It’s easy to get confused by today’s information overload—especially when it comes to diet and nutrition. Here are some simple steps to reconnect with your intuitive sense of what foods are best for your body.
In a world that provides constant information overload, choosing the best food to eat has become challenging. A fear of food has grown in our culture, and many people are left with a list of “good” and “bad” foods as their only way to navigate the grocery store. It is imperative that we transition from the external cues we often use to decide what to eat and shift towards trusting our bodies and relying on internal cues. In a culture that overvalues physical attributes, we are ironically disconnected from our bodies. Intuitive eating is a practice of body kindness, trust, and mindfulness. By practicing intuitive eating, we can reconnect to our bodies and choose food that provides nourishment and satisfaction. Let’s discuss the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating—adapted from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Diets don’t work. Restriction and rules lead to body distrust and oftentimes result in a loss of lean mass. As soon as the diet stops, we regain our normal eating patterns and typically regain the weight we lost in the form of fat. Rejecting the diet mentality is the first step in practicing intuitive eating.
If you can’t tell when your tank is empty, you won’t be able to identify when it is full. Learning to acknowledge and respond to your physical hunger is an important step in the intuitive eating journey.
Food is not “good” or “bad;” it is simply food. Take morality out of eating. When you deprive yourself from eating certain foods, you actually think about them more. Cravings intensify and typically result in a binge. Making peace with food means you give yourself unconditional permission to eat. With practice, you will get better at listening to hunger and fullness cues and eat the right amount for your body.
Just like making peace with food, it is important to throw away the list of forbidden foods. All foods fit in the right proportion. One piece of cake on your birthday will not make you gain weight.
This is hard because most of us have disconnected from our bodies’ signals and cannot identify when we feel full. A tip to get more in touch with your fullness cue is to wait 20 minutes once you have finished your portion. If you feel satisfied but not stuffed, you are full.
Eating should bring pleasure. Our food should make us feel energized and satisfied. Being more mindful of eating with all our senses helps us to tap into the satisfaction of eating. Trying new foods as adults can also help us discover new foods that we never knew we liked—maybe even the broccoli we once hated as a kid.
We all feel anxious, stressed, happy, sad, and lonely throughout our lives. These feelings will disappear, so we must learn to deal with them in a healthy way. Sometimes it’s a quick fix to use food to make us feel better, but in the long run this pattern can be destructive. Finding coping mechanisms other than food such as meditation, yoga, or a hobby will make life more fulfilling than turning to food when handling tough emotions.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that is what makes us unique and beautiful. Learning to accept your body is an important step on the intuitive eating journey. We can’t choose what size foot we have, and we would never think of trying to fit into a smaller size shoe, so why do we value what size pants we wear? Be thankful for what your body can do and appreciate it by treating it well each day.
If you hate running, don’t run! Be active doing something you enjoy. Once you find activities you like, it won’t feel like a chore and you will do it more.
How does the food you eat make you feel? Honor your health through making positive choices that make you feel healthy and happy. Check in after you eat and see how that food choice made you physically feel.
If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating, check out these books or contact a registered dietitian.