Do you listen to your body? Can you recognize real hunger? Are you able to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full?
The questions above describe intuitive eating. The term has been around for over 25 years and embodies the practice of listening to your body as it knows exactly how much food it needs each day to properly nourish itself and maintain an appropriate weight.
With intuitive eating, typically, there are no restrictions in place on the amount or types of food you can consume (unless dictated by allergies, your doctor or a medical professional). The concept behind no restrictions is the idea that your body naturally craves a variety of nutrients. Truly intuitive.
What Intuitive Eating Is Not
It is not a diet
It is not a means of weight loss or weight management
It is not anti-nutrition or anti-exercise
It is not for everyone
Principles of Intuitive Eating
Reject a diet mentality
Dieting implies something short-term. Begin to view diet changes as your new lifestyle habits that you can sustain long term.
Honor your hunger
Learn your true hunger cues and eat when your body needs energy. Don't ignore intrinsic hunger signals as this tends to lead to binge eating.
Make peace with food
No food is "bad". Remove that label from your mindset surrounding food. Limiting your choices can enhance cravings which can lead to binging later. If you want to consume a particular food, enjoy it but consider practicing moderation.
Don't scold yourself
Don't get down on yourself for enjoying a sweet treat and "throwing your entire diet off". This does not build a better relationship with food. Challenge your negative beliefs associated with your meal choices.
Feel your fullness
Learn when you are truly hungry and when you are full! Stop consuming food when you feel you are satisfied.
Be in the moment. Increasing your mindfulness can help increase satisfaction and satiation.
Cope with emotions
Eat for your physical well-being, not an emotional one. Learn how to deal with emotions and not use food as a coping mechanism. We often see clients turn to food to cope with stress and/or anxiety. Most of these foods are high in fats and sugars which stimulate releases in dopamine, the "pleasure" hormone.
Respect your body
Accept your general blueprint. Learn to appreciate your features and size without setting unrealistic goals for yourself. For example, if you are 5'7", you cannot diet to become 6'2". Accept your body and work with it, not against it.
Move for an overall healthier lifestyle, not just for burning calories. Practice the same mindfulness with exercise. If a certain workout or exercise brought you joy, use that as a motivator to continue.
Honor your health
Provide your body the nutrients it needs. While you should not hold back from eating any one food in particular, it is important to feed your body a variety of vegetables, fruits, fats, whole grains, and proteins. Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet.
A Tool for Long-Term Maintenance
Intuitive eating is positively associated with healthier eating behaviors. While it is not focused around weight loss, it is beneficial in learning what your body truly needs, helps you create a healthier relationship with food, and helps you maintain weight over long periods of time.