If you are interested in nutrition and have been on a diet before, you may have come across the concept of “intuitive eating”. This unconventional approach has become increasingly popular among many different groups of people in the last few years. But what is it exactly, how can you start eating intuitively and does it work for everyone and every goal? Let’s find out more about it
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a philosophy that was created in 1995 by two dieticians, Elyse Resche and Evelyn Tribole. Sometimes referred to as an “anti-diet”, this practice is based on 10 principles which aim to help you get back in touch with your body’s hunger signals and reset your relationship with food. The 10 principles of intuitive eating are as follows:
- Reject the diet mentality: Intuitive eating is the opposite of traditional diets, and promotes a more positive approach to food and your body.
- Honour your hunger: Identifying your hunger cues is key when you want to start intuitive eating. Hunger should not be seen as your enemy, and you should not restrict yourself when you feel hungry.
- Make peace with food: The intuitive eating approach encourages you to eat what you want and not frustrate yourself.
- Challenge the “food police”: Food should not be categorised as “bad” or “good” and you should not feel guilty when eating certain foods.
- Respect your fullness: Just as your body tells you when you’re hungry, it also tells you when you’re full. You should learn to recognise those signals so that you can stop eating at the right time.
- Discover the satisfaction factor: Eating is an experience that should be enjoyable. This means taking the time to sit down, focus on your plate and appreciate your food.
- Honour your feelings without using food: Food should not be used to cope with emotions. Try finding other ways to help you cope with stress and other negative emotions, be it meditation, going for a walk, talking to a friend, etc.
- Respect your body: Distance yourself from unrealistic expectations on how your body should look. Instead, try to appreciate your body for what it can do.
- Exercise and feel the difference: Instead of obsessing over burning calories or losing weight, you should exercise because it makes you feel good and energised. Choose a physical activity that you enjoy, be it walking, dancing, team sports, etc.
- Honour your health with gentle nutrition: Nutrition is an essential part of the intuitive eating approach, and the food you choose to eat should make you feel good, mentally and physically.
Put shortly, intuitive eating teaches you to eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full. Sounds easy, right? While this may seem like it should be simple and obvious, it’s not that easy for a lot of people. To learn how to eat intuitively, you have to learn how to differentiate physical hunger, when your body physically needs nutrients to function properly, from emotional hunger, when you eat because you are stressed, bored, sad, or experiencing strong emotions.
What are the benefits of intuitive eating?
The intuitive eating approach is focused on getting back in touch with your body and healing your relationship with food. Research has shown that several benefits could be linked to intuitive eating, including weight maintenance and improved well-being. Intuitive eating also shows higher retention rates than traditional diets, which means people are more likely to continue practising intuitive eating over time, as opposed to sticking to a diet.
How do I get started with intuitive eating?
If you want to give intuitive eating a go, it’s a good idea to start by analysing your attitude towards food in your day-to-day life. Do you take the time to sit down for your meals and focus on what you’re eating, or do you rush through your meals? Do you usually do something else while you’re eating, such as watching TV, using your phone or laptop, etc.? Do you often feel very hungry during the day? Do you often feel like you have eaten too much after your meals? These are examples of questions you can ask yourself to get started.
Next time you feel hungry, try to determine if it is emotional or physical hunger. You can also try to rank your feeling of hunger and fullness on a scale of 0–10, from starving to really full. Ideally, you should start eating when you feel hungry and stop when you feel satisfied. By repeating this simple exercise, you should learn how to eat intuitively over time.
If you want to learn more about intuitive eating and need help getting started, you can also reach out to a specialised dietician or nutritionist.
Does it work for everyone and every goal?
Like any other method or nutritional approach, intuitive eating might not be the right fit for everyone and every goal. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as gaining muscle mass for example, it can help to track your macros to ensure that you are covering your protein needs. Or, if you are trying to lose weight, counting calories can help you get a clearer understanding of what you are eating every day. Intuitive eating might also not be recommended if you have specific health conditions. In short, intuitive eating can help some people, and not work for others. As always, try to listen to your body and do what works for you. And don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you are unsure.
To sum it up…
Intuitive eating is a concept that has been around for a long time. It aims to reconnect ourselves to our body and its signals, particularly hunger and fullness. Intuitive eating is not a diet and does not focus on weight loss. Instead, it’s an approach that promotes a positive attitude towards food and body image. If this sounds like it could be beneficial for you, feel free to give it a go! Remember that this approach might not work for everyone, and do what works best for you. Good luck!