Welcome back to another exciting week of discussing intuitive eating! If you haven’t yet read What is Intuitive Eating?, head on over there and join us when you’re done to get a better understanding of what it is, how it can benefit us, and more. We’ll wait!
Now that we all have an understanding of what intuitive eating is, let’s get into how we can truly implement it into our lives. Here we have the 10 intuitive eating principles outlined in the book Intuitive Eating, and it goes into each in more depth.
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement- Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition
Instead of going through each one and trying to rewrite the entire masterpiece that is Intuitive Eating (which I could never even begin to do), I will focus on the three that I believe are the most relevant to readers of this blog. I highly, highly recommend you read the dang book so that you can understand the ten principles straight from the original source.
I like having my own copy to reference once in awhile, but if you can’t afford to purchase it, check with your local library, or use my audible free trial link at the bottom of this article to get the audiobook for free!
Intuitive Eating Principle #5 Discover the Satisfaction Factor
How often have you or did you eat things that were totally unsatisfying in the name of eating fewer calories or sticking with a rigid set of food rules? Maybe your body was asking for grilled cheese, but you instead ate plain broccoli because you felt that it was morally superior. How does doing this actually make you feel? Deprived, dissatisfied, and disappointed are a few adjectives that come to mind for situations like this.
Beyond this, how often have you or people you know “eat well” during the day only to overeat or binge later in the evening like clockwork? People joke about evening binges and benders all the time on social media, but there is a reason this happens to nearly everyone when they try to restrict their intake. This isn’t your body fighting you or trying to sabotage your efforts to fit into your jeans from high school; instead, this is your body trying to keep you alive while you do your best to shrink it.
Beyond straight up restricting our way to dissatisfaction, how often do we lie to ourselves when we make a “healthified” version of our favorite foods and tell ourselves it tastes the same, or just as good, as the original? I used to make breakfast “cookies” in college that consisted of banana, oats, and peanut butter. They were okay, kind of dry and plain, but I told myself this was a real treat like an actual cookie.
This lead my unsatisfied self to seek out actual desserts and treats, and I always wondered why I sometimes felt like a bottomless pit. That insatiable hunger lead me to consistently overeat, vilify my lack of willpower, and have a negative view of my body. When I started intuitive eating, I prioritized eating the foods that sounded good and satisfying, and I no longer felt an urgent need to eat all the time. Instead, I felt satisfied. And that, my friends, was a refreshing change of pace.
We have all seen the posts on social media about how when you crave chocolate, you should just eat some nuts instead because that’s what you’re really craving. If you have ever tried those swaps, you know they don’t make you feel satisfied, and you often eat both the nuts and the chocolate, when just the chocolate would have done the trick on its own. Well, at least that’s what happened to me.
Eating for satisfaction can, at first, seem counter-intuitive to those of us who have been steeped in diet culture long enough, but this is the best way to end that restrict/binge cycle once and for all. Finding pleasure in food and eating is also a fantastic step in healing your relationship with your body.
Satisfaction Factor Tips:
- Prioritize pleasure with the foods and meals you choose
- Don’t have a plain salad without dressing, cheese, and croutons to avoid calories unless that’s what you like.
- Only eat the healthified versions of foods if you genuinely like them
- As discussed earlier, breakfast cookies are not satisfying to me, especially when they’re replacing real cookies. Chickpea cookie dough, on the other hand, is one of my favorite snacks! Get honest with yourself about the foods you choose, and pick the ones that you know will be more satisfying, regardless of calorie content.
- Make the overall eating experience pleasurable and satisfying
- If you usually eat in the car or on the go, see if you can sit yourself down at a nicely-set table, maybe even with candles burning. Even if you’re eating by yourself, setting a relaxing, pleasurable ambiance can make a big difference.
Intuitive Eating Principle #7 Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
The main reason many of us fall out of the intuitive eating that we are born with is because society tells us that we can’t possibly trust ourselves and our bodies to determine what to eat and when to eat. As a result, we start a war with our bodies as we constantly strive for perfection in all areas of life.
From my experience, most people who have disordered eating tendencies have lots of anxiety. Eating is an emotional experience, for better or for worse, and all too often that emotional experience is one full of anxious thoughts and feelings.
Diet culture tells us that perfection is the target we are aiming for, and anyone who eats a dessert or fails to lose weight simply lacks the willpower. That’s a great business model for the diet industry, as the blame and stress are put a customer/client/dieter’s shoulders when they don’t work.
This pillar, to me, is one of the most important because the main reason why most of us get trapped in diet culture is that we don’t know how to be kind to ourselves. That’s why we find ourselves at war with our bodies, and end up worse for wear.
Many people tell me that they’re emotional eaters, and that they cope using food. Emotional eating isn’t the devil’s work, and it has a time and place, but it’s important to recognize that it only provides temporary relief, if any at all. Emotional eating often comes into play when anger, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, and other tricky emotions are present.
What is most important here is to work to get to the root of those emotions instead of continuing to eat macaroni and cheese at the first sight of it, especially when it doesn’t actually sound good. Again, emotional eating isn’t amoral. You aren’t required to only eat when you are hungry and only stop when you are full; however, dealing with emotional issues and traumas is an upstream solution to the downstream result of emotional eating.
Emotional Kindness Tips
- Try talking to yourself like you would your best friend or another loved one.
- Whenever my fiancé says something mean to himself, I ask him what he would say to me if I were in his situation. He usually rolls his eyes and reluctantly admits that he would tell me that everything will be fine and that I’m doing great. It sounds cheesy, but it works.
