Intuitive Eating – Trusting Your Body’s Need for Food

By Emily Mathew, BS student in Biology

These past few decades, trendy claims such as “Lose 10 pounds in 3 days,” drastic weight loss before and after pics, and crash diets have made social media headlines as people rush to get a summer body or look like their favorite celebrities. 

As a result, food has become an anxiety-provoking topic. Heightening this anxiety are the body ideals posed by social media and the pressure to lose weight that, in turn, induce disordered eating. While crash dieting works in the short term, it is not sustainable for long-term health. Unfortunately, dieters gain back the same or even more weight, and the perpetual cycle continues until food becomes the enemy.  

What is Intuitive Eating?

Recently, intuitive eating, a way of eating introduced by dieticians Evelyn Tribole (M.S., R.D) and Elyse Resch (M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., C.E.D.R.D ) has gained popularity due to its opposition to diet culture. It emphasizes eating in a struggle-free, healthy way, which involves honoring your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals. Intuitive eating promotes eating according to internal cues rather than external factors (such as mood, emotions, and social settings), the idea of ‘anti-dieting,’ and body acceptance. 

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1.    Reject The Diet Mentality

First, reject anything that can trigger dieting, such as scales or diet books, and try your best not to get swayed by new dieting techniques. The idea is to maintain the mindset that you are committed to the ways of intuitive eating, which does not involve dieting. Additionally, it is about establishing your food boundaries and not letting others tell you what you can and cannot eat or how much you can eat.

2.  Honoring Your Hunger

Use your biological hunger signals to decide when to eat. Eat at a level where you are not overly hungry, as being too hungry can interfere with what you eat and how full you feel. 

3.  Make Peace With Food 

Permit yourself to eat your desired foods, unconditionally. The intention is to remove the food restricting mindset induced by diet culture. 

4.   Challenge the Food Police

Reflect on your negative thoughts about food and eating that distort your relationship with food. Then, replace these negative thoughts with positive thoughts such as objective observations of the foods you eat, reassuring statements, eating without the secret intent of dieting, and protecting your food boundaries from the thoughts of others. 

5.  Feel Your Fullness

Use biological fullness to decide when to stop eating. Important factors include: eating without distractions, rejecting the urge to finish everything on your plate, and asking yourself often if you are feeling comfortably satiated. 

6.   Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Eat for pleasure and identify the sensations and tastes of the foods you desire. For example, you may feel the desire to eat something sweet and crunchy. By savoring the food slowly and truly enjoying it, you can consume the food without the fear of overeating. 

7.   Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food

Often people turn to food to deal with emotions and stress, which can be detrimental to health in the long run. Principle seven encourages finding new ways to deal with stress and emotions that don’t involve food, such as meditation, journaling, taking a walk, etc. 

8.  Respect Your Body

Respect your body’s uniqueness by appreciating what you do like and not pressuring yourself with body comparisons, weighing yourself, and telling yourself you must lose weight to fit into a smaller-sized outfit. Fixation on your imperfections can make you more self-conscious.

9.   Exercise  

Identify factors that prevent you from exercising and encourage the use of exercise as a form of enjoyment and self-care. This means not getting trapped by the idea that all exercise must be rigorous, that you are too busy, or that physical activity is not worth your time.

10.   Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition

Lastly, focus on your nutrition. Ensure you are consuming whole foods, eating a balanced diet, and drinking water. Remember to consume the foods you enjoy, too. The idea is that your diet does not have to be perfect and that one day or meal will not halt your health progress. 

Ultimately, intuitive eating is not a diet, but a holistic approach to healing our relationship with food by empowering us in our food choices and altering the stigma around food and weight. Future areas for growth could be long-term studies showing the impact of intuitive eating on health, and finding ways in which it can be used to mitigate the current obesity epidemic. 

The goal here is to become healthier and happier without shame and the fear of failure, and best of all, “we are all born intuitive eaters.” 

Peer-edited by Laetitia Meyrueix, PhD Candidate in Nutritional Biochemistry

Header picture credit: Pexels

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