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  • Writer's pictureJenny Sokolowski

Getting Started with Intuitive Eating: The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Woman happily enjoying a plate of food

Intuitive Eating is more than just a dietary approach; it's a mindset that shifts the focus from dieting to understanding and respecting your body's natural cues. Based on deep understanding and decades of research, here are the ten principles that make up this transformative approach:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

The first principle of intuitive eating emphasizes the complete rejection of the diet mentality. This principle highlights the harm that dieting inflicts. By embracing it, we become acutely aware of the cultural narratives and constraints that shape our relationship with food and our bodies. We're encouraged to challenge the flawed notions of "wellness" perpetuated by diet culture. While intuitive eating doesn't prioritize weight loss, it seeks to elucidate how diet culture obscures our genuine experiences with food through its unrealistic expectations and rigid rules. Notably, this distinction between intuitive and mindful eating underscores the unique essence of each approach.

2. Honoring Your Hunger

Your body's signals for hunger are similar to an engine light on a car dashboard. They are indicators that your body requires fuel. Starving or ignoring these signals, especially over a prolonged period, can create an intense craving and drive to overeat. Biological mechanisms kick in as a survival instinct. Recognizing and attending to the early signs of hunger helps to set the foundation for rebuilding trust with yourself and food. Additionally, it's vital to realize that you don't need to "earn" your food through exercises or other means. Every human being deserves nourishment. You deserve to eat and to feel energetic and fueled throughout your day. Even if diet culture tells us we ca only eat during certain times, our bodies are not clocks and we need food to feel our best.

3. Making Peace with Food

By granting ourselves unconditional permission to eat, we combat the scarcity mentality that can lead to binge cycles. When certain foods are off-limits, they often become more enticing, leading to obsessive thoughts. When finally consumed, it can lead to overeating since there's a fear it might be the "last time" we allow ourselves that food. By removing these limitations, food loses its emotional power and becomes just food.

4. Challenge the Food Police

Inside many of us, there's an internal critic that dictates what we should and shouldn't eat, often rooted in societal standards or past experiences ( comments from family members, bullying experiences, or the media.) It’s time to confront this voice. Food doesn't define our worthiness. By challenging these internalized beliefs, we can begin to separate our intrinsic value from our dietary choices, creating a healthier mindset about food and our self-worth.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

In our fast-paced world, it's easy to eat mechanically without truly experiencing the joy of eating. When you eat what you genuinely desire, in an environment that allows you to enjoy it, the experience becomes profoundly satisfying. By placing attention on the present moment—savoring each bite, relishing the flavors, textures, and even the ambiance—it enhances the overall experience, making it easier to determine when you’re satisfied. This leads to a mindfulness based approach while eating, allowing you to easier tap into the physical and emotional sensations that arise while eating.

6. Feel Your Fullness

Much like understanding your hunger, it's essential to recognize when you're satiated. It's beneficial to pause during meals, check in with yourself, and assess your fullness levels. This practice promotes mindfulness and ensures you're eating in a way that respects your body's needs without resorting to extremes. Notice for yourself when you feel full. Does the growl in your stomach start to diminish? Do your energy levels increase? Are you better able to focus on the conversation?

7. Coping with Emotions with Kindness

Emotions can be complex, and food is sometimes a way people deal with them. It's not about demonizing this strategy but about diversifying the coping mechanisms. Recognizing the root cause—be it stress, loneliness, or boredom—allows for alternative coping strategies like deep breathing exercises, physical activity, or seeking social connections.

8. Respect Your Body

Body acceptance doesn't mean you have to like every aspect of your body. Still, it entails recognizing your body's worth and deservingness of respect. This perspective can foster better self-care decisions, including intuitive eating. Continuously criticizing or comparing your body to others' can erode self-worth and make it challenging to maintain positive habits.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

Movement should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate. Find activities that resonate with you, making exercise a joy rather than a chore. Whether it's dancing, hiking, or even gardening, the focus should be on feeling good and staying active in enjoyable ways.

10. Honoring Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

One meal or snack won't drastically affect your health. It's the cumulative effect of consistent dietary choices that matter. By choosing foods that are both palatable and nourishing, you can strike a balance that honors your health without imposing strict, unsustainable rules.

Embarking on an Intuitive Eating journey means stepping away from diet cultures and their strict rules, and instead forging a path filled with understanding, self-respect, and holistic well-being. Remember, it's a continuous process of growth and learning, and each day offers a new opportunity to nourish both the body and soul.

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