What Is Intuitive Eating? 11 Instinctual Dieting Principles & Tips
Recently one of my clients asked me what time she should eat. This question comes up a lot and my answer is always the same. Just because it’s 8 am and the rest of the world is eating does not mean you should be eating too. Coming from a past struggle of binge eating coupled with bulimia (a horrible eating disorder) I know how our current diet culture has made food restriction a social media craze! I am an anti-diet intuitive eating coach who does not deprive herself! On most days my instinctual dieting shows up mid-day. My first solid meal comes between 1:30 & 3:30 pm. By allowing my intuition to guide me (not what the old food rule book says), I am naturally following Intuitive eating principles to take the lead.
Part of intuitive eating allows you to tap into your own intuition, or innate knowledge (not necessarily a “gut instinct” for food cravings that could lead to bingeing or overeating) and practice mindful eating.
Sound shocking? It shouldn’t! A clean properly efficient body leans on its intuition of knowing exactly when to eat. Healthy bodies require eating less often. My body just so happens to run much more efficiently on less food! My mind stays clearer as well! By adjusting to this concept of intuitive eating, you will be able to positively change habits around emotional eating, disordered eating, overeating, and food restriction by cultivating a healthy relationship with food. Intuitive eating can help heal eating disorders and empower you to be able to positively respond to, or ignore when others act like the “food police.”
What is intuitive eating exactly? Our definition:
Intuitive eating is a way of approaching your relationship with food based on your own intuition. When we talk about tapping into our intuition, we are talking about our innate knowledge, or deeper understanding, and inner wisdom. This can be applied to eating (very closely related to mindful eating) when we pay close attention to our internal cues. Intuitive eaters know that they have freedom from disordered eating, emotional eating, and overly restricted food choices because they have developed healthy ways to make peace with food. Weight loss is often a pleasant side effect of intuitive eating. And as you can clearly see, the principles of intuitive eating are fairly simple to adopt.
What can intuitive dieting do for your health?
Ever listen to a podcast devoted to weight loss, improving your body image, or advice from a registered dietitian? You may have noticed that one thing is often left out of the conversation: your own intuition! Ironically, when we say, “I have a gut feeling,” or “this is my gut instinct,” we are speaking about our intuition. That “gut feeling” is telling you a lot more about your wellness than your hunger cues.
This may be different advice than what a traditional nutritionist might advise or what a gym/fitness trainer might have to say about achieving the optimal BMI (body mass index). I’ve never really been one to rely on meal plans or one who counts carbs! In my mind, that is disordered eating.
When done well, intuitive eating can be integrated into your overall wellness regime to make peace with food and gain the unconditional permission you need to make better food choices. Ultimately, this will raise your vibration, improve self-esteem, help you achieve desired weight loss goals, if that is applicable, reduce (or eliminate) the habit of binge eating, and take the focus off of a food restriction mentality. One thing you’ll learn about the principles of intuitive eating is that there are no rules. Rules rule you! The main thing I want you to remember as you get more comfortable with trusting your intuition and your guidance is that your intuition will never lead you astray. And your guides always know what is best for you.
The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles
1. Reject the ‘diet mentality
and stop with inflexible, unhealthy “dieting” fads.
2. Recognize your hunger
Listen to your internal cues and hunger cues.
3. Make peace with food
This process comes from within and is part of mindful eating.
4. Don’t be afraid to challenge the “food police” whether this is a voice inside your head, or other people commenting on what foods you’re eating, or not eating.
5. Feel your fullness. Occasionally, stop eating for a few minutes, and pay attention to internal cues that your body is satisfied. This might mean saying “no, thank you” to a second portion or dessert after a meal.
6. Savor your satisfaction factor. This is that point while eating delicious, and gorgeous foods, or enjoying a colorful smoothie, and taking in the food with the four senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch (texture of food).
7. Identify when you’re eating because of emotions (this causes emotional eating) and figure out how to cope with your feelings without using food. Mindfulness really helps here.
8. Respect and honor your body. Everyone looks (and feels) different inside and out. There’s no point in trying to compare yourself to another human being in attaining the perfect body image or BMI. Instead, honor and respect your own body.
9. Physical exercise can be (and ideally, should be) about how it makes you feel in your body. If you have the opportunity to do something fun, such as swimming, dancing, playing an outdoor (physical) sport (such as soccer, ice skating, hiking, running, mountain climbing, SUP yoga), see how that makes your body feel, rather than feeling like you “have to work out in order to get in shape.” Naturally, if working out makes you feel great, that works, too!
10. Honor your overall health and well-being. Be kind to yourself and allow gentle nutrition, unconditional permission, and self-love to replace patterns of overeating, disordered eating, and dieting. Become an intuitive eater.
Here’s an e-mail I received from my client:
As a 36-year-old woman who has been a chronic dieter for at least 15 years, I’m finally realizing that my relationship with food is disordered. The last year or so has been a cyclical diet pattern of pure stress. Often times upon walking through the door from work, I reach for whatever’s in front of me. I often follow the latest fad diet trends and go from one diet to the next (mostly ones I’ve already done over the years) and I am bigger and more miserable than ever.
