How to Eat: The Basics of Intuitive Eating
Imagine being able to ditch the formal diet, and instead, eat what your body is telling you to eat. Sounds nice, right? If this style of eating sounds like a match for you, then it may be time to explore intuitive eating.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a concept that allows you to eat all foods, regardless of whether you currently think of them as “good” or “bad”. In fact, eating intuitively doesn’t involve labeling foods as good or bad at all. Instead, intuitive eating leans into the notion that all foods can have an important part of a healthy diet.
Instead of following a restrictive diet and avoiding certain food groups, you eat what feels right for you. And you rely on your body’s ability to let you know when you are hungry or satisfied.
A Healthy Relationship With Food
Eating intuitively includes eating in a way that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image. Instead of having a goal of “being thin” or trying to look a certain way, eating intuitively emphasizes eating when you are hungry and not eating when you are full. To eat intuitively, distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger is key.
Understanding Physical vs. Emotional Hunger
One of the most important aspects of following intuitive eating is distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger. But telling the difference can sometimes be difficult. Here’s a breakdown of what each one means:
Physical hunger: The biological cue that your body needs to replenish nutrients. You may feel weak, irritable, or have a hard time focusing. And at times, you may literally hear your tummy grumble. This physical hunger goes away once you give your belly the nutrients it needs.
Emotional hunger: An emotional cue that often triggers your desire to eat certain foods, regardless of your hunger levels. This is often driven by feelings like sadness, boredom, or stress. You often crave high-fat or sugary foods and eating does little to quell the "hunger" you're experiencing.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
There are some potential benefits to intuitive eating, although we need more research to confirm this. Some potential benefits of intuitive eating include: (1)
Reduced disordered eating habits
Improved body image
Improved emotional well-being
Positive weight-management outcomes
10 Key Principles of Intuitive Eating
Once you understand the difference between emotional vs. physical hunger, you can then dig into the 10 key principles of intuitive eating: (2)
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Understand what diet culture is, and try to work against it. Fad diets, quick fixes, and gimmicks rarely work for anyone, and recognizing this is a first step to intuitive eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
When your body is telling you that it is hungry, honor this feeling by fueling it with adequate energy and nutrients.
3. Make Peace With Food
Understand that there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Restriction can often lead to overeating, which can then lead to a feeling of guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police
You aren’t bad for eating a piece of birthday cake, indulging in a slice of pizza, or enjoying a can of delicious bubbly soda. Likewise, you aren’t “good” because you ate a salad. Food isn’t good or bad, and you aren’t good or bad for eating certain foods.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor (Mindful Eating!)
Relinquish the urge to press the fast-forward button when you're eating. Instead, take the time to actually enjoy the satisfaction of a delicious meal or snack. Like the pleasure of biting into a crispy apple, enjoying a piece of dark chocolate, or popping open a can of OLIPOP. By giving yourself the space and time to enjoy the experience, you might find it easier to notice when your food tank is full.
6. Feel Your Fullness
Feel your fullness by listening to your body’s signals that tell you whether you are still hungry or not. Pausing in the middle of eating or before grabbing a second plate can help you assess your hunger level.
7. Cope With Your Emotions With Kindness
Understanding that food restriction may trigger loss of control is an important aspect of emotional eating. Coping with emotions in ways that extend beyond food can help on your journey.
8. Respect Your Body
Accept that some bodies are larger than others, regardless of how you eat or how much you exercise. Respecting your body size and setting realistic ideas of what your body “should” be can be one extremely important aspect of intuitive eating.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Moving away from exercise for “results” and instead focusing on exercise for the feeling is a shift you can make to change your approach to fitness (and food!).
10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
You don’t have to eat a picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy meal every day to see progress on your health journey. Making food choices that honor your pleasure and your health is key. And when you do both at the same time (like enjoying a healthy, prebiotic soda) that’s an even bigger win.
Eating Intuitively: The Takeaway
Eating intuitively is an approach to wellness and health that focuses on using your hunger cues while rejecting diet culture. It does not encourage calorie counting, and no food is off-limits.
While some people may lose weight when intuitively eating, others may experience no weight loss. But more importantly, you’re likely to develop a healthier relationship with food once you embark on an intuitive eating journey. So, if you are craving something sweet, reaching for a can of OLIPOP can certainly fit into a healthy intuitive eating plan. Not only will it satisfy a sweet craving, but it will fuel your body with gut health-supporting ingredients that support your overall health.
Give yourself grace, become familiar with the principles, and perhaps consider working with a registered dietitian who works in the intuitive eating space to help you include this way of eating into your own lifestyle.
Bruce LJ, Ricciardelli LA. A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women. Appetite. 2016 Jan 1;96:454-472. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.012
The Original Intuitive Eating Pros. (2019, December 20). 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating. https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
- Intuitive eating is all about eating what feels right for you and relying on your body’s ability to let you know when you’re hungry or full.
- One of the most important aspects of following intuitive eating is distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger. Physical hunger is a craving for nutrients while emotional hunger is often driven by feelings like sadness, boredom, or stress.
- There are 10 key principles to intuitive eating including rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, making peace with food, removing “good” and “bad” food labels, mindful eating, respecting your body, and more.
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