Intuitive Eating: What It Is & How it Works

You’ve likely heard someone talking about intuitive eating lately because it is starting to become more and more popular these days. I’m sure some questions have popped into your mind:

“What does intuitive eating actually mean?”

“Can I benefit from intuitive eating?”

“How does intuitive eating even work?”

Well, I’m here to answer those questions for you, so let’s dive in!

Disclaimer: I am currently a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor in training and do not yet have my full certification. All information in this post comes from the intuitive eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and my experiences with it.

What is Intuitive Eating Anyways?

Intuitive eating is a framework that places emphasis on self-care and listening to your body’s natural cues. It was created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 and has been revised many times and has been backed up by hundreds of research studies since.

Intuitive eating is a non-diet, weight inclusive approach to eating and helps individuals tune into their intuition through understanding instincts, emotions and thoughts. There are 10 principles of intuitive eating that help individuals on their journey to improving both physical and mental health.

I have used intuitive eating in my life to heal my own relationship with food, and want nothing more than for people just like you to experience it too! To learn more about what intuitive eating has looked like in my life, head over to my blog post about my journey with intuitive eating.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw away everything that diet culture and society have told you! Yup that’s right, the first step is to leave all the weight-loss diets, skinny teas, and scales in the past. These things no longer serve you, and never have.

All of these messages about dieting you have heard from the media, influencers, health coaches, trainers, and even your friends and family could actually be doing you more harm than good.

It’s tough, I know. I’ve been there and wanted so badly to make all the different diets I tried work. You will feel so relieved to not be chained down to feeling like you “failed” yet another dieting attempt.

2. Honour Your Hunger

Your body has a very smart biological system that tells your brain and the rest of your body when you are hungry. Listening to what your body is telling you will set you on the path to intuitively eating and honouring your natural hunger cues.

If you allow yourself to get way too hungry, or “hangry,” tapping into your true hunger cues will become almost impossible. The idea is to keep your body well fed and listen to what your body is telling you.

3. Make Peace with Food

Food is not your enemy! Say it with me “food is not my enemy.”

Allowing yourself to eat your favourite foods, that you once forbid yourself from having, will stop the deprived feeling from creeping back in unannounced. If you restrict food, it just intensifies the feeling of guilt, cravings and urges to binge.

4. Challenge the Food Police

The “food police” show up in many forms in your life, but stop listening to them! Let go of the idea that there are “good” and “bad” foods. YOU are also not “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I know, this is hard to do because it’s all you see and hear around you, but challenging the food police will make you feel so free.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Eating is meant to be pleasurable. To really enjoy your food, allow yourself to eat what you want to eat. Make the eating experience even better by eating in an environment that allows you to enjoy your food. Focus on your food and use your senses to understand what satisfies you most.

Jenn intuitively eating peanut off of a spoon straight out of the jar

6. Feel Your Fullness

This principle is similar to honouring your hunger, but for fullness. Listening to your body’s biological signals to let you know when you are at a good level of fullness is just as important. Tap into how you’re feeling throughout eating and stop when you are feeling comfortably full. This is really where some concepts of mindful eating come into play.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

We’ve all been there – turning to the tub of ice cream when we are feeling deep sadness. Know that you’re not alone in that. Learning to cope with the different emotions you are facing, whether they are sadness, anxiety, boredom, anger, or anything in between, food is not the solution to coping.

Show yourself kindness and empathy; understand ways you can get to the root cause of the emotion instead of just turning to food. Keep in mind that automatically turning to food may end up just making you feel worse.

8. Respect Your Body

I love this example from the intuitive eating website: “Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally uncomfortable to have a similar expectation about body size.”

Love and respect your body. Let go of comparison and being critical of your own body. All bodies are amazing bodies and you should embrace your body just the way it is, because you are amazing.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

Stop pushing yourself to do that high-intensity workout when you really hate doing it. If you love doing high-intensity workouts, that’s great too! But find a type of movement you really enjoy and just move your body in some way every day.

Focus on positive aspects of exercise such as the energy boost, mental benefits, feeling of strength, or many others, instead of thinking about all the calories you “need” to burn. Forget that!

10. Honour Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Nourish your body with foods that make you feel good and give you energy. Understanding the basics of nutrition to make balanced meals can help you to start to understand which foods make your body feel the best.

Remember that you will never become suddenly unhealthy from a treat. Life is all about balance, and so is nutrition!

What is Intuitive Eating NOT?

Intuitive eating is definitely not another diet plan or meal plan to follow. There are no “rules” surrounding intuitive eating, it’s all about becoming more in tune with yourself and your own intuition. Because of this, there is no right or wrong way to do intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating is also not a path to weight loss. The urge to lose weight is actually left behind within the journey of intuitive eating. Yes sure, you may end up losing some weight if you start following the principles of intuitive eating, but you also might gain some weight, or stay the same. This should not scare you! The feeling of freedom and being content with yourself is so much greater than any number on a scale.

Want to learn more about getting started with a piece of the intuitive eating puzzle? Get started with eating more mindfully with my free guide to mindful eating!

This article is only scratching the surface of intuitive eating, so stay tuned for more! As always, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me if you have any ideas or questions.

xo, jenn


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