The following 10 principles are a roadmap to intuitive eating
1. Reject diet culture
What does it mean to reject diet culture? Start by recognizing the way social media and society pressures you to squeeze into a certain size, to lose weight, to stay on a diet, to try this new diet, or to get smaller.
2. Honor your hunger
No one would tell you not to drink water if you said you were thirsty. No one would tell you to distract you from that lifesaving impulse. Yet diets are constantly saying that your hunger is irrelevant. There needs to be a mindset shift here. When you feel hungry there is a reason; you need food!
3. Make peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. One of the marks of disordered eating is setting rules around food, like the time you can eat, or what foods are “good” or “Bad”. These rules need to go. The thing is, restrictive eating often leads to binge-eating because once you start eating your body is in survival mode. Where it doesn’t lead to binge eating it goes to malnutrition. Food is good. Period. Dot.
4. Challenge the food police
If you’re reading these intuitive eating principles, you are likely familiar with the food police in your head; Those intrusive thoughts that pop up when you eat a sugary breakfast, eat more calories than usual, or have a midnight snack. Not all feelings are true, and intrusive thoughts that put you down for “failing” to eat or not eat something are NOT true.
Start rewiring those thought patterns. The first step? Say a bold, “NO!” to those thoughts when you hear them in your mind. You do deserve food, you are hungry, you need food, you need sugar, you need fats, and you need calories! You are listening to your body and that is GOOD!
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Diet culture can make eating feel like a chore or a battle to be won. When we follow diets, we can forget that eating food can feel good. It’s supposed to feel good, it’s allowed to feel good. So the next time you eat that “forbidden” food, enjoy it. Taste it. Say “no” to thoughts of shame getting in the way of enjoying that bite.
Look for the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in food, instead of trying to win some kind of diet food battle.
6. Feel your fullness
Binge eating is often a result of not knowing where the next meal is coming, or when you’ll be allowed to eat something this good again. Remind yourself that there will be more food the next time you are hungry. You will be having dinner, and you will have snacks if you get hungry before that. Remind yourself that there is more food available, but pause and taste the food. Are you still hungry or are you satisfied? Listen to your body. Sometimes it will take longer for you to be full and that’s okay, but enjoy being full when you reach that point and stop eating.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
Anger, grief, sadness, boredom, and anxiety are all a part of the human experience. Food might make you feel better in the short term if you turn to it to distract from those emotions, but it is not the answer in the long run. You will need to do the heart work eventually and deal with those emotions. Eating a pint of ice-cream after a break-up or ordering a greasy-cheesy-ooey-gooey pizza after a long day of work are both acceptable forms of coping with your emotions in the short term. That being said, try out other healthy coping mechanisms too so you aren’t relying on food as your safety net.
As far as the long run goes, have kindness with yourself and be willing to accept help when you need it (everybody needs help sometimes)! Open up to a safe family member or friend, ask for prayer, see an eating disorder counselor, book a therapy appointment, or join a support group. You are not alone and you are worthy of true healing.
8. Respect your body
You're genetically different from other people. You probably will never look like that celebrity you admire and that’s okay. Your body shape might change over time, but it’s not molding clay that you can pinch and pull it to your every wish. It’s so cliché; but it’s true that you are beautiful in your own way. The body you have is inherently worthy of respect and dignity. Respect your body, and appreciate even your perceived “flaws” as part of your soul’s home; Your safe, amazing, miraculous, beautiful body.
9. Movement - Feel the difference
Stop working out for the sake of burning a certain number of calories or reaching some arbitrary fitness goal and instead seek out the movement you enjoy. Don’t like running? Then stop running! What happy memories do you have associated with movement? Pick back up dancing, tennis, hiking or whatever you actually enjoy.
Pay attention to how your body feels after exercise. Do you feel energized and strong? Then keep doing that. Ditch exercise routines that make you want to hit the snooze button or leave you feeling weak.
10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition
If you take anything away from these intuitive eating principles, I hope you learn that being healthy isn’t about a number on the scale or how well you stick to a diet. It’s about respecting and listening to your body’s needs. Gentle nutrition over time will help your body thrive as the healthiest version of yourself. Your journey with body image and food isn’t a sprint, so be patient with yourself, and take it one day at a time.
How do I implement these 10 Intuitive eating principles?
Intuitive eating principles might feel daunting to implement. How do you change the way you think about food? How do you change habits and thought patterns that you’ve had most of your life? Slowly, intentionally, and ideally with a little help. Book an appointment with one of our registered dietitians online or at our Collingswood, NJ office and let us help you!
This is not medical advice and not meant to diagnose or treat. If you think you may have an eating disorder, schedule an appointment with a qualified healthcare provider.