience, take note of satiety cues and be aware of when you start to feel full. You know you can eat again whenever you’re hungry. So remove the pressure you may have to lick the plate clean and eat more than you need at that meal. Respect your fullness.

Tip: During the meal, use a mental satiety scale to observe how full you feel. Reassess these feelings when you work through a quarter of your plate at a time, to allow yourself a chance to take a break and determine if you are comfortably satisfied.

6. Discover The Satisfaction Factor

The eating experience should be pleasurable and enjoyable, instead of dreadful and frustrating. With intuitive eating, focus on foods that make you feel good not only when you’re eating them, but also after the meal. By pinpointing foods you find tasty, you’ll discover the satisfaction factor. You will end up eating more of these delicious foods that satisfy your palate. You’ll refrain from wasting ‘stomach space’ with undesirable foods.

As a positive eating atmosphere increases satiety with less food, it’s important to create a pleasant environment when you dine. Beyond the actual food, it is important to involve your other senses as well. Take note of your food’s appearance, appreciate how you received the food, take a whiff of the appetizing aromas, and create a relaxing eating atmosphere. Whether you dine in the company of others you enjoy being with or surrounded by romantic candles, there are many ways you can generate a satisfying dining experience.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

Whether you’re feeling stressed, bored, or anxious, turning to your fridge is not the answer. Not only is food not a solution to these problems, it only escalates these issues. It adds on new victims like food guilt and frustration as well. On top of still having your original stress, now you have to deal with the extra weight and negative thoughts of overindulging.

With intuitive eating, it’s important to pinpoint what you’re feeling. Then focus on finding a specific solution, honoring your feelings without food. Seek out other activities you can do to subdue your negative feelings, such as reading a book, going to the gym, writing in a journal, or calling a friend.

8. Respect Your Body

Our society defines the ‘perfect body type,’ as looking a certain way. But the reality is that each person has a unique physical makeup that makes them special. The concept of molding our bodies to fit a standard body type is impractical and unreasonable. Once you hone in on your intuitive eating mindset, your thoughts will shift towards accepting your unique physical makeup, respecting your body, implementing doable expectations, and embracing your individuality.

9. Exercise- Feel The Difference

Woman stretching her legs.

Exercise is a key part of intuitive eating.

Finding the right exercise that you enjoy is imperative to the concept of intuitive eating and feeling a difference. Physical activity shouldn’t be about which exercise will burn the most calories. You should instead choose one that you find fun and energy-boosting. Take note of which activities lead to increased energy, a happier mood, and personal strength. By performing activities that you find satisfying, there are higher chances that you will repeat this exercise more often, thereby continuing the happy sensations.

10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition

When you focus on how your health influences the quality of your life, you will start to care less about the external reasons for weight loss. Instead, refocus your efforts on what really matters, which is your personal self-worth and positive thoughts. Honor your health with gentle nutrition. Intuitive eating helps to reinforce the idea that eating one food here and there will not make you gain excessive weight or lead to health issues; what matters is what you eat on a steady basis over time. Keeping the spotlight on what you find tasty and nutritious for your body is the key to successful, maintainable weight loss.

Weight Loss With Intuitive Eating

Fad diets are hard to follow. Food scales are clumsy to carry around, and calorie counting can be burdensome. So a more realistic approach to losing weight is necessary. Utilizing your mind and body is essential in maintaining healthy weight loss. With intuitive eating, your thoughts, physical feelings, and behaviors work in tandem to not only create a healthier approach to food but also to increase weight loss and maintenance.

Research shows that intuitive eating practices result in fewer harmful outcomes, such as lower BMI in both men and women. Further, men and women who claimed to listen to their internal physiological signals and act accordingly were seen to have lower chances of practicing eating disorder-like behaviors than those who didn’t trust to their body’s cues.

Cross-sectional studies further indicate that intuitive eating results in lower BMI’s and promotes psychological health benefits. It is also seen to improve one’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Therefore, intuitive eating is strongly related to weight maintenance, and a positive, healthy mindset with eating.

Although there is much research that supports weight loss with intuitive eating, it’s important to bear in mind the challenges. Many followers of this concept found that intuitive eating can make weight loss challenging, as the ‘no restriction on eating’ concept can be tricky to implement without overeating or consuming high-calorie foods in excess. In addition, there are many social and environmental factors that can impede weight loss efforts with intuitive eating. These include dining out with friends and family pressures. Like any long-term plan, intuitive eating must constantly be worked on and reviewed to ensure that you’re sticking to the 10 steps appropriately, increasing your chances of successful weight loss.

Conclusion

Formulating a New Years’ resolution? Shedding for a wedding? Simply looking to fit into your skinny jeans? Well, you’ve come to the right place. People generally tend to think of losing weight as something they want instantaneously and without effort. Yet the key to true weight loss and (most importantly) maintaining a healthy weight, is through a balanced, realistic approach.

Even if extreme fad diets, weight loss pills, or diet books result in a quick-fix weight loss, (for the few who strictly follow them), they ultimately result in further weight gain, unhealthy relationships with food, and overall obsessions with eating. That leaves one place to turn, aside from all the hype and gimmicks: your mind.

With the skills and concepts of intuitive eating, you will reframe your thoughts, mindsets, and behaviors towards food. This new way of thinking will allow you to make healthy choices. It will help you not feel deprived and help you be in tune with your body’s needs. As opposed to many other diets, this approach forces you to listen to your body’s signals, assess your physiological needs, and listen to them appropriately. All your body wants is some TLC, and with intuitive eating, your body (and mind) will be feeling the love.