Want to know the best intuitive eating tips to help you begin to make peace with food?
Intuitive eating is gaining more traction in the health and wellness spaces. For years, many people have supported counting calories, following strict diets, and analyzing what we consume. But is it healthy to track what we eat?
This beginner’s guide to intuitive eating will walk through many principles to follow to establish a healthy relationship with food. Additionally, we will discuss research and common misconceptions about the topic.
Intuitive Eating: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Food
What is Intuitive Eating?
It is a common misconception that intuitive eating is a diet. In fact, intuitive eating is not a diet.
Diets are typically when you are eliminating or reducing certain foods or food groups from your diet. For example, the Vegan Diet eliminates animal products.
Many people view a diet as a means to lose weight. For instance, I can remember back to the early 2000’s when people thought they should cut out carbs completely from their diet! Crazy right?
With intuitive eating, on the other hand, no foods are off-limits. Which means you can eat WHATEVER you want! Yay!
When you are able to eat whatever you are craving, you can learn how to approach eating with mindset of eating what your body is requesting. I know that might sound weird, but hear me out.
Instead of focusing on counting calories, macros, or anything else that makes the simple act of eating a math quiz, you approach food with the mindset of holistically eating what is nourishing and good for you.
At its most basic, intuitive eating is how we are meant to eat as biological creatures.
If you’ve ever taken care of a baby or child, you will observe that they indicate when they’re hungry through crying. They don’t typically eat on a schedule or measure how much food they consume. They only eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.
The goal of intuitive eating is to get back to our roots as we were as children, and begin to eat food to live rather than live to eat.
Pros and Cons of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating provides flexibility to your diet. Gone are the days of counting macros so viciously that you have to say no to a dinner night out with friends.
Food is apart of life. When you stop deeming certain foods as off-limits, food can be much more enjoyable. Cravings are less frequent. When you no longer deprive yourself of certain types of food, they seem so much less irresistible.
You May Also Like: Why Diets Fail (And How to Succeed)
To some people, intuitive eating may do more harm than good. They may take it as a free pass to binge eat on the couch in front of the TV.
Our society in general has a poor relationship with food at this time. In fact, according to endocrinologist Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, it is predicted by 2030 that half of the US population will be classified as having obesity. During her interview on podcast The Checkup with Doctor Mike, Dr. Salas-Whalen states, “[…] I think we’ve lost the perspective around food, around portions.” She goes on to state that many of her patients with obesity would benefit from medications such as Ozempic, a weight loss drug. Such medications can be like “a blindfold removed from your eyes,” Dr. Salas-Whalen states.
In my opinion, humans are ancient creatures living in modern society, so it can be difficult to find peace with food when we live in a world of plenty. Our “lizard brains” are hardwired to eat as if it is feast or famine. In fact, food scientists have designed some of our favoritie snacks, such as Oreos, to appeal to our most priminitive instincts. Studies suggest that the pleasure centers of our brain respond to Oreos in a way that is similar to cocaine.
Some people are not able to regulate their food intake like we’re supposed to. In my opinion, if that’s you, intuitive eating is a good second step in your jouney towards a peaceful relationship with food.
For people who have eating disorders, it is likely a healthier approach to count and track food intake. After overcoming the disorder, and learning how to have a positive relationship to food, can intuitive eating be a good option for you.
My Personal Journey to Peace With Food
I can speak personally about my experience with not understanding my hunger cues. I used to eat on a schedule, regardless of how I felt. At one point, I was 30 pounds overweight and I knew I needed to do somethng about it.
For a while, I counted calories and restricted foods from my diet. I obsessively tracked my food intake in MyFitnessPal. I cut out grains from my diet with the Paleo Diet, and I even tried to go Vegan.
While none of these diets were sustainable, I did learn a lot about how much food I should eat based on my caloric needs, and I eventually learned how I could eat about the same amount of calories each day without tracking. I also learned that every day is going to be different, so I don’t sweat it if I eat more or less calories day to day.
