How To Start Intuitive Eating

Are you ready to embrace an anti-diet mindset but don’t know where to start? 

The 10 principles of intuitive eating® are geared towards helping you adopt an anti-diet, body positive mentality that will help you develop a positive relationship with both the body you nourish and the food you eat to do so!

1. Reject the diet mentality

Did you know that 95-97% of weight loss on a strict regimen will be regained (often more than original) within 5 years? 

There’s NO other product or service in the world, you would buy into, and blame yourself when it fails. 

EXCEPT, for weight loss focused diets or regimens.  

Diets build expectations of weight loss that often lead to frustration and disappointment when they don’t work out. You’ll notice that you always blamed yourself for it not to work for you…. “not enough willpower”… “love food too much”…”my problem is bingeing at night”… or “I have such a sweet tooth, I can’t control it”. 

The first step is to REJECT diet culture. By saying “no” to all the diets and rigid food rules, you can rid yourself of false hopes and feelings of guilt and finally allow your free self to fully embrace intuitive eating.

 

2. Honour your hunger

Rebuilding your relationship with food starts with acknowledging your body’s physical needs. Recognizing your body’s hunger cues is essential in keeping yourself well fed and fuelled throughout the day.

Meanwhile, ignoring cues and continuously restricting yourself can bring about extreme hunger that may lead to eating beyond your comfort.

This quick and simple hunger scale can help you assess your fullness and honour your hunger.

 

3. Make peace with food

How many times have you felt guilty and shameful of eating “bad” foods? 

And then suddenly, you find yourself thinking of these foods often or feeling out of control? 

This is why you need to make peace with these foods!! 

When you prevent yourself from eating certain foods, you’ll find yourself forming intense cravings that can initiate binge-eating and feelings of guilt. Therefore, throw away the rigid food restrictions you have and give yourself FULL permission to enjoy ALL foods instead!

 

4. Challenge the food police

The food police is anyone who’s “policing” your food or eating. 

Sometimes people think that because I’m a dietitian, then I MUST be policing what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat… 

Um. No. 

You deserve to have full autonomy over your food choices. The voices in your head from others are just given full reigns and living up there for free rent. 

There’s no space or time for that! 

Intuitive eating triumphs when you let go of the food police in your head that’s been keeping track of rules from your former dieting days. Dismiss the voices that congratulate you for being “good” or guilt you for being “bad” based on your food choices or behaviour. Instead, replace it with a supportive and more liberating approach to food and eating.

 

5. Respect your fullness

Feeling full is not something you need to avoid or be told *when* you “should stop eating”.  

Starting to differentiate between fullness that you are told about, and fullness you internally learn to recognize. 

This is not a “trick” to find a new way to make following the hunger scale a new diet… it’s a way to start learning how to TRUST your body. What a relief, right!? 

 

6. Discover the satisfaction

You know that feeling of pleasure and joy you get from eating the first bite of something you LOVE? 

Yes, that is a true sense of satisfaction in the experience of eating. 

When you tune in to what you truly enjoy, you’ll want to maximize the enjoyment of each bite. For example, if you love chocolate, but start noticing that you prefer dark chocolate with roasted nuts, then you’ll find the most enjoyment eating that. 

Eating has the potential to be both satisfying and pleasurable when you turn your focus towards enjoyment. Choosing foods that you like or having meals in a pleasant environment can help enhance your eating experience.

 

7. Honour your feelings

Emotional eating is not a bad thing in itself. Food IS emotional. 

It’s when food is the only thing that you reach for when you’re having more heightened feelings.  

Acknowledging and honouring your feelings helps you to achieve a better understanding of how to properly deal with what you’re going through. This may be with food sometimes, and other times it might be a bath, nap, hug, or a good cry!  

8. Respect your body

It’s not uncommon to feel insecure about one’s body. This is NOT your fault. This is the outcome of our society’s construct of western beauty standards. 

Let’s make this one thing clear…. Your worth & value have NOTHING to do with your shape or size. If you don’t believe this, think about what you think of others when they’re on their deathbed. Is it how many meals they skipped? how big their thigh gap is? how muscular their biceps are? 

None of that…. You’ll think about how kind, generous, smart, caring, loving, attentive, funny, talented, or a million other qualities… but definitely not their size or shape. 

All bodies are beautiful and each one deserves just as much respect, love, and acceptance as the next.

 

9. Get active

Exercise shouldn’t be about how many calories you burn or how many pounds you can shed – rather,
it’s about feeling good and using joyful movement to nourish your mind, body, and soul.

If you have had a complicated relationship with exercise where it was always a way to punish yourself or compensate for eating something, then you need to make peace with it. 

Exercise has dozens of benefits that are independent of size or shape. Identifying what feels good to you, how often, & how long, will be up to you as it will vary greatly.   

10. Honour your health

Gentle nutrition has a place in Intuitive Eating®, and it’s the last principle for a reason. 

Nutrition alone doesn’t do the trick.  

If you continue to only focus on the “what” of eating, you’ll miss the importance of the “how” and “why” of eating as well as your relationship to food. Improving your relationship with food is key! 

In other words, what you eat should both taste good, be free of judgment, AND make you feel good. This means that nurturing your body should not be rigid or restrictive, but rather, flexible and inclusive.

 

This is an overview of what Intuitive Eating® principles are, if you feel like this is something you need support & guidance with, please reach out! I’m here to support you.  

You could also check out these previous blog posts for more information and helpful resources: Intuitive and Mindful Eating, or Intuitive Eating and HAES Resources.

Are You Struggling with Intuitive Eating?

Blog Contributors

This blog was written with the help of UBC dietetic students, Krista Soobotin and Tania Suradja.

Reference

The Original Intuitive Eating Pros: 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
[Retrieved May 12, 2020] https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-
intuitive-eating/