By now, most people are familiar with the concept of mindful eating, which is the philosophy of being present during the eating experience in a nonjudgmental way. This month, I’d like to talk about a different approach to eating that many people are embracing—intuitive eating.
This eating philosophy, developed in 1995 by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, focuses on listening to the body’s internal hunger cues rather than letting external cues determine what, when, and how much to eat. Intuitive eating actively rejects dieting and is thought to be a healthier way to manage weight compared to tracking the foods you eat. Because intuitive eating fosters a healthier relationship between food and one’s mind and body, it has also become a popular way to treat eating disorders.
Tribole and Resch developed 10 principles of intuitive eating. They include:
1. Reject the diet mentality—Discard the false hope that the next fad diet will finally do it!
2. Honor your hunger—Give your body the energy and carbohydrates it needs to stay satiated. Otherwise, you’ll eventually become excessively hungry and trigger the primal urge to overeat.
3. Make peace with food—Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Forbidding oneself certain foods or groups of foods leads to uncontrollable cravings and binge eating.
4. Challenge the food police—The “food police” are housed deep in our psyche and tell us we’re “good” or “bad” based on our food choices. Chase them away!
5. Discover the satisfaction factor—Giving yourself permission to experience the true pleasure and satisfaction of eating can actually help you determine when you’ve had enough.
6. Feel your fullness—Learn to identify and listen to your body’s satiation signals.
7. Cope with your emotions without using food—Recognize that food won’t fix your feelings. Seek ways other than eating to comfort/sooth yourself and resolve issues.
8. Respect your body—Accept that you have a unique genetic blueprint that influences the shape and size of your body.
9. Movement: feel the difference—Exercise with a focus on how good it feels to move your body, not on how many calories you’re burning.
10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition—Make food choices that are good for your health and pleasing to your taste buds. Don’t worry about eating perfectly or think that one “off” snack or meal will sabotage your health. What matters is how you eat consistently over time.
These tenets are easy and complex at the same time. Intuitive eating is a new skill that takes time, practice, and patience to acquire. You need to develop a new relationship with food, especially if you have a long-standing relationship with eating rules and restricting yourself from certain foods or food groups. But as you practice and adapt to this philosophy, allowing yourself permission to eat all foods while listening to your body, your body and mind will eventually meet somewhere in the middle.
We live in a society ridden with diet plans, diet shakes, diet pills, and weight-loss aids. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest diet fad in the hope of finally shedding pounds and keeping them off. But as we know, weight loss attempts very seldom lead to permanent lifelong body changes.
Intuitive eating encourages you to let go of the goal to change your body and focus on your wellbeing instead. This philosophy gives you unconditional permission to eat all foods and doesn’t label them as “good” or “bad.” We all know a bowl of broccoli is a better choice than a bowl of ice cream. The principle is to give yourself the choice and pay attention to how you feel afterwards. So, work on embracing all foods and, of course, focus on forms of movement that make you feel good.
For more information on intuitive eating, visit www.intuitiveeating.org.
Laurie Syring, RD/LD, is Clinical Nutrition Manager at ProMedica Flower Hospital. ❦