Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating: How To Heal Your Relationship With Food

What is Intuitive Eating?

As a holistic therapist and nutritional therapy practitioner that works with women. It’s impossible not to talk about our relationship with food and our bodies. Recently, I have been getting asked a lot of questions about intuitive eating, so I thought I would write this post to help share some information.

Our relationship with food is COMPLEX. It often becomes entwined with societal norms, expectations, and even our perceptions of self-worth. We’ve been conditioned by glossy magazines, diet culture, and sometimes even well-meaning loved ones, pushing us away from the innate wisdom our bodies possess. As we step into a space of self-love and healing, I want to introduce you to the concept intuitive eating.

Hormonal shifts, motherhood, societal pressures – all these and so much more, uniquely shape a woman’s journey with food. By understanding and embracing intuitive eating, we can reclaim the narrative, grounding ourselves in nourishment, care, and the intuitive power we all hold within. In our journey to holistic wellness, eating intuitively is an amazing way to connect to our body’s unique needs and connect to our inner wisdom.

How Can Intuitive Eating Help?

Imagine a world where dieting didn’t exist, where you didn’t feel the need to count calories, lose weight, or follow restrictive eating plans. Intuitive eating is the practice of listening to your body’s signals, understanding your hunger and fullness cues, and eating according to what your body truly craves.

How Did We Lose Our Way?

Historically, our ancestors didn’t have nutritionists or diet books. They relied on their intuition, and natural signals to nourish their bodies. With modern society’s pressures, need for “healthy eating” and beauty ideals, we’ve moved away from that natural harmony. The beauty of intuitive eating is its ability to reestablish that lost connection.

What Are The Benefits of Intuitive Eating?

  • Mental Freedom: Letting go of diet rules and restrictions can be a profound relief. No more guilt or stress over “cheating” or missing out.
  • Physical Well-being: When we trust our bodies, they often lead us to a balanced, varied diet. You might find yourself naturally craving fruits one day, and protein-rich foods the next.
  • Eating Mindfully: When we eat intuitively, we’re present with our food, savoring every bite.
  • Promotes a Healthy Relationship with Food: By removing labels like “good” or “bad” from food, it encourages a more neutral and balanced perspective.
  • Fosters Body Acceptance: Intuitive eating can help you better appreciate your body and understand that health isn’t determined solely by weight or size.
  • Reduces Stress: Without the need to count, measure, or restrict, many people find eating becomes less stressful and more enjoyable.
  • Addresses Emotional Eating: It can help you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger, leading to more mindful consumption.

What are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is a self-care eating framework that encourages tuning into your body’s internal cues about hunger, fullness, and satisfaction while rejecting diet culture and food rules. Developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their seminal book “Intuitive Eating,” this approach is based on 10 primary principles. Intuitive eaters:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Let go of the idea of quick-fix diets and the belief that there’s a “right” way to eat for weight loss or control. Recognize that dieting often leads to a cycle of weight fluctuations, guilt, and deprivation.

2. Honor Your Hunger:Learn to recognize and respect your body’s hunger cues. Eating when you’re hungry helps prevent excessive hunger that can lead to overeating later on.

3. Make Peace with Food: Making peace with food, means you give yourself unconditional permission to eat. When you stop labeling certain foods either as “good” or “bad,” it reduces feelings of deprivation and the consequent binge-restrict cycle.

4. Challenge the Food Police: This refers to the internal voice that judges your food choices and enforces unnecessary rules. Recognize and challenge these negative thoughts.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Recognize that when you eat what you really want, in a peaceful environment, the pleasure you derive will help you feel more content and feel satisfied.

6. Feel Your Fullness: Listen to your body’s signals that indicate you’re comfortably full. This involves pausing in the middle of eating a meal to ask yourself how the food tastes and your body tells you what your fullness level is. As an intuitive eater, this is a huge component of honoring what your body needs. Use the hunger fullness scale below to help you!

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness: Recognize that food is not a sole source of comfort. While it’s okay and normal to eat for comfort occasionally, it’s crucial to have other coping mechanisms for emotions like boredom, anxiety, or loneliness.

8. Respect Your Body: Accept your body’s natural size, weight and shape. It’s challenging to be receptive to your body’s hunger and fullness cues if you’re criticizing your body or trying to lose weight instead of honoring exactly where you are.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference: Instead of focusing on structured, punitive exercise routines to burn calories off and lose weight, find ways to move your body that feel good and you enjoy. This shifts the focus from calorie-burning and weight loss to feeling energized and vibrant.

10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: Make food choices that are both tasty and nourishing to your body. Remember that it’s your overall food patterns that shape your health, not individual meals or foods.

Resources for Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating has gained considerable traction over the past few years as people search for sustainable and healthy approaches to nutrition and exercise. Below I’m sharing some of my favorite resources for intuitive eating:

Books for Intuitive Eating:

“Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch: This is often considered the foundational text on intuitive eating. The authors are both registered dietitians and lay out the core principles of the approach that I shared briefly above.

