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An Introduction to Intuitive Eating & How it Will Change Your Life

There are over 2 million hashtags for intuitive eating on instagram. However, many have this self-care eating frame work all wrong. If you’ve ever thought that intuitive eating is the “eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full” diet, you wouldn't be alone.

Intuitive eating is so much more than what you eat, when you eat, or why you eat. Adopting these principles will forever change the way you see food and your body.

So, let’s dive into your introduction to intuitive eating.

In this article you’ll learn:

  1. What intuitive eating is and what it’s not.

  2. The benefits of intuitive eating.

  3. The 10 Principles you’ll work through on your intuitive eating journey.

  4. How intuitive eating is different from mindful eating.

  5. Additional resources to help you fully integrate intuitive eating into your life.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is a framework for eating that helps you to reject any external rules (calorie counting app, macro counting) or cues that guide your eating while letting your internal cues (what does your body feel like eating, what sounds good) guide what and how much you eat.

This framework was developed by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive eating is a weight inclusive and evidence based model with over 140 studies proving its effectiveness at improving health and wellbeing.

The Benefits of Intuitive Eating

Diet culture has taught you that a successful way of eating must result in weight loss. Diet culture is a liar.

The benefits you will reap from Intuitive eating encompass every part of your life. From physical to emotional and social health, the possibility of positive changes derived from intuitive eating are endless. Here are just a few of many benefits of intuitive eating.

You’ll have a stronger, more positive appreciation for your body.

Intuitive eating helps you turn inward to become familiar with and gain a whole new level of respect for your body. The goal is to work with your body, not against it. When you learn to do this, the appreciation you have for your body and all it does for you will improve.

In one study, after 10 weeks of learning and implementing mindfulness and intuitive eating, there was a significant improvement in body appreciation scores among participants. If thoughts of body dissatisfaction are a daily distraction, intuitive eating can help change this.

Your weight will stop cycling and you’ll settle into your body’s natural set point weight.

Your body wants to maintain a constant weight range and will do extraordinary things to achieve this. You’ve likely seen this yourself when you’ve dieted, lost weight, and found yourself back at the same weight (or an even higher weight) soon after.

More than an annoyance, chronic weight cycling can have profound effects on your health. One study found that people who had large variations in their body weight had a significantly increased risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.

Intuitive eating helps you to trust your body to guide how much and how often to eat. You will honor your health with gentle nutrition and joyful movement and reject external diet rules. By doing this you will naturally maintain a constant weight range that your body is healthiest at.

Your Cardiovascular Health May Improve.

Several studies have been done to evaluate the physical health benefits that intuitive can have. When it comes to cardiovascular risk factors, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and inflammation in the body come into play.

One study found that there was a significant improvement from baseline in total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol. Others have found a decrease in inflammatory measures. Despite the common diet culture myth that you need to “diet” for a healthy heart, you can improve your health through intuitive eating.

Disordered eating will be a thing of the past and you’ll trust your internal cues to guide your eating.

If disordered eating patterns rule your life now, it might seem impossible to actually trust yourself to know what or when to eat. Intuitive eating is a proven framework. By working through the principals you will find freedom from disordered eating patterns and learn to put that trust in yourself.

People who trust their bodies to tell them how much to eat, instead of following a diet, have significantly lower disordered eating patterns.. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort and time to have true food freedom.

The Hunger Scale Intuitive Eating

Additional Evidenced-Based Benefits of Intuitive Eating

  • Reduction in binge eating

  • Increased intake of fruits and vegetables + overall food variety

  • Increased body appreciation

  • Increased body trust

  • Increased enjoyment of eating

  • Increased body cue awareness

  • Increased wellbeing and self-esteem

  • Decreased idealization of thinness

  • Decreased Triglycerides

  • Increased HDL (‘good’ cholesterol)

  • Decreased disordered eating

  • Increased glycemic control

A Quick Breakdown of the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Reject the Diet Mentality

The first step is acknowledging that diets don't work. Realize that the repeated failed attempts of weight loss and dieting are not your fault. Diet culture runs deep and is a systemic problem affecting you from every angle of life. Get rid of diet books, unfollow diet focused social media accounts, do whatever you have to do as you reject the diet mentality and move forward.

Honor Your Hunger

Learn to identify and honor your hunger. If you’ve followed diet rules to know when and how much to eat, this may take some time. Learn how hunger feels and allow yourself to nourish your body when it needs it.

Make Peace with Food

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This includes those foods on your “forbidden food” list and all of those foods you feel you cannot trust yourself around. All foods are allowed and “good” and “bad” food labels no longer exist.

Challenge the Food Police

There are several ways diet culture polices your food choices and assigns moral value to what you eat (or don’t eat). Learn to challenge these rules and the feelings of superiority or inferiority associated with what you eat.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Food is so much more than fuel. Allow yourself to enjoy and find pleasure in what you eat with all of your senses. Feel not only full after a meal, but also satisfied.

Feel Your Fullness

Just as you learn to listen to your body to tell you when to eat, you follow your body’s signals to tell you when to stop. You will start to feel fullness progress throughout a meal and stop eating when comfortably full.

Cope with Your Emotions

Emotional eating exists and is not inherently a bad thing. It can be difficult to honor your body and lean into the intuitive eating process when food is the only way you have to cope with emotions. Learn other tools to work through emotions and acknowledge that food doesn’t fix deeper problems.

Respect Your Body

Reject the “ideal body” you wish you had and learn to respect and appreciate the body you have now. Begin to appreciate all that your body does for you and treat it with kindness.

Movement- Feel the Difference

Stop exercising as punishment for what you ate or to change your body. Instead, find ways to move your body that are enjoyable and feel good to you.