“A form of attunement of mind, body and food.” Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, coauthor Intuitive Eating
Heard of it? I bet you have. While intuitive eating is a pretty foreign concept in our diet-fueled culture, it’s actually based on some of our most basic, fundamental human instincts that, sadly, society has taught us not to trust.
It’s a theory centered around the idea of creating a healthy body image, calling a truce with food, and giving diets, and all the rules that accompany them, a big kick in the tush. And I speak from personal and professional experience, as a dietitian and nutritionist, when I say that intuitive eating paves the way to an end a food struggles and genuine peace of mind in regards to eating.
Imagine this… eating when you’re hungry, choosing foods that satisfy and nourish you, and trusting your body’s natural cues and signals to guide you. What a notion?! But what’s crazy, is that most people have gotten so far away from living like this that they’re operating solely off unrealistic guidelines and food rules, instead of relying on and trusting their own bodies to guide them.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating follows a set of principals that serve as intentions to guide your eating, helping you to learn how to connect with and trust yourself, while healing your relationship with food. Each principle requires exploration and a willingness to take a different approach in order to change and break free, and different from traditional nutritional guidance, they offer a compassionate and gentle approach. You can read more about them here.
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor your Health
All Food is Allowed
Intuitive eating permits ALL food, which is a hard one for most people to grasp, but is crucial in your ability to get off the hamster wheel and make friends with carbs. Because when we restrict certain foods, it just makes us want them that much more, which often leads to a binge when we finally do give in. What happens then, is we get stuck in an all-or-nothing mindset that keeps us going back and forth between bingeing and restricting, either always feeling guilty for being “bad” or unsatisfied because we tried to be “good.”
I’ll be honest, permitting all food can be tricky to navigate and can take time. Many people, myself included, had restricted certain foods for so long that allowing ourselves to eat things like bread, pizza, and pasta felt wrong because it goes against what so much of society tells us. But slowly bringing these foods back into your life, giving yourself permission to eat them, will begin to diffuse the emotional power that they hold, so that eating them no longer leads to a binge or fills you with guilt. Does it take time? Yes, and some foods will take longer than others, and that’s okay.
My approach is unique to the traditional one in that I don’t recommend my clients indulge in every single food they love, all day long. I work slowly with one to two foods at a time, holding off on the more emotionally-charged foods until my clients are ready to being to incorporate. When I was overcoming my own binge eating, I had to start slowly, beginning with bread, then potatoes, pasta, and eventually desserts, which were my biggest triggers. As a result, I now eat these foods on a regular basis, guilt free. But it took time, patience, and a willingness to feel uncomfortable and give up a little bit of control, while creating that sense of allowance and dealing with the underlying beliefs and patterns I had associated with these foods.
We Were Born as Intuitive Eaters
If you can believe it, there was a time in your life when you ate because you were physically hunger, chose foods based on your needs at that moment, and stopped when your belly registered that you’d had enough. Babies and young children are beautiful examples of intuitive eaters. They know exactly what they want, when they want it, and the exact amount they need.
As we age, we’re subjected to food rules, restrictions, and beliefs that start to challenge this intuitive guidance. We’re taught that if we’re “good” we get cookies, we have to eat every morsel of food off of our plate because there are starving children in Africa, or that being thin is beautiful, and carbs are bad (ringin’ any bells?). Eventually, many of us learn to deny what our bodies are trying to communicate to us or override them with these beliefs and habits that we picked up over the years, losing that trust and innate guidance.
Unpacking Old Beliefs, Habits, and Patterns
When I work with my clients, a lot of what we do is look at the habits, patterns, and beliefs about food and eating that they’ve been carrying and start to sift through them. People come to realize that as a result of these childhood beliefs that were instilled in them, they’re still reaching for food to reward themselves or avoiding all starchy carbs because they feel ashamed for eating them.
We also begin to see that we eat when we’re bored and lonely or reach for chips and cookies in an attempt to deal with emotions that we don’t want to feel. Intuitive eating is about tapping into our emotions, habits, and patterns around eating so that we can become better connected to what’s driving our food choices and discovering what our bodies really need in those moments.
Bringing a Sense of Normalcy Back to Eating
When I work with clients, I often hear things like,
“What? I can eat carbs?!” And
“It just sounds so normal, I feel like a weight has been lifted.”
What I love about Intuitive eating is how truly normal and simple it feels. I know that’s easy for me to say because I’ve been living my life based on these principles for years, but the peace and ease that comes along with it is priceless. I’ve seen dozens of lives change as a result of incorporating these principals and I know first hand the freedom that can be experienced once embraced.
I’d love to hear from you and I welcome all questions and comments on the this topic. Feel free to call, text, or email me.
And if you live in Columbus, I’d love to meet you.