In addition to the usual misery that my former eating disorder had caused, *everything* that I’ve found about getting help for is targeted towards recovery. Since getting in touch with hunger carries along with it getting in touch with deep-rooted stuffed down feelings in general, I’m also realizing that I feel like I’ve failed as a woman. After all, I’m supposed to be pretty and perfect. I’m honestly at the point where I feel like the only way to get out of this cycle is to pick a diet and stick with it, even though I know it’s bound to fail. At least the cycle will stop, and I can close the Pandora’s Box that I’ve opened by starting to connect with my emotions.
Do you know of any intuitive eating resources? Thank you, I love your work!
Here are my Intuitive Eating tips
1. Learn to FEEL into your emotions!
There is an old saying “you have to feel it to heal it”. I truly believe this statement and encourage my clients to sit in silence for a minimum of five minutes before each meal. This allows us to tune in instead of reaching for that bag of potato chips! There are many triggers for emotional eating, including mental health, an improper diet mentality, a negative body image, a misdirection of hunger cues (sometimes a person is dehydrated, not hungry; try drinking water), or simply seeking food as a replacement for self-love, for that satisfaction factor.
2. Be certain you are getting the proper nutrients you need
Stop with the restrictions when it comes to things that don’t matter such as portion control. I lead my clients into becoming their own parents. As your parent, you need to be certain your inner child and your physical body are both getting their needs met. Be mindful to ensure you are getting enough nutrition to maintain your health. Pay attention to internal cues. Do you feel bloated? Do you feel dehydrated? Do you need to lower your cholesterol? Transitioning to a plant-based meal plan is an excellent way to become your own certified intuitive eating counselor while improving well-being.
3. Honor the hunger within
Giving yourself adequate nutrition at regular intervals allows your body to work the way it has always been meant to run – smoothly! Stop food restriction!
4. Feel your fullness
This can be challenging! You may not recognize the need to stop eating until you are overly stuffed. Begin with being present and try to feel how it feels to be “full” and not overly stuffed. I do this by always shutting off my devices while eating. I also chew my food thoroughly. Music is also a delight for me as I eat.
5. Encourage satisfaction
When you allow yourself to eat what you truly crave, you feel so much more content. Honor your tastebuds and notice how they play into satiety. I’m not telling you to eat garbage. Nowadays, there is an alternative to almost everything we crave. I love peanut butter cups. The commercial brands are full of crap! Instead, I eat Justin’s almond butter cups now. It’s a fantastic alternative!
6. The Magical Four
When we eat with our senses (sight, smell, touch, and taste!!) the more connected we will be to our fullness and satisfaction thereby being less likely to overeat. One way to nourish the Magical Four senses is to add color to your plate, such as colorful veggies.
7. Practice mindfulness
Allow yourself to live in the moment by releasing negative thought patterns. If an unwanted thought arises, simply let it go.
8. Connect with your body in a joyful, purposeful way
Practice yoga, apply a new essential oil, dance naked in your kitchen, get a massage, enjoy life! You get my point!
9. Move your body
Body movement is unique to everyone. For me, a long hike with my rescue dogs or indulging in a yoga class gets it every time. The important thing to remember is to move your body daily.
10. Practice self-care daily
Self-care is a must. Sprinkle in opportunities to connect your body, mind, soul, and spirit. It can be 5 minutes of deep breathing, rebounding, drinking a cup of tea, taking a walk, anything that makes you happy. For me, this is a morning chant while playing Satnam Kaur.
11. Satisfaction factor – Cultivate joy
find what lights your soul on fire and DO THAT OFTEN! I often have my clients keep a well-being workbook! This allows them to within the realm of their mental health.
Does intuitive eating work for weight loss?
The short answer is yes, it helps, as long as intuitive eating is integrated into plant-based eating within an overall, soul-centered wellness regime. As an Intuitive Wellness and Life Coach, Andrea Cox shares a wealth of knowledge with her clients on how to lose weight in a healthy way. Andrea also helps her clients shed negative thinking around their body image, which can lead to disordered eating and emotional eating, among other health problems (including weight gain). For example, those who suffer from binge eating disorders, or have trouble with emotional eating will benefit greatly from the principles of Intuitive Eating. Additionally, those who are simply trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, reduce their cholesterol (the unhealthy kind) and make better food choices, will find that Intuitive Eating will help them with weight loss goals, even as an additional benefit to their overall wellness goals.
Intuitive eating weight loss results
Here are just a few of my clients who have left overeating, emotional eating, and binge eating in the past! I call them my intuitive eating weight loss client success stories!
Learn more about how to start intuitive eating
Want to learn more about how to start intuitive eating? My clients generally start by getting one of my professional intuitive readings. Once I teach them how to listen to their intuition they are able to employ mindful eating habits that allow them to reach the satisfaction factor by paying better attention to the internal cues while ignoring false hunger cues.
mindful eating vs intuitive eating, what’s the difference?
Mindful eating allows us to bring awareness to our relationship with food. Intuitive eating brings us into having the control of knowing what to eat when intuitively!
How long does it take to become an intuitive eater?
It won’t take long before you become a master intuitive eater! The first step is to let go of all of the lies the media and diet culture has taught you! Once you make peace with food the food police who live in your head with the old food rules you once believed will be traded out with a high self-esteem and leading the way.
Does intuitive eating make you gain weight?
Intuitive eating does not make you gain weight! Intuitive eating helps you channel the inner dietitian inside of you!
Gone are the days of restrictive eating patterns (eating only plain veggies) that no longer serve you. It’s the dawn of a new day when social media, the latest diet podcast or your own low self-esteem body image issues lead you but instead, your newfound principles of intuitive eating lead the way!