What is Intuitive Eating?
Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.
By now you will have heard me prattling on about diet culture and how horrific it is, but what is the alternative? It’s so difficult to think of being happy in yourself and with food if you aren’t on a diet. Well I’m here to tell you there is an alternative – Intuitive Eating.
You may have heard me talk about Intuitive Eating in social media posts or if you’ve spoken to me in real life, or you may not have heard of it before. Maybe once you have read this you’ll realise that I talk a lot of the principles of Intuitive Eating but not necessarily use the name regularly. That’s how it should be I think, because I believe eating should be intuitive, and it shouldn’t take over every other thought throughout the day. You shouldn’t think of it like ‘Ooh I’m eating intuitively today’ but more as a natural way of living and something that eventually just happens so that you can enjoy other things in life without worrying about food.
So what is it? Let me explain….
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to eating and your relationship with food. It’s about finding a way to ditch all the beliefs you have gathered over the years from all those diets you have tried, and finding a way to eat freely.
It’s about shaking off all those self critical thoughts and finding a way to love yourself as you are. It’s about knowing that your weight really doesn’t matter.
Sounds great and impossible all at the same time right? I know, totally understand, but I promise it is doable. I’m living proof, amongst many others.
The absolute queens of Intuitive Eating are Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They are the creators of this programme and are the underpinning of several other people’s programmes, such as Laura Thomas and the London Centre For Intuitive Eating, and The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner. Such wonderful people doing amazing work in trying to kick diet culture to the kerb for once and for all.
Getting into Intuitive Eating and allowing the process to really work involves going through what are called the 10 principles. These are 10 steps which help you to understand and work through various beliefs and patterns that you have collected through your life and helping you to get to a place where no food is out of bounds. They are about removing obstacles and raising awareness. Those principles are:
1. Rejecting diet mentality
Letting go of all those rules that have been ingrained in you around food and understanding that you can let go, you will not lose control. It helps you to understand how bad diets are for us.
2. Honouring hunger
Helping you to understand what hunger is, and helping your body to understand that there will always be food to eat. Maybe you don’t even recognise hunger right now, or maybe you swing from starving hungry to uncomfortably full, but this principle will help with that.
3. Making peace with food
Wouldn’t you love to stop wrestling with food? To have unconditional permission to eat anything and everything? This principle walks you through this and helps you deal with the feelings that come up. It helps you realise that you can trust yourself around food.
4. Challenging the food police
OMG, those voices in your head that tell you off when you’ve had a few biscuits, or some cake, or a whole pizza followed by a curry, rice, chips, and all the trimmings!!! Those voices are the food police, and they’re horrible to live with. They never say anything nice, and are always super critical. You can stop that though and learn to be kinder to yourself.
5. Discovering satisfaction
By this point you’re ready to start appreciating the joy and satisfaction in eating.
6. Feeling your fullness
This is about listening to the hunger and fullness signals and understanding when you have feel you have eaten enough. Enough meaning the amount that you feel satisfied from, not the amount you think you should eat. This isn’t about restriction, it’s about understanding when you are comfortably full and knowing that you can always eat more later if you feel hungry again. That’s not to say you’ll never overeat ever again, but it will become an enjoyable choice rather than from mindless eating.
7. Coping with emotions
Understanding emotional eating, restriction, and loss of control. We all do it, it won’t go away completely, but you’ll recognise it and have some tools to be able to deal with the emotion rather than diving straight into the food cupboard.
8. Respecting your body
You are unique and special and this is about learning to love that, whatever your shape or size.
Finding ways to be a little more active that make you feel good, not going all out killing yourself in the gym if that’s not your bag. I wrote a blog post about this which you can read here.
10. Health through gentle nutrition
Once you’ve found more peace with your eating and your body you can start to consider the health benefits of foods. It’s about learning to eat nutritious food, but also that it won’t ruin your health to have a snack, a meal, a drink that you fancy that isn’t that nutritious.
This is definitely a process that you will need to focus on, and some of it may even bring some thoughts forward that you didn’t realise you’d buried, but that’s kinda the point – if you keep eating to push feelings down you’ll never escape diet culture. Or you may find that you breeze through it because everyone is different. Whichever your journey you will come out the other end with a much better understanding of your eating habits, feeling freer and like you can handle food more calmly, Whatever path this takes you down you can be sure that the path is a gentle one and the programme is full of kindness and understanding. You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you get on board with it and change your eating patterns. Intuitive Eating really can free you from diet culture. You’ll be loving your body and feel good about eating whatever the hell you like in no time 😉
Ok, I’m in, what next?
This is definitely one to get some proper guidance with. I don’t mean you have to pay the big bucks for therapists (although you can if that helps you) but do get the Intuitive Eating book and work through it principle by principle. While I’m here to motivate and cheer you on the book is without a doubt the starting point. I’ve popped the links on my ‘Recommended’ page for you.
I wish you all the best. I can’t wait for you to find your food freedom.
Please note: This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet.
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