We love the topic of intuitive eating because it reinforces the idea of personal empowerment when it comes to our own health. As important as it is to turn to doctors, nutritionists and specialists of all kinds to optimize our health, learning to trust and connect with our own feelings about what and when we eat and other health and wellness matters is crucial as well.
Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD is the author of Intuitive Eating, the Intuitive Eating Workbook and the brand new, Intuitive Eating for Every Day: 365 Daily Practices & Inspirations to Rediscover the Pleasures of Eating. In Intuitive Eating for Every Day, Tribole lays out a path to living by these ten principles. Check them out, see if they resonate and do a full deep dive in the pages of her book!
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a compassionate, self-care eating framework that treats all bodies with dignity and respect. It is a dynamic interplay of thought, emotion, and instinct rooted in listening to your body’s sensations through a process called interoceptive awareness. Elyse Resch and I created the Intuitive Eating model described in our original book of the same name, published in 1995. It is now in its fourth edition, and the Intuitive Eating model has more than 125 studies showing its benefits. Here’s a review of the ten principles. Please keep in mind that you can’t cherry-pick one or two principles and call it Intuitive Eating.
REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY | Throw out the diet plans and articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at a diet culture that promotes weight loss and the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
HONOR YOUR HUNGER | Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise, you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD | Call a truce; stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.
CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE | Scream a loud “no” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR | The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence—the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.
FEEL YOUR FULLNESS | In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.
COPE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS WITH KINDNESS | Recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may provide comfort in the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.
RESPECT YOUR BODY | Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not realistically expect to squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.
MOVEMENT—FEEL THE DIFFERENCE | Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.
HONOR YOUR HEALTH WITH GENTLE NUTRITION | Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.