One of the most common questions I get is about Intuitive Eating. What is it? Recently, it has been buzzing around the internet a bit. But, most people have either never heard of it or have no idea what it is. Honestly, if you had asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have known what it was.
Thankfully, though, now I know!
Please note, this post is a breakdown of my personal experience and understanding of Intuitive Eating. You are the expert of your own body. I am sharing this to inspire you to look into Intuitive Eating or get in touch with me or someone else for more information and/or personalized guidance.
Below are each of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, as written by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch (check them out here). In her article, What Is Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole writes, “Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach.” What was most revolutionary about this approach to health and wellness for me, was the emphasis on weight-neutrality, the focus on self-respect and trust, the honoring of our individual bodies, and the understanding that health and wellness need to be inclusive, socially-aware, and whole-person oriented.
Intuitive Eating has changed my life. It is a rejection of diet culture, and an acceptance of individuality. It is not a diet. There is no counting, no system, no weighing, no falling off the wagon, no restriction. What it is, is a reconnection to your intuition, and a reimagining of your relationship to health and to yourself.
“Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool–it’s time to unleash it and liberate yourself from the prison of diet culture and weight obsession.”Evelyn Tribole, What Is Intuitive Eating
When dieting is all you know Intuitive Eating can be scary. Sometimes, the best things in life are scary. Intuitive Eating gives you the opportunity get back to yourself with kindness, compassion, and respect. It allows you the space to eat with joy and nourishment, pleasure and sustainability. Moreover, speaking from my own experience, once you have stopped obsessing over weight, make peace with your body, and find your inner voice, life will offer possibilities beyond your wildest dreams.
This is the leap of faith. Here’s how I look at this. We have all been lied to; we’ve been told we aren’t good enough. We have to look a certain way; we can’t trust ourselves or our bodies. Hunger is bad. Self-care is really just self-control.
It’s all bullshit. Sure, it probably wasn’t meant maliciously. We learned it from people who were taught it too. Over and over, for generations. Be smaller, be thinner, be sexier, be purer, don’t be too hungry, eat this, don’t eat that, look like this, move that way… you get it. You’ve lived it.
And yet, that doesn’t make it true. It’s BS. Diets don’t even work. The majority fail! They are more likely to cause weight gain. There is nothing wrong with weight gain. However, I assume that most dieters are not after that outcome.
There’s a lot of research to support this, there’s a lot of eye opening information out there about the dangers, pitfalls, and lies that diet culture uses to rule us. The first principle of Intuitive Eating tells us to reject diet culture as a whole. Be done with it, throw it away, burn it.
For me this meant I stopped counting, measuring, and weighing my food and myself. I got rid of my scale, deleted the apps, and turned my back on the world that made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to take up space.
Are you ready for this?
Your body needs food. It needs energy and nourishment. We have been taught to ignore our hunger. I used to be jealous of people who forgot to eat. So, I would try to eat as little food as possible. I was depriving myself of my basic needs.
The thing is, we need food. To clarify, when we restrict food, our bodies literally respond with obsessive inclinations to prevent starvation. On the other hand, when we honor our hunger, our bodies are able to function correctly. Now, I am proud when I listen to my body and satisfy it. It brings me joy to honor my hunger and adequately feed myself.
This one is tricky.
There are no good and bad foods. All foods are available to you. NOTHING is off-limits.
This is where most people, including myself, get antsy. People think that allowing all foods means they will ‘loose control’ and binge on all of diet culture’s forbidden foods. The truth is, at first you might.
Allowing all foods means allowing all foods. When certain foods have been off-limits for so long, it might seem like a free for all at first, but trust me this subsides. Once all foods are truly available to you, they will become neutral.
For me it happened with pasta. I never let myself eat pasta. Too many carbs, too many calories. When I started Intuitive Eating, I thought I would eat pasta in excess. And for a while, I sort of did. I ate spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi, noodles, and more. I ate everything I never did. But eventually, I got used to eating pasta, and my taste moved on. Now, when I want pasta, I eat it and I enjoy it. By making peace with food, I have found balance and satisfaction.
The “food police” are the voice in you heard that tell you you are good or bad based on what you eat. They pass judgement for every passing thought related to food. Take away their loudspeaker. The Food Police are inner bullies that never let you feel like enough. But the Food Police are like real bullies, they are full of hot air and hate, and its time to stop listening to them.
