When I explain to people that I am Certified in Intuitive Eating, the majority of the time the next line I hear is something like, “If I ate whatever I wanted all I would eat is pizza and pasta!”
I mean, who hasn’t thought that the first time they heard the phrase, “Intuitive Eating?” Clearly the intuitive eating definition simply means that you eat whatever the hell you want, whenever you want!
That’s not Intuitive Eating, at all!
The biggest misconception with Intuitive Eating is that it’s a complete free-for-all. That we simply empower people to eat whatever, whenever, and any amount. This could not be further from the truth!
In this blog, I’m going to break down the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating so that you can better understand the journey.
Where Intuitive Eating Originated From
Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S & Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S FAND published the original copy of Intuitive Eating in 1995.
After years of nutrition practice Evelyn & Elyse began realizing that they weren’t truly helping their clients. Sure, some would make change in the short term but almost all would end up back in the same place as when they had originally come to see them. Their food relationship wasn’t improving.
The change was difficult, temporary and frustrating.
This is what caused Evelyn & Elyse to lean into a new way of approaching nutrition counselling. We now know this way as intuitive eating.
Today there are more than 125 published studies showing the benefits of intuitive nutrition!
Let’s dive into what exactly Intuitive Eating actually is!
1.) REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY
The first principle of intuitive eating is all around rejecting the diet mentality that so many of us hold tightly too. For some of us, it’s a conscious holding onto our world of diet plans and for others, it’s living a life of subconscious food rules.
How often have you believed that you would need to shrink yourself in order to become healthy? Or that you would have to commit to the newest dieting trend or set of food rules in order to obtain true health?
This is what diet culture teaches us. That we neverendingly need to focus on shrinking ourselves while chronically obsessing over food.
The first principle of intuitive eating focuses on helping us first identify these beliefs & thoughts patterns. (You can’t let go of that you don’t realize you are holding onto!). Next, we break up with these beliefs!
We must first identify and release diet mentality before we can tune into our intuitions with food.
2.) HONOR YOUR HUNGER
Have you at any point calorie counted, macro tracked or only eaten food out of perfectly portion controlled colourful containers?
What tends to happen when we do this is we stop having the ability to tune into our biological hunger cues. When we were babies, we KNEW when we were hungry. We would scream at the top of our lungs until we would be fed!
Those strong biological hunger cues only go away when we stop listening to them and rather start listening to food rules or a diet. Changing your relationship with food is so intertwined with listening to biological cues.
The good news is, we CAN tune into our bodies once again! That is what the second principle of intuitive eating is all about. Honouring our hunger. Tuning into our bodies and getting to know them again as we learn that they are trustworthy.
It’s so important that we ensure that we are receiving enough energy (calories!) and carbohydrates in our day-to-day life. Diet culture tends to teach us the exact opposite of that which only silences our hunger.
Let’s honour our hunger once again!
3.) MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD
Can you imagine giving yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods at any time? Like I mean full and complete permission!
Now, I know what you are thinking. “Omg, that would be the worst idea for me! I would literally never stop eating ice cream!!”
Let’s roll with that belief for a moment, if you ate ice cream for breakfast, lunch & dinner; how long until you would be sick of it?
Have you ever wondered if your uncontrollable cravings for specific foods might actually begin with restricting those foods? Maybe when you binge them, it’s because you first restricted them? That unhealthy relationship with food can bite back.
In this third principle of eating intuitively our goal is that you make peace with all foods!
If you have specific foods you fear, this is where we lean into that fear together and conquer that fear food!
This principle is about learning to trust your body around all foods!
4.) CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE
What the heck are the food police?!
Well, they are all of those pesky food rules & beliefs that you have floating around in your head! These rules may have come from your loudly opinionated uncle who continually is on weight loss diets or maybe they come from medical professionals in your life.
Maybe you’ve picked up these rules or beliefs from magazines while standing in line to get your groceries or from your bestie who is continually focused on shrinking her body.
In the fourth principle of intuitive eating, we choose to CHALLENGE the food police. We ask questions and get curious around why you believe what you believe about food.
We challenge your food relationship beliefs on “good” or “bad” foods, and we get curious around why you eat when you eat and when you eat!
It’s time to challenge those thoughts & beliefs so that you can truly tune into YOUR body when it comes to food and tune OUT diet culture & food police!
5.) DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR
When you think of feeling satisfied when it comes to food, what comes to mind? Does feeling full but not overly full? Having loved the taste of your food emotionally & physically?
Or does feeling “satisfied” when it comes to food seem like a myth? Maybe you are caught in the never-ending cycle of either undereating or overeating. Maybe you either eat “clean” foods that you hate the taste of, or you binge on cupcakes all weekend.
Principle number 5 is all about leaning into the satisfaction factor. What tastes & textures leave you feeling satisfied? And when? What type of fullness makes you feel the most satisfied? What foods make you feel emotionally satisfied? What foods make you feel physically satisfied?
The beauty of this principle is that it’s going to look radically different from one person to the next. How beautiful is that?! We are all so different & so unique. And we get to show that through which foods satisfy us!
6.) FEEL YOUR FULLNESS
What does fullness feel like to you?
