Whether it’s paleo, keto, or intermittent fasting, new diets seem to hit the market on a weekly basis making it hard to keep up with the latest trend. What if you were told to abandon the idea of dieting altogether and go back to the way you ate as a baby? It used to be simple, you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full. You were a natural at intuitive eating. Why is eating no longer so easy? Unfortunately, over time the diet mentality has likely interfered with your natural ability to eat intuitively.
Luckily, a movement is gaining momentum, helping bring that intuitive eating voice back to the forefront. While the term intuitive eating may be unfamiliar to you, it isn’t a new concept. In fact, it has been around since 1995 when Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, both dietitians, published their first book on the topic. The intuitive eating philosophy focuses on following the body’s internal cues over external rules and regulation when it comes to deciding what, when, and how much to eat.
Much of intuitive eating’s current popularity has to do with the idea that fad diets are not working for most people. Not only do most followers of the latest and craziest diets fail at achieving long-term weight loss, they also may be doing their bodies more harm than good when it comes to the physical impact of yo-yo dieting and the emotional stress that typically accompanies a restrictive diet mindset.
Intuitive eating is composed of 10 core principles that serve as a guide on your journey to a healthier relationship with food, your mind, and body.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Without rejecting diet mentality, other principles become harder to adopt. Toss out diet books and magazines and unfollow social media accounts that make unrealistic promises about rapid weight loss and assign food rules that rigidly restrict your eating.
2. Discover the satisfaction factor
Discovering satisfaction is the most important principle in that it informs your ability to honor hunger and fullness. It is about finding pleasure and enjoyment in the foods you eat by noticing and appreciating the texture, taste, and appearance. If eating leaves you unsatisfied, you will likely keep looking for more.
3. Honor your hunger
Counting calories and restricting portions to the point of deprivation can ultimately trigger overeating. Instead, pay attention to and put trust in your body’s biological hunger cues, which may include a growling or empty feeling in your stomach.
4. Feel your fullness
Likewise, although it may be difficult in today’s busy culture, pause and take note of signs that you are comfortably full. That’s not to say that there won’t be times when you will eat when you are not hungry and go beyond the point of feeling full; have self-compassion.
5. Make peace with food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat and allow all foods to fit within your eating plan. When foods are made off limits you can begin to crave them uncontrollably and get trapped in a vicious cycle of restriction, overeating, and feelings of guilt.
6. Challenge the food police
Confront the voices in your head or people in your lives that label you as being “good” for eating a salad or “bad” for having dessert. Different foods have different nutritional benefits but are emotionally equivalent.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
While we all may turn to food for comfort on occasion to soothe anger, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness, food won’t fix these feelings in the long run. Try other coping mechanisms such as taking a walk in nature, calling a friend, reading a book, or finding a quiet place to meditate.
8. Respect your body
We are so quick to criticize our bodies. In the intuitive eating mindset, part of rejecting diet mentality is accepting the body you were meant to have and letting go of unrealistic expectations for its shape and size.
9. Movement — feel the difference
Instead of focusing on the calorie burn factor, find an activity that you will enjoy doing on a regular basis and embrace the benefits of improved sleep, increased energy, and enhanced mood.
10. Honor your health — gentle nutrition
Eating intuitively can still mean choosing more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains than desserts but it doesn’t mean you have to eat perfectly to be healthy or feel guilty for choosing one over the other. No one food or eating experience has the power to define your health or lack thereof.
If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the intuitive eating framework may not be right for you. The goal of intuitive eating is not weight loss but rather well-being. This anti-diet way of eating requires a shift in your mindset that might be unsettling at first and might take time for you to adopt. However, if you’re looking to trust your body, heal your relationship with food, and ease your stress around eating, this mindset might be right for you. To find out more about intuitive eating, check out Resch and Tribole’s book, “Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Revolutionary Approach”; the fourth edition will be released in June 2020.
Sarah Curran is the Family & Community Health Sciences Program Associate for Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County. She can be reached at 908-475-6504 or by email at email@example.com.