Intuitive Eating-Shifting the Perspective
By: Erin Oberman, Masters Level Intern
January is the month of New Year’s Resolutions, which can often result in dieting or wishes to lose weight after indulging in holiday meals. Specifically in the United States, the preoccupation with the ideal “perfect” body permeates society through digital media, especially around the New Year. Sociocultural theory of body dissatisfaction claims that internalization of appearance comparison to the media ideal is harmful and can be the leading predictor for an eating disorder. Not only does internalization of appearance comparison serve as a steppingstone for disordered eating, but also low self-esteem, weight gain, depressive symptoms and reduced physical activity. Although our society feeds on diet culture, science shows that beating ourselves up at the gym and restricting our food intake is dangerous and mentally taxing.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating was officially coined in 1995, although the movement existed as early as the 1970s. Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach that takes on a self-care nourishment framework that promotes size acceptance. Intuitive eating is made up of 10 principles that honors health by listening and responding to direct messages our bodies are telling us to meet our physical and psychological needs.
Intuitive Eating is not a restrictive food plan or a diet. Only you know what hunger, fullness and satisfaction feels like, along with what your thoughts, feelings, and experiences are. You are in control, and you are the expert.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Reject the diet mentality
Simply put, intuitive eating can’t exist in the presence of dieting. Accept that diets are the problem, not you. Throw away diet plans and magazines that glorifies weight loss, or anything that offers false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently.
Honor your hunger
Learn to honor your biological signals for hunger, which can build trust in yourself and in food. When we restrict our food intake, we deprive ourselves of necessary food and nutrients. When we reach excessive hunger, all intentions for conscious eating are irrelevant.
Make Peace with food
Grant yourself permission to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Rigid rules such as telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t have certain foods can lead to intense feelings of deprivation. When you “give in” to your “forbidden foods”, eating becomes an intense action that can result in overwhelming guilt. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, but it’s more about creating neutrality among all food.
Challenge the food police
Learn to challenge the food police, also known as your internal voice, that deems certain foods “good” or “bad”, which has been subconsciously created by diet culture. Recognize when this voice turns on and scream a loud NO!
Discover the satisfaction factor
Eating food you actually enjoy is an important step towards building trust with your intuition. Satisfaction can range from quantity to different types of food consumed. In order to comply with diet culture, we can easily overlook one of the most precious gifts given to us; the pleasure and satisfaction of eating what we really want in an environment that is inviting.
Feel your fullness
To honor this step, you will need to trust and give yourself the foods you want. Pay close attention to your body’s signals to fullness. Pause in middle of eating and check in with your body to determine what your current level of hunger is.
Cope with your emotions and kindness
It is important to recognize that food restriction can physically and mentally trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Learn what triggers anxiety, loneliness, and boredom, which are emotions we experience through life. Food will not fix these feelings, but it may comfort you short term.
Respect your body
All bodies deserve respect and dignity. It can be hard to reject diet mentality if you are overly unrealistic and critical of your body size and shape. Accept and love your genetic blueprint.
Feel the difference through movement
Allow exercise to be a way to feel strong and energized, but not as a tool for weight loss. Shift your focus to how it feels to move in your body, rather than focusing on calorie-burning. When movement becomes something you look forward to doing, it no longer feels like a self-deprecating chore.
Honor your health through gentle nutrition
Intuitive eating aligns with the definition of health defined by the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), that health exists on a continuum which varies with time and circumstance for everyone. Make choices that honor your health and tastebuds, while making you feel good. It’s less about what you do, but more about why you do it.
- Homepage. Intuitive Eating. (2019, June 3). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/
- What is intuitive eating? – university of michigan. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.med.umich.edu/pfans/_pdf/hetm-2021/0121-intuitiveeating.pdf