- Give journaling a whirl
- Any regular readers of this blog will know that I recommend journaling in nearly every post on here. Why? Journaling, or a brain dump, is a super helpful way to get thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto a page.
- Check out the Free Stuff tab for free downloads, like my 7-day Food Anxiety Workbook and 30 IE Journal Prompts. My post Spreading Ourselves Thin also has some IE-related journal prompts within it, if you need inspiration.
- Consider seeking mental health counseling if possible
- I journaled and meditated all through college, but still suffered from intense anxiety. It wasn’t until I went to the counseling center on campus that I got to the emotional roots of that anxiety. Since then, I have been able to deal with those issues in a much more efficient, kind manner.
- If you want counseling but don’t think you can afford it, check out AuntBertha.com to find low or reduced cost care in your area. If you find yourself in an emotional crisis, text into Crisis Text Line to chat with a trained counselor for free, 24/7.
Intuitive Eating Principle #9 Movement- Feel the Difference
We all know that regular exercise is a fantastic habit to help improve or maintain our health. Unfortunately, many people with disordered eating also have a disordered or compulsive relationship with exercise. Exercise is often used as a tool to manipulate the appearance of one’s body, whether to burn off calories for weight loss or to put on muscle.
I chose to highlight this particular pillar because many of us have a relationship with exercise that is just as unhealthy as our relationship with food, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Don’t keep doing burpees if you hate burpees, and don’t keep running on the treadmill if you hate running on the treadmill.
Instead, do some work to figure out what you actually enjoy doing for physical activity. My favorites are going for a swim, taking my dog son for a walk, and doing yoga in my living room or in an in-person class. I used to always have to really force myself to get in the car and go to the gym, and it felt like a real chore. Now, none of these activities feel like a chore, and I do them because I enjoy them.
As a result, my body feels better in that I don’t suffer from overuse injuries like I did when I was going to the gym or running most days of the week. Instead, I feel light, happy, and fulfilled from my physical activity, and I also enjoy not paying for gym fees and only going out of guilt.
If you don’t like exercise or physical activity, take an inward look and see if there are any activities that you have been wanting to try but haven’t made the time yet. Physical activity doesn’t have to feel like another item on your to-do list.
Seek out different types of physical activity that make you feel excited to do them, like an adult sports league or going frisbee golfing with your friend. I love shooting hoops with friends or family, and it’s gives us a chance to get some exercise while chatting and trash-talking over a game of HORSE.
I also recommend playing games like Just Dance or Dance Dance Revolution if you have those too! It’s surprising how much of a sweat you can work up by dancing with, or without, these games!
- Be mentally present during physical activity as much as possible
- This could be going for a walk without earbuds or music and observing the trees instead or feeling your footsteps on the sidewalk. It could be noticing how incredible it feels when you make perfect contact with a baseball bat or golf club, or observing your breath during moments of rest.
- Break up your activity throughout the day if you prefer
- Physical activity that benefits the body and mind doesn’t require you to set aside 30 minutes or an hour at time. You can take a few 10 minute walk breaks during your workday, and that will give you many of the same benefits.
- Physical activity also counts when you’re doing things you may not think of as exercise. For example, yard work,
- Exercise is important, but so is rest
- Mindful movement also means that you take time off when your body tells you it needs rest. There is no shame in missing a workout because you didn’t sleep well the night before (sleep is hella important) or because you have a headache or a sore back.
- Fitspo accounts tell you that you can’t have any excuses, and that you should never miss a workout, blah blah blah. Does your body really feel good when you workout without adequate rest? Mine never did.
Intuitive eating employs 10 pillars that may, at first glance, seem like rigid rules, similar to what one would find in a popular, mainstream diet. Upon closer examination, it’s easy to see that intuitive eating really is different.
I have very little patience and time for people, places, and things that appear to have other motives and don’t feel genuine. This is why I have been drawn to intuitive eating and have stuck to it and with it for so long. This seems like the most genuinely helpful, satisfying, and fulfilling way to go about one’s daily life with food and exercise.
If you have read through this post and last week’s What is Intuitive Eating?, and you still aren’t convinced that intuitive eating is the way to go, then you are dead to me. Nah, I’m just kidding.
I understand that people have different food and eating preferences, and maybe they truly do feel better when they eat a certain way and avoid other foods 100% of the time. But, while I have you, please get completely honest with yourself about your eating/physical activity choices before you dismiss intuitive eating for good. Intuitive eating is the way of life that truly feels best for me, as I no longer suffer with gigantic amounts of anxiety about my meal plans. I may not know you personally, but I know that you deserve to feel that freedom too.
As Always, a Book Recommendation
I could put another lengthy plug here recommending the newest edition of Intuitive Eating again, but I just did that last week. If you still haven’t gotten your hands on a copy, we can still be friends, but you should really give it a try.
If you are more of a writer than a reader, this week’s recommendation may be more suited for you. Evelyn Tribiole and Elyse Resch also have an Intuitive Eating Workbook that can help you explore and work through your current thoughts and feelings regarding food while you transition toward the intuitive eating process.
I’m all about writing and reflecting, and the structure of a workbook may be super helpful for some of you while you try to implement intuitive eating into your life.
There is also a teen version of the book from Elyse Resch, which I really wish I would have had when I was in middle and high school. I always rolled my eyes at anything labeled “for teens” back then, but still, current me wishes past me would have had this resource.
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