Intuitive Eating Tips to Make Peace With Food
There are ten principles of intuitive eating that I recommend everybody read. Those are great guidelines to help you get started on your journey to a peaceful relationship to food.
The following are tips that I personally practice in my own life. They have helped me to maintain a healthy weight, all the while not feeling deprived of any food I want to eat.
1. Pay Attention to Hunger Cues
As children, we cried when we felt hungry. All humans are in tune with their natural hunger cues at a young age.
Pay attention to when your stomach growls or when you start to feel weak from lack of food. This is your sign that it is time to eat.
At the same time, if you don’t feel your stomach growl, it may not be time to eat. Many of us eat when we’re not hungry out of boredom or time constraints. I advise you to only eat when your body gives you a sign that it is hungry.
2. Love Your Curves and All Your Edges
….all your perfect imprefections!
In the words of singer John Legend, love your curves and all your edges. This means that you respect your body’s shape and size. You are grateful for all that it does for you rather than pick it apart for any imperfections.
You don’t obsess over numbers on a scale – our weights fluctuate daily anyways.
You don’t become consumed by measurements, you don’t prioritize what your body looks like.
What is most important is your health – not looks. Afterall, health is wealth.
3. Don’t Label Foods As Either “Good” or “Bad”
Reject any thoughts that you’re “good” for eating few calories or “bad” for eating a chocolate bar.
There is no such thing as good or bad foods. Eating what your body craves is always good. Telling yourself you can’t have something gives it a sense of allure, and that can make you have a negative relationship to food.
In my opinion, foods we see as “junk food” or “bad” are fine in moderation. I personally am satisfied with just a bite of cake or a sip of a sweet drink. As long I have not deprived myself from these foods, I have been happy and able to find my body mostly craves whole foods and fresh foods. My body wants to eat what makes it feel good, and that is usually a healthy balance between whole foods and sweet treats/indulgences.
4. Move Your Body
Do exercises you enjoy. This may be a strange concept if you’ve never enjoyed exercise in your life. Perhaps high school gym has trained us to view exercise as a chore or a punishment, am I right?
Focus on how exercise makes your body feel instead of how many calories you are burning or pounds you are shedding.
As you begin to recognize that your body feels so much better the more you move it, whether that be dancing, skating, weight lifting, swimming, running, or more, you are going to enjoy those activities so much more.
You will find it is much more sustainable to work out when you enjoy the activity and it makes you feel good. And furthermore, as a byproduct, you make start to notice bodily changes and feel better in your skin.
You May Also Like: Everything You Need to Know Before You Work Out After Eating
5. It May Not Come Naturally At First
If you’ve never given much thought to being attentive to feelings of hunger or fullness, it may be difficult to pick it up.
When you face road blocks, don’t give up! Even though eating intuitively is just one way of saying to eat “naturally,” it may not come natural at first.
You may need to keep a food journal as a beginner to remember what you ate and how it made you feel.
It’s ok to start there until you learn how to listen to your body’s needs.
6. Stop Eating When You’re Full
When you no longer feel hungry, pause and assess how you’re feeling during your meals.
I recommend eating your food slowly, and really enjoying it for what it is.
This helps you take your time while eating and for your mind to be more connected to your body. That way you are able to recognize when you feel full.
Stop eating when you’re full so you don’t overdo it.
7. Strive For Progress, Not Perfection
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to reach any goal you set.
Keep trying to listen to your body and don’t give up.
There will be times when you make a mistake. You may eat Taco Bell and realize that it makes you feel really bad! (Speaking from experience.) Take every mistake as a lesson and learn from it.
This article was all about intuitive eating tips.
Intutive eating can make you feel happier than you’ve ever felt when it comes to eating. It takes the stress of counting and tracking away, and it frees you to eat what makes your body feel its most healthy.
By learning how to listen to your body, understanding its hunger cues, and seeing what foods are good for your health, you will be able to eat how we were meant to eat. Bon appetit!