In this post, I break down the 10 Intuitive Eating Principles. If you missed part 1 of this post, read it first and then come back for this part 2.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a framework that promotes a positive relationship with food and body image by learning to listen to and honor your hunger and fullness cues.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Registered Dietitians and authors of Intuitive Eating, a Revolutionary Program that Works, share 10 Intuitive Eating Principles that are at the core of this approach.
10 Intuitive Eating Principles
Below are the 10 Intuitive Eating Principles.
1. Reject the Diet mentality
“Throw out the false hope to lose weight quickly, easily, and permanently.”Tribole & Resch
Diet culture is everywhere, even in a time of body inclusivity. The global weight-loss and weight-management market industry is projected to grow to $3.336 billion by 2027. This growth is being driven by the growing global obesity rate.
Food restriction or plans to shrink the body have ingrained fears in many people, particularly women, around eating and weight gain. Food-restrictive thoughts are a part of many people's inner narrative.
Diets can be harmful, not only to a person's body image and relationship with food, but to their metabolism too. Rejecting diet mentality can feel scary, but it is the first of the 10 principles of intuitive eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
“Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.”Tribole & Resch
Hunger is normal and healthy. It’s your body's way of telling you what it needs.
Calories from the foods we eat provide the energy to support our hearts to beat, lungs to breath, and legs to walk. There’s a chemical neural feedback from our brain that tells us when the systems of our body need energy.
Many chronic dieters have silenced their hunger system by ignoring it altogether or drinking coffee, water or chewing gum in place of food.
The second of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is around getting back in touch with your hunger cues. You can do this by asking yourself questions before you eat like:
- Am I feeling hungry right now?
- What am I hungry for?
- What’s my hunger level?
The consequences of ignoring hunger cues can range from personality changes to binge eating disorder.
A powerful example is a study looking at Nazi concentration camp survivors who lived through starvation. The study showed a disproportionate number had habits of binge eating disorder.
3. Make Peace with Food
“If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and often, bingeing.”Tribole & Resch
We are wired to want the things we are told we can’t have.
When we forbid or restrict certain foods and see them as “bad,” we turn on the natural reaction to crave those very things and feed an intense desire to overeat. And worse, to associate certain foods with feelings of guilt or failure.
Restriction causes people to closely calculate their calorie or macro intake through apps on their phone instead of listening to their body.
The third of the 10 principles of intuitive eating encourages you to make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat while still listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. This doesn’t mean eating past the point of satisfaction. That doesn’t feel great and often leads to physical discomfort. It means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.
*A caveat to this is avoid foods if you have an intolerance or allergy.
4. Challenge the Food Police
The Food Police is the messages society gives us and the voice that comes from our own inner thoughts around food. That voice that tells you that you “shouldn’t” or “can’t” eat something.The food police puts rules and laws around eating. We feel guilty if we break them, even if we don’t get “caught”.
“These thoughts come from sneaky diet culture books and programs masquerading as a “lifestyle,” “detox,” “cleanse” or wellness diet.”Tribole & Resch
When we’re toddlers, we know what we want and when we are hungry and full.
Unfortunately, if you grew up in a family that was weight focused, the food police started showing up early. If not, it didn’t take long before you started absorbing messages about food and weight.
The fourth of the 10 principles of intuitive eating teaches that in order to change the narrative, you have to identify the Food Police and discard what it’s saying.
Replace hurtful messages with helpful messages.
- Don’t praise yourself for eating a salad because it fits your “rules.” Praise yourself because it’s what you felt like eating, gave your body nourishment and left you feeling satisfied.
- Instead of guilting yourself for eating cookies, thinking about where you’ll “make up for it” tomorrow, think of how much you enjoy the taste. And how nice it is to be able to have just one and feel content knowing that the others are there if you really want another.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
“Americans have gotten so focused on the alchemy of foods… that we have neglected a very important role that eating plays in our lives- provision of pleasure.”Tribole & Resch
The fifth of the 10 principles of intuitive eating encourages finding pleasure in food.
Listening to what you’re craving helps you to feel satisfied after a meal and more in control of your eating.
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? At the bottom is our basic physiological needs which includes food. By restricting, a person may stop themselves from moving up the pyramid to the next levels to love, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization.
Finding satisfaction means asking yourself questions like:
- What do I feel like eating right now?
- Will this food satisfy me and give me enjoyment?
Learning to appreciate your food, slow down and eat when you’re moderately hungry rather than ravenous, and savor every bite helps with feelings of satisfaction!
