Mind what you eat with intuitive eating

woman checking fridge
Intuitive eating may seem like another diet fad, but in fact, it is not. It is a way of viewing food as an asset to make better choices for the body. As a result, this change in perception can profoundly impact physical health and overall well-being. (Photo: Envato Elements)
Despite food being essential for living, for decades, we have grown to become weary and hyper-aware of the things we eat due to obesity and other associated morbidities having been on the rise in recent years.اضافة اعلان

Many diets work by restricting the things we eat, with the ultimate goal being to lose weight; others focus on receiving the proper amount of nutrients.

On its surface, intuitive eating may seem like another diet fad, but in fact, it is not. It is a way of viewing food as an asset to make better choices for the body. As a result, this change in perception can profoundly impact physical health and overall well-being.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating was introduced in the late 20th century, but the term itself was not coined until 1995.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch wrote the book “Intuitive Eating” and laid out the foundation of what intuitive eating is.

The concept itself is simple: focus on the attitudes towards eating instead of how, when, and what to eat. Although seemingly obvious, decades of fad diets and conflicting or faulty research have led many to believe that certain foods are “bad” for us and that if we do not maintain a strict regimen, we run the risk of being unhealthy.

Intuitive eating relies on our body’s natural governing system when it comes to eating, which is honoring hunger. By simply eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, you can theoretically live a healthy life.

However, before diving into intuitive eating, it is important to recognize the different types of hunger. Physical hunger is the biological urge to eat due to the continual need to replenish nutrients. On the other hand, emotional hunger is eating in response to your emotional state.

During periods of sadness, loneliness, or boredom, many experience craving for certain foods. These foods often tend to have less nutritional value in nature and serve the purpose of providing comfort.

When we eat these comfort foods, it gives us a boost in mood, but its effects are only temporary. After a short while, it is not uncommon for people to feel guilt or self-hatred for indulging.

Intuitive eating can help people be conscious of the different types of hunger and allow us to promote our physical health and well-being by being more in tune with our body’s needs.

The 10 principles of intuitive eating

The philosophy of intuitive eating is best laid out by its authors into 10 core principles summarized below.

1. Reject the diet mentality

This first principle refers to the decades of harm that diet books and magazines have caused to the general population. Especially with diets unsubstantiated by research, many will try to convince listeners that they can achieve quick, easy, and permanent results.

Although there may be some truth to certain claims, the process is by no means quick or easy. As a result, people often fail these diets and feel worse about themselves.

2. Honor your hunger

It is important not to ignore your basic biological urge to eat.

On its surface, going long periods without eating seems like an ideal choice for losing weight, but this can ruin your sense of hunger.

After going long periods without eating, all intentions of moderation and conscious eating become ignored. Due to the risk of overeating, it is important to recognize and acknowledge your first signs of hunger.

3. Make peace with food

Do not worry about which foods are “good” or “bad”, as limiting your food options can lead to intense cravings for the foods you are cutting out.

Additionally, when you indulge in these foods, you may inevitably feel guilt. Therefore, it is important to give yourself unconditional permission to eat.

4. Challenge the food police

The food police are the self-imposed rules and thoughts that have been placed in people’s heads from years of conditioning. We often view it as “bad” to indulge and “good” to eat minimal calories. Instead, it is important to challenge these views and beliefs to undo the years of conditioning.

5. Discover the satisfaction factor

The satisfaction factor refers to the environment you create when eating. If you make the environment more enjoyable, it will be easier to feel full.

Take the time to figure out what makes your meals more inviting.

6. Feel your fullness

Similar to how we should listen to our body when we are hungry, we should also listen for when we are full. It is common to have the desire to finish your plate, but with intuitive eating, we should take a pause.

During these pauses, ask yourself how the food tastes and how full you feel. By being mindful of eating, you can curb the feelings of needing more food.

7. Cope with your emotions with kindness

Eating is not just a physical process. There are very strong emotional processes involved as well, particularly comfort.

By addressing negative emotions such as anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger healthily and productively, you are more likely to no longer require food to help cope.

8. Respect your body

Although excessive weight is generally unhealthy, it is also important to recognize that everyone is different.

Body types are unique and can affect how we accumulate fat. Because of this, we should recognize that the standard model of what a person should look like may not always apply.

Instead, focus on self-love and improve your body image.

9. Movement: Feel the difference

Similar to intuitive eating, moving around for the sake of exercise is better than exercising for the sake of results.

This means focusing on doing movements and exercises that you find enjoyable, like a brisk walk in the morning.

10. Honor your health: Gentle nutrition

Find the perfect balance between your physical health and the foods that bring you joy. The goal is to not focus on eating perfectly, but with that being said, eating junk food all day every day is not good either. Instead, focus on balance, variety, and moderation.

Why choose intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating focuses on every aspect involved in eating, it is more than a diet.

Many people worldwide struggle with their relationship with food; with intuitive eating, the stigma around body image and eating can be greatly reduced.

A 2014 review of intuitive eating and other similar programs found that participants had improved levels of self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life, while expressing lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, people on the intuitive eating program had high follow-through rates. After two years of practicing intuitive eating, completion rates were as high as 92 percent.

Similarly, a 2013 review of 26 studies focused on the health benefits of intuitive eating. They were able to find participants generally had healthier psychological attitudes, lower body mass index (BMI), and better weight maintenance. However, it is important to note that weight loss was not one of the benefits of intuitive eating.

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