Have you ever felt like you’re walking on eggshells when it comes to what foods you should eat? Or maybe trying to determine which foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for you in hopes of meeting your health goals? The truth is that many people have and the good news is that these feelings don’t need to linger when making food decisions. Intuitive eating is an approach that many people have found success with when it comes to choosing what to eat and not feeling guilt or shame afterwards. This framework provides relief for those that may put either too much thought or not enough thought into what goes into their bodies, and aims to ensure each person feels satisfied within their body.
According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, registered dietitians and the “Original Intuitive Eating Pros”, there are 10 principles of intuitive eating ranging from honoring your feelings of hunger to respecting your body and how it is built. These principles provide a new perspective to approaching food and have been helpful in developing a sense of freedom for those struggling with issues relating to food including working through an eating disorder or following a fad diet.
Although intuitive eating sounds simply like listening to your body’s hunger cues, it is much more than that. This idea opposes any sort of diet mentality that promotes losing weight quickly as well as the ‘ideal’ body type for males and females. It also emphasizes taking away the idea that a food is labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It presents all foods as equal and that they are all acceptable. When we tell ourselves we shouldn’t have a specific food, it can become more desirable and may lead to overindulging since we have previously restricted ourselves. Intuitive eating aims to break this cycle, and balance within one’s eating pattern is gained as we need to nourish our bodies from a nutrition standpoint, but we also are allowed to enjoy foods like potato chips or cookies that are typically labeled as ‘bad’.
Another idea that is associated with intuitive eating is taking care of your body mentally, emotionally, as well as physically. It is recommended to get exercise within the day to help your body feel active and energized, not with a goal such as losing weight. This changes our mindset of how we approach physical activity. The idea that our bodies are acceptable just the way they are is another large aspect of intuitive eating. The analogy Tribole and Resch use is trying to fit a size 8-foot into a size 6 shoe. This doesn’t make sense for someone to do, similar to expectations of a person with a naturally larger body build trying to become much smaller than their body is meant to be. The idea here is to be more accepting of one’s body no matter what it looks like and to appreciate it for the things it provides you such as the ability to move.
In addition to intuitive eating, you may have heard of mindful eating. These two are often confused but mindful eating focuses more on eating with greater awareness of our foods and focusing on how they make us feel. This is accomplished through eliminating distractions such as electronic devices, sitting down to eat rather than standing, and releasing stress to better enjoy and digest a meal. Mindful eating may help with shifting our mindset throughout the day and decompressing, making meal time a more enjoyable experience, and an improved relationship with food and hunger in general.
Feelings toward food and the way our bodies look is something that each person will most likely work on for their entire lives because our bodies change as we age. It is ok to show ourselves some compassion and feel confident that we are taking care of ourselves the best way we can. Intuitive and mindful eating can provide great frameworks to follow in order to learn how to apply this approach within our own lives.