Inside of Intuitive Eating principles we love to use a fullness scale to help our clients understand their fullness. Why? Well, most of us are used to stopping to eat when we hit our calories or our macros, not when our body tells us that we are full. And what does that lead to? Well often food restriction leads to overindulging in food, eating past our fullness. It’s a vicious cycle!
Let me show you what the fullness scale looks like.
- Ravenous – Dizzy/Nauseous/Physically Ill
- Extremely Hunger – Moody/Headache/Gnawing emptiness in stomach
- Hunger – Stomach growing, Need energy
- “I Could Eat” – Stomach feels slightly empty
- Mild Fullness – Stomach feels full, but you don’t feel satisfied
- Satisfied – If you eat anymore, you’ll feel uncomfortable
- Uncomfortable full – You feel slightly uncomfortable
- Stuffed – “Thanksgiving Day” full, you may need to unbutton your pants, very uncomfortable and bloated
- Physically Ill – Binge eating full, Nauseous, Sick
We do our best to utilize the fullness scale as a tool to get curious around, not to cast judgement on!
As a rough guideline we try to eat around a 3 or a 4 and then stop eating around a 7. Having said that, this is a rough guideline! Not a hard rule. Remember, we don’t want any more of those hard restrictive eating rules in our life!
7.) COPE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS WITH KINDNESS
I’m not a huge fan of the term “emotional eating.” I think it casts a lot of shame and judgement around something that is fairly normal. I mean, at the end of the day, eating is an emotional thing! And there is nothing wrong with that!
However, we can learn to cope with our emotions with kindness. Which is exactly what principle #7 is all about.
What does this mean? It means being in tune with your emotions enough to know what you need and when. You know when you are feeling all the feels and so you numbly enter the kitchen and grab a cupcake to sooth your emotions?
It’s not that we want to avoid the cupcake, but rather we want to lean into self-care first.
What exactly is going on in that moment? What are you feeling? What do you need in this moment?
These are all questions that help us slow down when it comes to our emotions and treat them with kindness. Once we are done that, you absolutely can still eat the cupcake! But we do it from a place of being kind to ourselves and actually working through our emotions instead of trying to avoid them.
My favourite mantra when teaching this principle is, “we feel to heal.” We lean into our uncomfortable emotions because we badly want holistic healing; we dig through our pain and we face what’s truly going on.
That’s how we move through our emotions instead of letting them rule us!
8.) RESPECT YOUR BODY
Do you love your body?
I used to spend a lot of time talking about “body love” but a little thing I’ve learnt over the years is that body positivity seems so unbelievably out of reach for most people that they can’t even identify with it.
What can we all do our best to work on? Respecting our bodies.
Respecting our lungs for helping us breathe. Respecting our feet for allowing us to walk. Respecting our fingers for the ability to type. Respecting our eyes for seeing. Respecting our ears for hearing. Respecting our digestive system for keeping us nourished. Respecting our heart for beating and pumping blood around our bodies.
You may not identify with all of those areas, but likely you do with at least one or two!
Even though we may not believe that we could ever love our bodies, we can choose to respect our bodies today. And that is our goal with principle #8, to learn to respect our bodies.
Living and operating from a place of deeply respecting our bodies is foundational to an intuitive eating journey!
9.) MOVEMENT – FEEL THE DIFFERENCE
One of the biggest switches for me mentally when I began my intuitive eating journey was ditching exercise and embracing movement.
Many of us have for years only exercised to burn calories or lose weight. We have taken our eyes off of what it feels like to respect our bodies with movement.
To move for fun and to move for health. And I mean true health!
What body movement did you love when you were a kid? Dancing? Swimming? Biking? Let’s get back to those!
Or maybe you love gardening or going for a stroll after a long day of work. Guess what, that’s movement! And it’s amazing for your health and wellbeing, as well as your body image!
Ditch exercise that feels like a chore and coaxes you to go until your calorie band on your watch is complete. Embrace movement that FEELS GOOD!
Principle #9 is all about feeling the difference with movement.
10.) HONOR YOUR HEALTH – GENTLE NUTRITION
We wait until Principle #10 to focus on gentle nutrition for a reason.
All the other principles are the base of intuitive eating. If we would start with gentle nutrition, many of us would make it into a diet. Instead, we first do our best to embrace the first 9 principles and then wrap it up with gentle nutrition.
What exactly does gentle nutrition mean? Well, it means something different for everyone!
For the girl with PCOS it may mean focusing on balancing her blood sugars.
For the next person it may mean simply focusing on increasing their fruit & vegetable intake.
For the man down the street, it may mean focusing on increasing his protein intake.
The basis of gentle and intuitive nutrition is we focus on ADDING in nutrition vs. taking away food or food groups.
This is a great principle to work with a professional on as for each person their health goals will be unique to them and their situation!
DITCH DIET CULTURE WITH ME!
If Intuitive Eating has grabbed your attention, I encourage you to dive a little more into it! Maybe that means reading another one of my blogs below or checking out my favourite podcast on Intuitive Eating which is Food Psych by Christy Harrison!
Remember that Intuitive Eating is a journey. It doesn’t have an end date and there are no “good” or “bad” days when it comes to following the principles of intuitive eating. Each day is a precious day on the journey of healing your relationship with food, not chasing after the next best diet!
If you are interested in viewing my products & services in relation to intuitive eating, click here!