“The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food also by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch: This workbook complements their original book and provides practical exercises to help you internalize the principles of intuitive eating.

“Body Kindness” by Rebecca Scritchfield: This book explores the connection between intuitive eating, body positivity, and overall self esteem and well-being.

Podcasts for Intuitive Eating:

“Food Psych” by Christy Harrison: A registered dietitian, Harrison delves into topics like intuitive eating, body positivity, and eating disorder recovery.

“The Body Love Project” with Jessi Haggerty: This podcast frequently touches on intuitive eating principles alongside discussions about body image and health at every other body size.

Websites & Online Resources:

Intuitive Eating Official Website: This site offers a wealth of resources, including the foundational principles of intuitive eating, a blog, and training opportunities.

Christy Harrison’s website: As an advocate for the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement and intuitive eating, Harrison shares some amazing resources, including articles, courses, and support tools.

Professional Support:

Reauthoring your relationship with food can be a challenge. If you’re ready to ditch the diet mentality and tune into your own internal wisdom but not sure where to start. Consider seeking out help from a registered dietitian or therapist who specializes in intuitive eating. They can offer individualized guidance and support as you explore this approach.

Research and Studies:

The intuitive eating movement is also backed by various scientific studies that show its benefits. Platforms like PubMedand Google Scholar can be good places to start if you want to delve into the academic perspective.

These resources can provide guidance and insight, but the core of intuitive eating lies in tuning into and trusting your body’s signals. Whether you’re new to the concept of stop eating or have been practicing for a while, there’s always more to learn and explore!

Contraindications or Considerations for Intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a beneficial approach for many, promoting a healthier relationship with food and your body. However, there are certain considerations and situations where implementing an intuitive eating style might require special attention, modification, or even postponement. Please make sure to consult a professional before starting anything new. Here are some contraindications or considerations to bear in mind:

Active Eating Disorders: People with active eating disorders might struggle with intuitive eating. Their internal hunger and fullness cues have likely been skewed over time as a side effect of disordered eating.

History of Chronic Dieting: Chronic dieters might initially have difficulty distinguishing between physical hunger and emotional hunger, as they may have ignored or suppressed their natural hunger cues for a long time.

Certain Medical Conditions: People with medical conditions that have specific dietary needs, such as diabetes, celiac disease, or certain food allergies, will need to consider their health requirements and consult with their doctors before trying anything new.

Mental Health Issues: Depression, severe anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues can impact appetite, eating habits, and the ability to tune into your bodies cues. For people struggling with their mental health, intuitive eating might need to be adapted or approached alongside therapy.

Trauma Survivors: People who have experienced trauma, especially trauma related to food or their bodies, might find some aspects of intuitive eating triggering. Working with a therapist familiar with trauma can be beneficial.

Potential for Overemphasis on Hunger Cues: While tuning into hunger is vital, some people might become overly preoccupied with waiting for distinct hunger signals before eating. This could be problematic in situations where regular eating is essential.

Cultural and Socioeconomic Considerations: Not everyone has the privilege of accessing a variety of foods or eating whenever they feel hungry due to economic constraints. This approach will need to be adapted to fit your own circumstances and resources.

Initial Overeating or Weight Concerns: After a period of restriction or focus on weight loss, some people might experience overeating as they reconnect with their hunger cues. While this typically balances out over time, it can be upsetting in the short term.

External Pressures: Societal, family, or peer pressures regarding body size, weight loss, or food can challenge all influence your ability to be an intuitive eater. It’s essential to be aware of these pressures and develop strategies to navigate them.

Wrapping Up:

While intuitive eating offers a holistic approach to nutrition and body image, it’s not a one-size-fits-all model. If you’re interested in this approach, it can be beneficial to work with professionals trained in intuitive eating, especially if you have any of the considerations I shared above. Adapting the principles to fit your own unique needs is crucial.

Starting with intuitive eating might feel daunting, especially if you’ve been entrenched in diet culture for a long time. It isn’t a “diet” or a quick fix. It’s a lifelong journey towards better understanding and trusting your body. It’s about nourishing your body, mind, and soul, aligning your life with its natural rhythm, and embracing food as a source of joy.

If you are someone who struggles with your relationship with your body and food and could benefit from working with a therapist, I’m a therapist in Elk Grove, California and offer therapy to anyone in the State of California. You can learn more about me here. Thanks so much for taking the time to read. I hope you found this helpful!

The links to books in this article are affiliate links, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional advice of your own attorney, accountant, physician, or financial advisor. Always check with your own physician, attorney, financial advisor, accountant, or other business or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

That's So Well Therapist Arielle

It's me, Arielle!

Holistic Therapist, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Yoga Instructor in Elk Grove, California.

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