Have you heard of the concept of Intuitive Eating? If we allow it, our body will tell us exactly how much food we need, what we need, and when we need it.
Every woman is beautiful and unique. And along with so many unique characteristics, no two metabolisms and nutritional needs are the same. We all have innate intuition: the ability to listen to our own inner compass that guides us to make decisions. As a Registered Dietitian, I’m often asked “How much should I eat?” I believe you are the best one to answer that question. You were born with the intuition and the wisdom to know how to nourish and sustain your body.
Between my research and observation, I’ve come to recognize that many women are out of tune with their body’s intuition. Diets, media, and societal norms have made it difficult to listen to our intuition and to trust our body.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach that helps you tune into your body’s signals. Someone who eats with intuition can be described by three core characteristics:
- Eat for physical, rather than emotional reasons
- Rely on internal hunger and satiety cues
- Unconditional permission to eat with attunement
Intuitive Eating is not just a nice idea or another strict diet with rules. Yet, it’s a validated concept that correlates with less disordered eating, improved body image, decreased weight fluctuations, and greater emotional connection with food.
What about BMI?
A lower body mass index (BMI) is also associated with intuitive eating. But remember, intuitive eating is not a tool for weight loss or a diet. Instead, what researchers have correlated is the more a person tries to lower their BMI through dieting, the more they are at risk for being a higher weight. Above all, learning to trust one’s own intuition prevents future weight gain that is associated with dieting.
The more we practice intuitive eating principles, the easier it becomes to connect to our body’s wisdom and align ourselves with what we need to be fully nourished and happy.
How To Start Eating More Intuitively
Becoming an intuitive eater is a journey. And when you start out on this journey, it’s important to accept that change is hard, especially when it’s this type of change. A type of change that affects your thoughts, feelings, and physical, and one that rebels against society’s acceptance of strict diets determining what we eat.
Along with the three core characteristics, there are 10 guiding principles to help individuals become more of a intuitive eater. The guiding principles can help make you more aware of your body’s cues and taking conscious actions to listen to those cues.
The 10 Guiding Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor your Health
Begin Your Journey to Intuitive Eating
Now you know the core characteristics of an intuitive eater is and the 10 guiding principles to help explain the behaviors of intuitive eating. But how do you begin to reject the diet mentality, shift away from strict behaviors, and discover your body’s intuition?
- Start with the Hunger-Fullness Scale
Two of the guiding principles of intuitive eating are Honor Your Hunger and Respect Your Fullness. I find that many clients struggle with these guiding principles due to following external signals and diets for many years. The hunger-fullness scale is a tool to help you become more aware of what your body feels like when it’s hungry and when it is full.
|Hunger – Fullness Scale
|Famished, faint, and irritable
|Very hungry, need food fast
|Hungry and ready to eat
|Feeling signs of hunger
|Satisfied, no longer hungry
|Slightly uncomfortable feelings of fullness
|Feeling too full
|Too full and not comfortable
|Overstuffed and feeling sick
Take a moment to check-in with your body before, during, and after a meal. You might find it helpful to keep a journal and track your feelings of hunger and fullness. As a result, you’ll see patterns and start to understand what your own internal cues are for eating.
- Think About the Foods that YOU Enjoy Eating
Several of the 10 guiding principles encourage you to eat the foods you find satisfying. As you practice intuitive eating and continue to choose foods that your body enjoys, cravings and overeating tend to decrease. Your body learns that it has access to any and all foods, which helps increase satisfaction and pleasure with food. Truly allowing yourself to eat the foods you enjoy can be challenging because we have been told over and over certain foods are bad. In conclusion, while there is truth to nutritionally-dense foods and foods that lack nutrients, all foods are acceptable if you follow the principles!
Julie Harris, RD, LDN, CPT develops recipes and writes blogs for angrybbq.com. And is the owner of Kokoro Nutrition, a blog focused on bringing out your inner athlete. Julie lives in Frederick and enjoys yoga, running, cooking, and spending time outdoors.