So either on my blog or others, you may have seen the following phrases before: intuitive eating + health at every size. Maybe you read their titles, said “Yeah! I want to be involved with that!” but never fully understood some of the finer details that make up each concept. Today, I’m here to break down the basics of intuitive eating so you have a general idea of what others are talking about! Also, this post goes hand in hand with another about Health at Every Size, so give that a read, too!
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating originated from the book by Elyse Resch + Evelyn Tribole aptly called, Intuitive Eating. In this book, the authors [both dietitians] outline 10 principles of intuitive eating as follows:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Feel your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Cope with Emotions without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise — Feel the Difference
- Honor your Health
I’ve touched base on some of these in previous blog posts, but as a refresher, I wanted to give IE a more proper introduction.
***I also want to note that if you are currently in the process of recovering from an eating disorder, intuitive eating may not be appropriate for you to pursue just yet. During weight restoration + beyond, hunger cues may not reliable or even present enough for us to maintain an appropriate weight range relying on biological cues alone. Discuss this with your healthcare team to determine what’s most appropriate for you in your recovery.***
IE works to pull us out of the depths of diet culture + back in tune with our body’s internal signals. However, this approach to eating isn’t simply “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.” Because there will be times when you eat when you’re not hungry, eat past fullness, or get into the hangry zone by accident. Does that mean you failed? Not. at. all. You truly cannot “fail” at intuitive eating because it’s understood that it’s a dynamic, ever-evolving process unique to each individual + their history.
You may or may not have seen this definition by Ellyn Satter on what “normal eating” looks like:
“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should.
Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be under-eating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food, and your feelings.”
To some, that may sound like “duh, that’s how I’ve always eaten.” But to many, parts or all of that is somewhat foreign. It’s foreign because we have a lot of noise in this world telling us that we can’t trust our bodies. That we must control their size through rigid diets + exercise. That we are not enough or equipped to know what to do when it comes to food. Nope nope nope. We are enough. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement + coaching to find the tools within ourselves.
It has recently become popular for diets to phrase their programs as being mindful, flexible, or intuitive, but watch out. So many of these are simply another diet in disguise + diets don’t work long term.
What about nutrition?
A common concern that many have upon learning about intuitive eating is how being “healthy” can fit into it. Remember that last IE principle from above? Honor your health. This includes incorporating gentle nutrition into our lives. Just because we allow ourselves any type of food, does not mean that all intuitive eaters eat is pizza + cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some pizza, but I’m more of a cookie person over cake. But I digress.
There’s sometimes a period of time when you’ve lifted your restrictions that you’re going to crave those once forbidden foods. And you might reach for them quite often. That’s perfectly acceptable. But what often happens over time is you start to feel “bleh.” You noticed that pizza + cake every day doesn’t leave you feeling your best or most energized. You notice that incorporating a balanced plate with protein, carbohydrates, fats, + fiber keep you full and satisfied longer. You notice that donuts for breakfast are delicious, but you need some protein + fiber to keep you from crashing an hour later. Our bodies are smart, they will give us cues to help guide us if we can learn to tune in + trust them.
So, in the end, as dietitians have been saying all along, it really does come back to balance + moderation, without restriction or shame!
How do I do it?
The journey to intuitive eating is going to look different for each individual. In an ideal world, everyone would find a local non-diet dietitian to work alongside for your IE journey. However. I know that there’s several barriers to that. One being lack of availability in all cities to find a non-diet RD. Another being the financial aspect as many insurances don’t always cover these costs. If you would like a list of dietitians practicing virtually, shoot me a message so I can get you hooked up!
If working with an RD is not in the cards for you right now, going through some resources listed below is another good place to start! You’re already on the right track by reading blog posts centered around these topics!
- Intuitive Eating + The Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole + Elyse Resch
- Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon
- Rebecca Scritchfield + her book Body Kindness
- Food Psych Podcast
- Love, Food Podcast
- Nutrition Matters Podcast
- Satisfy Nutrition
- The Real Life RD
- Rachel Hartley Nutrition
[^^^ list contains some affiliate links]
Hey y’all! Welcome to week 1 the Abundantly Enough blog post series! Over the course of 6 weeks, Amy Hanneke of Satisfy Nutrition + I will be releasing individual blog posts covering the same topic in order to give multiple perspectives + interpretations to best meet you where you’re at! This series works to cover some of the basics of developing a healthier relationship with food + your body. In addition, we have launched a community over on Facebook where we can continue to connect + answer any questions y’all may have! We hope to see you there! To check out all of the posts in this series, head on over to the AE page here.