The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
“Oh, you’re a Dietitian? So you help people lose weight?”
People are often taken by surprised, and are a tad confused, when my response is, “Actually, I don’t weigh clients.” I help clients live healthier lives by helping them cultivate a healthy relationship with food so they can rid themselves of food guilt and worry and learn to trust themselves with food in order to eat in a way that best serves them and their body with an approach called Intuitive Eating. A focus on weight will get in the way of this process as it contributes to an unhealthy relationship with food and eating habits for most people. When you learn to eat in alignment with your body’s needs, your weight will settle where it wants to and stabilize at that point.
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to achieve optimal health – physically, emotionally, mentally – through the process of becoming attuned to what your body needs and trusting what it is telling you. It is learning to distinguish between emotional and physical needs and knowing how to meet those needs. It encourages a healthy relationship with food and helps you depend on your internal body cues to make food choices that feel good to you, without guilt or stress. It is about becoming the expert of your body!
Intuitive Eating is built on 10 principles, all of which need to be integrated into your life and practiced to make peace with food and become an intuitive eater.
To better understand Intuitive Eating, here is a quick breakdown of each principle:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality:
Let go of the diet mentality – for good. Think of all the diets you have tried, of the successes that were short-lived and ultimately failed – because diets fail, not you!
While there is a growing body of research showing the negative health implications of dieting such as slowed metabolism, loss of muscles mass, binge eating, negative body image, and weight gain (yes, dieting is a predictor of weight gain!), what should ultimately convince you to give it up are your own experiences. Reflect on your own dieting history and ask yourself – has dieting given me the results I wanted in the long run (five years out or more)? Am I happier now after all the diets? Do I want to continue my current relationship with food?
Practice removing the food rules and restrictions you set for yourself and prepare yourself to explore a new journey so you can rediscover the intuitive eater within you and find food peace.
2. Honor Your Hunger:
Learn to recognize biological hunger signals and honor them. Food is a primal need. If you go for too long without eating and become overly hungry you are setting yourself up to overeat, because all the body wants is quick energy!
Every time you appropriately feed your body when it initially signals hunger you are building trust in your body that you know how to nourish yourself.
3. Make Peace with Food:
Call a truce with food! Remove food restriction and give yourself unconditional permission to eat and enjoy all foods – with attunement to how it makes your body feel.
When you deprive yourself of certain foods you are inevitably driven to eat them, this is a natural response from your mind and body and often will result in a binge. By allowing yourself all foods without judgement, you can then learn to eat what you actually like in the amounts that satisfy and serve you.
4. Challenge the Food Police:
Everywhere you turn, especially in a social media saturated world, you will find diet food rules convincing you that you need to follow them to reach optimal health and to feel good about yourself.
Learn to shout a resounding “no” to the Food Police – that voice inside your head that holds on to any diet rules and judges you in every food choice you make, so you can replace food shame and guilt with joy and trust.
5. Feel Your Fullness:
Recognize what being comfortably full feels like and practice respecting that fullness. Pause in the middle of a snack or meal and assess how full you are. Know that you can always go back to it when you are hungry again – even if it is an hour later.
Allowing yourself to eat all foods, and knowing they are available whenever you are hungry, will diminish the urgency to “eat it all while you can” and makes it easier to stop when you are full.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor:
Deriving pleasure from food is just as important as eating food for nourishment. When you eat foods that you enjoy, without guilt or judgement, they leave you feeling satisfied and content.
You will start to find that you may eat less because it doesn’t take as much as it used to satisfy you, especially when you eat foods you love.
7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Foods:
We’ve all eaten emotionally at some point or another, and sometimes that’s okay and in fact what you needed to feel better. However, eating to cope or numb feelings of anger, loneliness, or boredom may bring short term comfort or distract you from the real issue – but it does not address or fix the situation and only leaves you feeling worse.
Learning to deal with emotions without food, as well as learning to differentiate between physical and emotional needs, is part of becoming an intuitive eater.
8. Respect Your Body:
Striving for unrealistic beauty standards we see plastered in the media (most of which are photoshopped!) leads to unhealthy eating behaviors and unkind treatment of your body. Learn to adopt a body positive mindset and treat your body with respect by putting a focus on making it feel good. Your weight will then settle where it is meant to be.
Your healthy weight is the weight your body reaches when you are adequately nourishing it and eating in a way that feels good and best serves you. This will look different for everyone, and that’s OKAY. It is time to accept the fact that there is no one-size body “ideal” when it comes to what being healthy looks like - health comes in all shapes and sizes.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference:
Exercising for the sole purpose of “burning calories” doesn’t keep us motivated in the long run. Sure, you will be fired up at first – but as the novelty wears off so will the motivation.
Instead, learn to FEEL the difference. It doesn’t have to be a rigorous workout – a brisk walk counts as exercise, too! Move to feel good and to celebrate what your body can do, not as a punishment for what you ate.
10. Honor Your Health:
Learn to make food choices that honor your health and that you enjoy at the same time. Intuitive eating is not about perfection, it’s about progress. There isn’t one single food or meal that will cause you to be unhealthy or gain weight.
The philosophy of Intuitive Eating when it comes to nutrition is: “In matters of taste consider nutrition and in matters of nutrition consider taste.”
If you are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food which leads to food guilt, binging, food obsessive thoughts and stress, and are wishing you can make peace with food, practicing these 10 principles will help you find food freedom so you can live your life fully in health and happiness.
Intuitive Eating is not a program that is X amount of weeks with X results. It is process, a journey – for life. As you embark on this journey to rediscover the joy of eating and getting in touch with your innate skills to nourish yourself, remember to give yourself the time and compassion you need to do so. Don’t set a deadline; go at your own pace. You were born with the ability to eat intuitively – let 2019 be the year you ditch the diet and reclaim it for a life better lived.
Rachel Goodman is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a private practice based in Brooklyn, NY where she helps Jewish moms rid themselves of food guilt and anxiety so they can live life fully in health and happiness. She also helps people live a nourishing life in mind, body, and soul through her online program, workshops, and speaking presentations. As a mom of two, she's always looking for delicious yet simple ways to eat in a way that feels good to the body - and is passionate about sharing them with others. To learn more about Rachel and Intuitive Eating you can visit her website rachelgoodnutrition.com and follow her on Instagram @intuitive.dietitian.kosher.