10 principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet, weight inclusive approach to eating and whole-body health. It rejects diet culture and places tuning in to your body’s signals as one of the most important factors in determining what you eat, when and how, instead of adhering to rules and restrictions.
This healthy eating movement encourages you to reconnect with your physical body, recognise and respect true hunger and satiety feelings and explores the mind-body connection, encouraging a healthy relationship with food.
Defined by a set of 10 principles, this alternate approach to eating can be incredibly freeing and revolutionary, placing whole-body well-being at the centre of its practice. Let’s explore the principles that define Intuitive Eating.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Diet culture encompasses anything that promotes unsustainable weight loss through dietary restrictions, a belief system that values weight, size and shape over health and well-being.
Diet culture is built on misleading statements that feed off an individual’s disappointment when they ‘fail’ to see another diet through. It’s time to tune out of diet culture.
2. Honour your hunger
Recognise the feelings of hunger and respond by feeding your body with foods that provide energy and sustenance alongside feelings of pleasure. Honouring the first rumblings of hunger rebuilds trust between your body and your mind and prevents an urge to overeat.
It’s about eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you recognise fullness.
3. Make peace with food
End the constant battle you have with food that often leads you through a cycle of intense feelings of deprivation, uncontrollable cravings, indulgence and then guilt. Give yourself full unconditional permission to eat and enjoy the experience.
4. Challenge the ‘food police’
The ‘food police’ is that constant negative voice in your head that labels food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and can lead to damaging thought and behavioural patterns, if that voice is allowed to get louder.
The ‘food police’ lives by a set of rules fed by diet culture, that have often been ingrained for many years. An essential step in Intuitive Eating, turn down the volume and listen with authenticity.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
Allow yourself to experience and indulge in each pleasure of the eating experience: the food itself, a welcoming environment and the joy of choice. Here you can practice mindful eating; concentrate on the food you’re eating, its taste, texture, temperature etc., and fully immerse yourself in it.
6. Feel your fullness
Tune into your body’s signals as you eat and recognise when you feel satisfied and full. Even if that means not completing a meal, understanding your signals is an important part of mastering Intuitive Eating.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
When we feel difficult emotions, it can be easy to reach for food as a comfort. While this may offer short-term comfort, it won’t solve the problem. Learn to recognise the source of your specific emotion, and practise different coping techniques to express and manage your emotions, without using food.
It’s getting away from those external influences on what you should or shouldn’t eat, and instead making food decisions and choices based on internal cues – hunger and fullness, satiety, but also pleasure, and how food makes you feel.
– Laura Thomas, nutritionist specialising in Intuitive Eating, health at every size and non-diet nutrition
8. Respect your body
All bodies are different. If we all followed the same diet choices and exercised for the same amount of time, we’d still be different. Even if you can’t love your body, you can strive towards body neutrality – accepting your body for its shape and size and letting go of unrealistic body image expectations.
9. Exercise and feel the difference
Instead of hitting the gym to burn calories, switch your mindset to how moving your body makes you feel. If you hate running but begrudgingly put yourself through it to lose a few pounds, it’s time to quit. Experiment with different opportunities to move and focus on the feeling.
Sarah Young, a body-positive advocate shares how you can build a healthy relationship with exercise.
10. Honour your health through gentle nutrition
This is all about ‘progress not perfection’. You don’t have to eat perfectly all the time to be healthy, one unhealthy snack or meal won’t throw out all of your healthy choices. But it is about consistency over time, creating habits from making conscious food choices with your health and desires in mind, all whilst making you feel good.
If you’ve been struggling with the constant barrage of diet culture and it’s affecting your relationship with food, know that support is available and the diet mindset can be adjusted.
You can search for an experienced Intuitive Eating professional by using the advanced search tool, typing ‘Intuitive Eating’ into the keyword box.