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Intro to Intuitive Eating

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

You may be wondering what Intuitive Eating is all about. Today we'll go through the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating including which ones you should start with and which ones you should leave for a while!

IE is about listening to your body to be your guide on how much you eat, move and rest. It is about rejecting the weight loss mentality and learning to respect your body at its natural weight.

IE is NOT about losing weight. IE separates health and weight because they are not the same thing. IE accepts health looks different on everyone. Your weight does not determine your health. You can work on your health without trying to lose weight.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

The Diet Mentality is believing that you need to shrink your body in order to be healthy. The Diet mentality means following diets or "lifestyle changes" that tell you when, how, and how much to eat in order to be "healthy".

The Diet Mentality tells you that your body is wrong the way it is, and you need to change it in some way to fit in and be healthy. The first principle of IE is rejecting this mindset.

This is a really important principle and should be tackled first. If you're not working on this first principle then you will most likely turn IE into a diet!

Before people start IE they wonder how it will affect their weight. The easy answer is, I'm not sure! You may gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same. It depends where your body's comfortable weight is. If you have been dieting for a long long time your weight may go up when you stop restricting.

2. Honour Your Hunger

This principle is about feeding yourself as a form of self-care. It is about learning your subtle non-stomach hunger cues and experimenting to notice a difference between eating at different levels of hunger. It is about unlearning diet rules that tell you how much you are allowed to eat, and instead discovering how to satisfy the hunger that you feel. It is also about letting yourself eat for reasons other than physical hunger.

3. Make Peace with Food

This principle is about legalizing all foods and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. It is about letting go of all the "shoulds" that you feel. For example, feeling like you should choose fruit over cake, but choosing cake because you feel cake would be satisfying right now.

4. Challenge the Food Police

This means challenging your negative self talk. You can do this through:

-Non-judgmental awareness: Noticing your desires and situations without self criticism. For example, telling yourself, "I'm having the urge to keep eating because I wasn't allowed to have it before" instead of, "I need to quit eating because my eating is out of control!"

-Inner Caretaker: Being a self compassionate voice that helps meet your needs and bounce back from challenges. What would you say to your friend if they were feeling the way you do in this moment?

-Setting Boundaries: Clearly stating your needs to others, even if they're doing something different. Like saying, "I love you but I don't want to talk about your new lifestyle change".

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Diets are all about fighting between what you want and what you think you should eat. Diets are all about deprivation and guilt. IE is about letting go of those rules and finding ways to feed yourself in a satisfying way. Satisfaction is the driving force behind IE. Eating for satisfaction is about finding pleasure in food and feeling good about what you're eating. It is about learning what flavours, textures, and aromas you enjoy. It is about asking yourself, "what do I feel like eating?" and doing your best to fulfill these wishes. Sometimes what you want may not be available to eat right now and you'll have to settle for something else, but that's ok. It's all about the grey areas, not black and white thinking. This principle is about savouring and enjoying food you love instead of settling for something that is second best because diet rules told you to.

When you start eating what you want, you are less likely to binge on it later. Consider this scenario, you want a cookie late at night but you say no, I'll have some carrots, then the carrots weren't satisfying so you had a banana, you're still not satisfied so you have some nuts, rice cakes, and crackers, then eventually the cookie. Does this sound familiar? Eating for satisfaction means honouring your cravings and feeling good about it. When you start IE you may be choosing those previously "off limits" foods more often and that's totally ok, they will lose some of their magic after a while and you'll find yourself craving more balance. There's always a honeymoon phase where you're so excited to eat all the foods you weren't allowed to before!

You may find in this phase that your food preferences change. You may notice some of these foods that were so exciting because they were "off limits" now don't taste that great to you. You may also notice that some of those "diet-y" foods don't taste that great anymore either. Now that you're giving yourself permission to eat anything, you may find vegetables more enjoyable because you can add things like butter, cheese, or dip. You may also find you're not even sure what foods you actually like! Finding out what you like takes experimenting and curiosity without judgement. Try thinking of foods in terms of textures, flavours and aromas.

6. Feel Your Fullness

Once you've learned how to honour your hunger and make peace with food you can start to learn your body's signals that it feels full. Feeling deprived of food screws with your fullness hormones and diet-y foods can give you a false sense of fullness.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

A lot of people see this principle as saying "cut out emotional eating", however that's not the intention. Eating for pleasure is a positive type of emotional eating. This principle is more about adding more coping skills to your toolkit when you feel emotional.

A lot of times people think they are emotional eaters in the evening. However, often it is because they are being deprived in some way, whether that be not eating enough during the day, or being deprived of certain foods. Chronic hunger can actually cause emotional stress like irritability, mood swings, and anxiety. Usually this bingeing lessens or disappears when you stop dieting.

Another way to cope with emotions is to ask yourself in that moment, "What am I feeling and what do I need right now?". Maybe you need some comforting food, maybe you actually need a hug, or someone to talk to, maybe you need to punch a pillow or journal, maybe you need to go for a walk outside or connect to nature. There are other ways to cope with emotions, but that doesn't mean you can't eat when you're feeling emotional either.

8. Respect Your Body

You don't need to love how your body looks to respect it. There are 3 dimensions to body respect:

-Respecting its natural size and shape

-Respecting its basic needs

-Respecting its physical strengths and limits

Here are some ways to respect your body:

-Wear clothes that fit

-Eat enough food

-Get enough sleep

-Not pushing past your body's limits

9. Movement - Feel the Difference

Principles 9 and 10 are principles that should be left until last. Otherwise they may turn into diet rules. This principle is about letting go of the exercising "shoulds" and embracing movement as an act of self-care. It may take some time to be able to get to this principle as you may keep feeling the "shoulds" for a long time.

This principle is about finding activities that you enjoy and don't feel pressured to push yourself to your limits every time. A good clue to finding something you enjoy doing is looking back at what activities you enjoyed as a kid before exercise became about burning calories.

10. Gentle Nutrition

Again, this principle should be left until last. This principle is about providing yourself with good nutrition as an act of self-care. It is not about self control or any rules. It is not about perfection, but rather basic nutrition principles to help you build satisfying meals and snacks.

Are you ready to start your Intuitive Eating journey? Apply to work with me today!


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