6. Feel your Fullness
“Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry and observe the signs that show you’re comfortably full.”Tribole & Resch
You were taught to clean your plate, but you don’t have to eat everything in front of you just because it’s there.Feeling your fullness also means you don’t have to stop yourself from getting seconds if you’re still hungry.
Diets with small portion sizes or meal replacement shakes can lead to overeating when you’re “given permission” to eat real food. Intermittent fasting can increase overeating in the hours eating is “allowed”.
Respecting your body’s signals of fullness requires being mindful and conscious of your eating experience. If you are practicing intuitive eating, pause in the middle of a meal to check in and decide if you are satisfied or not.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
“Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life….Food won’t solve the problem. You ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.”Tribole & Resch
I’ve been known to polish off a family size bag of chips or popcorn if I’m bored or stressed enough. Eating when you’re emotionally hungry but not biologically hungry is universal. It starts somewhere between being offered a lollipop at the doctor’s office and diving into a carton of ice cream after your first break up.
One way to approach the seventh of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is to ask yourself questions like:
- Am I actually hungry?
- If not, what do I need?
- What might help me cope with this feeling other than eating?
Some non-food ways to cope with your emotions are:
- Rest! Take a nap.
- Meditate. Journal.
- Reach out to a loved one.
- Go on a walk outside.
- Turn on your favorite playlist.
Learning to cope with emotions in different ways is challenging if you are used to turning to certain foods. Be patient with yourself and have grace. It takes time to undo years of habits that were ingrained during the highest and lowest periods of your life.
8. Respect your Body
“It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity….the problem isn’t your body, it our fatphobic culture”Tribole & Resch
The eighth of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is about shifting your focus to loving and respecting the body that you have.
Loving your body:
- Make peace with your genetics and your body at its healthiest weight when you aren’t restricting or overeating.
- Think of all your body does for you. It lets you play with your kids or walk your dog.
- Focus on the parts of yourself you do like.
- Pamper your body through things like a bubble bath or trip to the sauna.
Respecting your body:
- Take care of your physical and mental health.
- Meet your body’s basic needs.
- Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full.
The popular Health at Every Size (HAES) movement is centered around the principles of weight inclusivity, health enhancement, eating for well-being, respectful care, and life-enhancing physical movement.
Think about the things people have said to you that impact how you think about your body. Be intentional about having more positive thoughts when you look in the mirror.
9. Movement- Feel the Difference
“Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise.”Tribole & Resch
Many chronic dieters have also experienced negative feelings around exercise.Working out while in a calorie deficit feels more like a chore and less like fun. Especially if you limit carbs, the preferred fuel for exercise.
If you are eating enough to support your body, exercise has tons of health benefits including:
- Increased metabolism
- Decreased blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health
- Decreased risk of chronic illnesses
- Improved sleep
In the words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”
If you are someone who has over-exercised or focused on exercise only as a way to lose weight or burn calories, you might consider taking a break. Bring in exercise when you are able to focus on the health benefits and joy of moving your body rather than using it as a tool to look a certain way.
This is what the ninth of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is about. Get aware of how moving your body in different ways makes you feel. Try all kinds of exercise to find what you love! You’re much more likely to do those things consistently.
10. Honor your Health- Gentle Nutrition
“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good.”Tribole & Resch
We have come to the last of the 10 principles of intuitive eating.
Principle 10 melds together how you feel about what you eat with the science that shows what is most nourishing for your body.
When you learn to listen to your body, you open the door to more food variety. This can lead to improved nutrition.Some people might find it helpful to first work on principles 1-9 and come back to principle 10 later.
The goal is that healthy eating becomes enjoyable. Learn to prepare healthy foods in a way that tastes great to you. And most importantly, be aware of how you feel when you are eating more healthful, nutrient-dense foods. You probably have more energy and less bloating and discomfort. You may even notice a difference in your skin, which is really just a bonus!
Intuitive eating focuses on healing your relationship with food and your body by learning to listen to your hunger and fullness cues.
The 10 Intuitive Eating principles I shared in this article are a great place to start!
I hope you enjoyed this article! I would love to hear from you if so. Please leave me a comment below or find me on Instagram....I LOVE knowing there’s people out there reading my blog. 🙂 IG: @mallorythedietitian
References: Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition, A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, intuitiveeating.org, Fast & Factors Research, Cleveland Clinic, Psychological Medicine, Association for Size Diversity and Health.
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