What Is Intuitive Eating?

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Intuitive eating. Something I talk about on the reg for those of you who follow me on Instagram. And if I’m going to be completely honest, intuitive eating changed my life. I struggled with my relationship with food for YEARS. That’s no exaggeration – it all started when I was about 12 years old, which I know is crazy young, but diet culture doesn’t discriminate with affecting young girls, and I was victim to it. I spent close to a decade struggling with restricting, binging, obsessing over what I ate, always trying to shrink my body, feeling guilt or shame from the foods I ate, and when I hit rock bottom at age 16, I resorted to purging for a few months which was just as awful as it sounds. I kept all of these feelings stuffed inside of me, and I felt alone. Did anyone else feel this way? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be normal?

Then I came across the book Intuitive Eating (this link is an amazon affiliate link) by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I kept seeing fellow colleagues and Registered Dietitians talk about it on Instagram, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. Honestly, I thought it was all fluff and total bogus before I picked up the book and gave it a shot. I was skeptical to say the least. And BOY was I wrong! I blew threw the book at least three times within the first month of picking it up. Everything spoke to me, it helped me connect the dots on how my upbringing played a role in my struggles with food, why I felt the way I did around food and my body and how I could close the doors of my past and move on with my life loving food and helping other women do the same. It provided me with relief and taught me self-compassion: my past was my past and it wasn’t all my fault. I had blamed myself for years and years for my struggles when in reality they were a compilation of SO many factors like my upbringing, genetics and diet culture. If you are blaming yourself for your relationship with food, STOP. Read Intuitive Eating and cut yourself some slack. We’re all only human anyways!

So what IS intuitive eating?! It is comprised of three core characteristics:

  1. Eat for physical rather than emotional reasons
  2. Rely on internal hunger and satiety cues
  3. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat with attunement

Intuitive eating is a validated paradigm that correlates with less disordered eating, improved body image, decreased weight cycling, improved self-trust and lower BMI. These correlations are completely opposite to that of diets, as diets are predictors of disordered eating, poorer body image, weight cycling, and increased risk of gaining more weight. I love this article explaining how a team of UCLA researchers reviewed thirty-one long term studies on dieting and found that one-third to two-thirds of those who diet end up gaining back the weight they lost if not more years later.

So if dieting doesn’t work, how can intuitive eating work? Intuitive eating, while contrary to popular belief, is much more than “eating what you want when you want it.” It incorporates ten guiding principles to help you eat with attunement to your body needs. The ten principles are outlined below:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality 
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Feel Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Cope with Your Emotions Without Using food 
  8. Respect Your Body 
  9. Exercise–Feel the Difference 
  10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

By following the ten guiding principles and incorporating them into your life, they will support you in your journey to rediscovering the intuitive eater inside you (something we all have within us!). We were all born as intuitive eaters, but things like diet culture or outside forces like well-meaning family members encouraging you to clean your plates before dessert get in the way and disrupt your inner intuitive eater. Ever been around a toddler? They eat what they want and stop when they are satisfied. Something we all have the ability to relearn!

So do yourself a favor and read Intuitive Eating. For accountability, I recommend working alongside a Registered Dietitian like myself who is an expert in Intuitive Eating and Food Freedom! Many women find it helpful to have additional guidance and support on their journey to rediscovering the intuitive eater within them and learning to live a life without guilt or shame around food. I promise you, it’s 1000% worth it! Just like I did, you’ll never look back.

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