My food police used to tell me lots of mean things. The guilt, judgement, criticism, and cruelty was crippling. But they were wrong. I worked hard to quiet them, and when they wouldn’t quit, I strengthened another voice: my Inner Advocate. She builds me up, treats me with compassion, and defends me. Every now and then my Food Police show up again, but my Inner Advocate is stronger.
Finding pleasure in food is something diet culture takes away from us, but food should be pleasing. Before I discovered Inuitive Eating, I thought I took pleasure in food. But in reality, I was faking my pleasure.
You read that right. I was faking it. The Food Police and diet culture and my own rules were too loud to allow for real pleasure. But once I ditched diet mentality, honored my hunger, and quieted the Food Police, I started to feel satisfied. Suddenly, there was pleasure and joy in food.
I used to hate the word “content.” The feeling of contentment didn’t exist for me around food. I would maliciously joke that I was never satiated and never would be. The only feelings I had starving and over-full. There was no in-between.
And then I became and Intuitive Eater and with satisfaction and pleasure, I finally felt content around food. With real food freedom, comes real satisfaction, comes real signals from your body. I like to think of my body’s voice as fierce but gentle. To hear it, I have to listen closely. But when I listen, it speaks clearly and confidently. I am glad to honor it. To eat when I’m hungry and to stop when I am full.
Okay. Here’s where things get real.
I talk about kindness a lot, but real, genuine kindness, especially to ourselves is rare. Diet culture is toxic, and it affect our health mentally and physically. It makes a mess of our minds, and then tells us that’s called emotional eating, and if we are emotional eaters we are doing it wrong.
But let me tell you something. We eat for many reasons. For hunger, satisfaction, joy, pleasure, nourishment, health, and sometimes to cope. You are not wrong. You are not weak. Be kind to yourself and try to understand. Become curious about when you use food as a coping mechanism. Why?
This principle is about understanding your emotions, having compassion for yourself, and creating more, productive ways of coping for youself. I call this, “doing the work.”
Body diversity is real. Just as we are all completely unique in personality, so are we in body. And that is beautiful. We have been given unrealistic, unattainable, and uncomfortable standards to supposedly aspire to. Stop spending you life shrinking yourself. You are worth every millimeter of space you take up.
This step is hard. I never though I could respect my body if it wasn’t perfect, let alone love it. But start with neutral respect. Give you body credit for existing and functioning to keep you alive (because if you are alive, it is doing that). Your body deserves credit for what it does. Maybe it can breathe, or digest? It might walk, or laugh? Maybe it can smile or dance? There are some many things our bodies allow us to do. Hell, I couldn’t write this without a body. That’s pretty cool.
Before you know it, you will have some respect for your body. Take it slow, this doesn’t happen overnight. Then one day you may wake up, look in the miorror and have this passing thought: “My hip dips looks cute today.” Yupp, true story. It happened to me, and I almost fell down when I realized I had had that thought.
Anyway, start with respect. Your body deserves respect, exactly as it is. There is no such thing as perfection, but you are perfectly you. Every single body, no matter size, shape, color, differently abled, identity, or any other distinguishing aspect. Every body deserves respect, yours included.
This was major for me. Working out was always something I hated but was supposed to do. It was a constant battle and I used it as a punishment. This principle of Intuitive Eating values movement over exercise. Move in ways that bring you joy, that help you feel active, and empowered. Not in way that degrade, penalize, or even hurt you.
It felt revolutionary and scary to move in a way that felt good. I had never thought of movement that way. It was hard to not chase after calorie-burn or weight loss, but it was also enjoyable … for the first time ever. Can you imagine moving for fun or stress relief?!
This is the last for a reason. It is important, but hard to input unless you have really adjusted to all the other principles. This principle is all about making choices that honor every aspect of eating: health, taste, satisfaction, pleasure. Intuitive Eating is not about perfect nutrition, but instead about finding a balance. Remember you and your body are in it for a lifetime together, aim for longevity and consistency.
I am excited to spend the rest of my life, honoring my body, my preferences, my joy, and discovering more along the way. How about you?
Listen, we’ve all be intrenched in diet culture our whole lives. It’s what we’ve been taught, and it’s all we know. Breaking free of it is no small feat, but we have to start somewhere. Because the system of diet culture, like so many systems in our society, is racist, classist, size-ist, sexist, damaging, and wrong. But fighting for equality and justice can’t start societally until we address it within ourselves. And, luckily, the benefits are those of freedom, joy, peace, kindness, and happiness. If you’re interested in finding out more, or ready to kickstart your own journey with Intuitive Eating, contact me here.