What is Intuitive Eating?

There is a lot of buzz right now around Intuitive Eating. As someone who is normally skeptical of dieting and weight loss trends (looking at you Paleo, Keto, & Whole 30), this nutritional philosophy got my attention.

The idea behind Intuitive Eating is that listening to your body's hunger cues instead of restricting and calorie counting will help you reach a healthy weight. Although this might seem overly simplistic to those of us who struggle with healthy eating, learning more about the principles of Intuitive Eating can help you break the diet cycle once and for all.

One of our programs, Body Back Transformation provides the support people need to gradually adopt each of the 7 principles listed below and achieve a healthier, fitter, diet-free lifestyle.

7 Key Principles of Intuitive Eating:

1. End the Diet Cycle.

Think about all the diets you've been on, all the books or magazine articles you've read about losing weight quickly. What did they do to shape your weight loss mentality? What about the pills, shakes and prepackaged meals you've purchased? Did you feel healthier eating them or did the money you spent on packaged meals feel more like a punishment for unhealthy choices in the past? How much time have you spent in your life thinking about losing weight? Diets set you up for failure. Research shows that the act of dieting increases your risk of gaining weight. You feel bad, so you "punish" yourself with a diet. You lose some weight and get positive reinforcement from those around you, which reinforces your self worth only as a slimmer person. Then you gain a few pounds when you eat normally again and get back on a diet. Reject diets. Reject weight loss articles, pills, prepackaged meals and social media focused on any of the above. Set yourself free.

2. Respect Your Hunger.

Listen to it. Your body speaks to you for a reason. If you are tired, you sleep. If you are stressed, you let out a sigh. If you are hungry, you should eat. Stop before you get full and learn to pay attention to feelings of satiaty instead of fullness. Pause midway through your meal, check in with your hunger and decide if it's necessary to finish your plate. Pay attention to your daily rhythm: if you get ravenous mid afternoon, try a bigger, more balanced lunch. If you are extremely hungry at 10am, maybe you need a better mix of protein and fiber at breakfast. Listen to these cues and you'll become skillful at reading what your body is trying to say to you.

3. Make Peace with Food.

Stop being the food police and categorizing foods as “good” or “bad." If you tell yourself you can’t have or shouldn’t have a certain food, you will eventually feel deprived; this deprivation builds into uncontrollable cravings and overeating. Then overeating gives way to guilt, which starts the cycle again. Start asking yourself instead, how with this food make me feel? How will this meal serve me? Will my choice make me healthy or make me sick? Pay attention to your answers and then decide whether the food in front of you merits a few bites for flavor or whether you should dig in and enjoy the whole meal.

4. Cope Without Food.

Emotional eating is very common, especially for women. We often eat for reasons other than physical hunger and food might be used to mask unpleasant feelings and emotion. Try taking a few deep breaths before you open the fridge or the cabinet and see how you feel. Deep breathing gives you a moment to reflect and see if this is emotional eating or hunger-based eating. If you still decide that you are hungry, plate your food or put it in a bowl so you won't be eating mindlessly from the bottom of a bag out of boredom.

5. Your Body is a Work of Art.

If you are too critical of your body, it’s hard to reject the diet mentality. Check in with yourself. What does your self-talk sound like? Do you think of your body in terms of "problem areas?" If so, it's time to shut out that internal noise and work on self-acceptance. Start following people and sites that embrace body positivity. It's a movement that will benefit not just you, but your entire family. Start adopting the vocabulary and mindset of body positivity. It's 2018, mama! It's time.

6. Exercise Because it Feels Good.

I am VERY passionate about this principle. More and more research is coming out about our flawed relationship with exercise. Please don't ever use exercise as a punishment for something you ate. I could go on and on about the health benefits of exercise. We all know that it's one of the best things you can do for your longterm health, but if you are going to stick with a regular routine, you will need to pay attention to how you feel. Do you sleep better? Do you have more energy? Do you have less stress? Do you feel like a superhero when you complete a difficult workout? Do you have a better sex drive? Can you feel yourself getting stronger? Can you pick up your baby as she gets bigger and bigger and bigger? Stop after your workout and pay attention to that delicious, post-workout feeling. That feeling is why we do it day in and day out. That feeling is why exercise should be a regular part of your week.

7. Be Gentle with Yourself.

Being healthy doesn’t mean eating perfectly or exercising for an hour every day. Consider how certain foods make you feel, in addition to how tasty and satisfying they are to you. One meal or one snack or one day of eating will not cause you to gain weight or have a health problem. One workout won't make you fitter and one missed workout won't set you back too much. Go for consistency.

For more information on the Body Back Transformation program, click HERE.