Intuitive Eating is one of those things I wish I knew about when I started growing skeptical about dieting. Back then, I didn't know how to reframe my thinking and trust my body to make decisions about food. In a hypothetical cartoon based on that period of my life, half the episodes would show a woman standing in front of the refrigerator surrounded by question marks.
I kept busting sneaky bits of diet mentality here and there. For example, when I finally got my hands on the Intuitive Eating book, I had been following the Paleo diet for a bunch of months. While going Paleo did teach me a lot about eating for nourishment and health instead of weight loss, I was struggling with the restrictions I had been blindly imposing myself. I mean... I missed beans so bad (feijoada is one of my dearest Brazilian meals), and they never did me any harm.
Intuitive Eating felt like the missing piece of the puzzle. It gave me the tools to develop a new relationship with food, one free of arbitrary rules and restrictions and accepting of my body's ever-changing wants and needs. Today, I'm giving you a crash course on three of the ten principles that guide Intuitive Eating. This is the first in a series of posts covering the fundamentals of Intuitive Eating.
But wait! First things first:
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a system created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Its ten principles aim to help you rediscover your body's innate wisdom when it comes to eating. If this sounds a bit woo-woo to you, don't worry. I felt the same way at first. But bear with me for a bit longer. I promise it'll be worth it.
Before we dive into these magical ten principles, let me get some things out of the way.
- I'm sorry, the Intuitive Eating principles are anything but magical. Your relationship with food won't be transformed by the time you finish reading this series. What I can promise you is this: becoming aware of these principles can be transformative if you practice them with self-compassion moving forward. Intuitive Eating isn't a pass/fail system. It's a day to day exercise.
- Intuitive Eating is not a diet. When I first heard of Intuitive Eating, I got a bit defensive. In my head, living by ten principles written by two women I never heard of sounded precisely like my definition of dieting. With time and practice, I did realize that was not the point. The principles exist to empower you to relate to food in your own terms.
Chill? Chill. Let's jump right in then.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Rejecting diet mentality goes beyond giving up your diet. Think about all the ways you monitor and control what you eat. Maybe you have a list of off-limit foods, or you feel compelled to stay longer on the treadmill if you had dessert with lunch. Perhaps you have specific ideas about foods you should be eating and foods you shouldn't, or feel self-conscious when you eat more than your friends. That's all that sneaky diet mentality, my friend.
To me, the hardest thing about rejecting diet mentality was even realizing how it still permeated my thoughts. Try to be mindful of situations that put you face to face with your relationship with food and notice the story you're telling yourself about it. If you're the villain in your own narrative (you're "bad" because of your choices or should be "punished" with dreadful exercise or more restriction), chances are that you're feeding diet mentality.
2. Honor Your Hunger
After years of dieting, you probably feel that your hunger is not to be trusted. You've been overriding your hunger signals for a very long time, favoring external rules to define when and what you should eat. You likely don't stop to honor your hunger until it has turned into the infamous hanger.
Once you start paying attention to your hunger signals, you'll realize that hunger isn't this on/off switch. You grow hungry. In the following weeks, make a conscious effort to notice how your hunger feels in your body. You can even take notes, so you learn to identify the different stages of your appetite.
Also, eat. Really. If you're hungry, eat. That's what honoring your hunger is all about. It doesn't have to be a huge meal, just whatever satisfies you. Remember: 1) you have to trust your body on this one, and 2) it's been a long time since you last heard your body, chances are that it'll a bit of time before you understand her language again.
3. Make Peace with Food
When you're dieting, you're actively depriving yourself of foods that are considered "bad" for whatever reason. No matter what those foods are, they're likely the same you tend to crave and binge on. That's just what happens when we label foods as off-limits.
Now. I know what you're thinking. "Fabiana, if nothing is ever off-limits, I'll never choose to eat anything other than Cookie Dough ice cream." I hear ya, friend, and I'll be honest: you might, in the beginning. But this won't last forever.
When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, you don't need to eat all the cookies in the package because it's your cheat day and the next cheat day is in another seven days and that feels like forever. You'll also drop that "f*** it" mentality that leads you to eat everything in front of you after a "tiny slip."
Do you see how this is a massive mental shift? Making peace with food isn't about eating all the things. It's about feeling good mentally (rid of guilt, fear, and shame around food) and physically (nourished, satisfied and energized). Trust me; it won't be long before you realize that having a few cookies fresh out of the oven with a glass of milk doesn't feel the same way as eating an entire batch.
Over to you!
That's it for today, friend. I'll be back soon with three other principles of Intuitive Eating: Challenge the Food Police, Feel Your Fullness, and Discover the Satisfaction Factor. In the meantime, I want to hear from you!
Which food rules are preventing you from recognizing your hunger and making peace with food? Try putting them on the back burner over the next few days, and give yourself space to practice the three principles we talked about today. I can't wait to hear about your experience!
And if you're ready to get started but don't quite know how, get the jump-start guide for some simple and actionable ideas to help you become a more intuitive eater:
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One more thing, if you want to hang out with me and other smart women determined to feel and do their best, make sure to join the Food Freedom Tribe, our free Facebook group.
>> Ready for Part 2 already? I like how you roll. Here it goes: How to Trust Yourself With Food