How to Eat Intuitively: 10 Guidelines That Will Help You Get Started Today

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you could just eat when you were hungry and stop when you were satisfied without worrying about your weight?

Or how about allowing yourself to eat whatever sounded good at the moment without worrying about what you “should” eat?

Well, good news! That exact nutrition philosophy exists. It’s called Intuitive Eating and research says we are happier and healthier (and we have an easier time managing our weight) when we eat like this.

There are 10 Basic Principles to Intuitive Eating as prescribed by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D, and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. in their revolutionary book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, the proven non-diet program that has helped hundreds of thousands of people learn to manage their weight without dieting.

Here is a summary of the principles:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Decide to never diet again. Accept the fact that diets are futile. Rebel against the 20+-billion dollar diet industry that puts out diet after diet product while helping very, very few people lose weight and keep it off. Choose today not to play the game anymore. Resolve to learn to eat intuitively –  to trust your body to tell you when, how much and what to eat

2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed. Eat when you are physically hungry – every time. Don’t put your hunger off, don’t eat less than you need to feel satisfied, and don’t use substances (coffee, water, etc) or other methods (exercise, etc.) to push your hunger down.

3. Make Peace with Food. Eat what you want. Eliminate the concept of good foods and bad foods. Eat what will be satisfying and what will make you FEEL good. Bring back all the foods you’ve eliminated from your life because somebody, somewhere at some point said you shouldn’t eat them because they had too many calories, too many carbs, too many points, too much fat or that they just weren’t “good for you”.  The more you restrict the foods you prefer to eat the more likely you are to eventually binge on these same foods (and others).

4. Challenge the Food Police. Challenge the voice in your head (the “Food Police”) that tells you that you are “good” for eating a certain way and “bad” for eating another way. The Food Police monitor the collection of rules that you’ve created as you’ve gone on and off diets. As soon as you’d like to enjoy a piece of birthday cake or reach for a cookie, you’ll hear the Food Police spit out negative comments, hopeless indictments, and guilt-provoking criticisms. Accept that there is no morality tied to nourishing your body a certain way or to enjoying the taste of food.  You are not good if you stay on a diet or bad if you fall off. You are not “better” when you weigh less or “worse” when you are heavier. The Food Police might try and tell you otherwise but your weight, shape and the way you eat are reflections of your worth as a person or the quality of your character.

5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen to the physical signals that tell you that you have had enough. Pay attention to those subtle (and not so subtle) signs your body sends you to tell you you are satisfied, approaching fullness and full. Stop when you are satisfied but not so full that you are uncomfortable.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Eat what you love! When you let yourself eat what you want to eat, the pleasure you derive will help you feel like you’ve had enough sooner than if you eat what you think you “should” eat or are “supposed” to eat. Start by asking yourself what you’d really like to eat NOT what you “should” eat. Set the table, put out the good china, turn off distractions – make your meals special occasions. Focus on the taste and texture of what you are eating. Enjoy your food and the whole experience of eating.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food to Cope. Do you use food to cope with life? Anxiety, sadness, loneliness, boredom, worry, and anger are feelings all humans experience. Although the food may comfort you momentarily, distract you temporarily from your pain, help you zone out for a second or even numb you completely,  food won’t solve the problems that drive you to eat or abolish any of your negative feelings. If anything, eating for emotional hunger instead of physical hunger will only make you feel worse. When you are finished eating, you will still have to deal with the issues that drove you to eat — as well as guilt and other emotions you might have about eating.

8. Respect Your Body. Your body is as unique as you are. Nobody on earth is exactly like you and nobody on earth is exactly like yours. Respecting your body starts with recognizing all that your body has done for you (and put up with it from you!).  Stop abusing your body with diets, tight clothes,  militant exercise, and other self-punishments. Treat your body with dignity – feed it when it is hungry, rest it when it is tired,  dress it in comfortable clothes and move it gently.

9. Gentle Exercise. Exercise because it makes you feel good, not to burn calories or shape your body. Forget extreme exercise, grueling routines and wasting hours on treadmills going nowhere —   just get active doing activities you love like walking, biking, hiking, gardening, window shopping, playing with kids/grandkids/pets, etc.

10. Honor Your Health though Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that nourish your body while satisfying your taste buds.  Honor the health-sustaining properties of whole foods. Without feeling like you need to ONLY eat “healthy” foods, include in your diet those foods that you love and that make you feel good.

Need more help learning how to apply these principles? Let me know what you are struggling with and I’ll get back to you with some ideas that have worked for me and my clients.

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