Have you ever heard of Intuitive Eating? It’s all about listening to your body, respecting hunger and satiety cues, and tossing the calorie-counting, diet mentality. If you really want to take your health to the next level, here are 5 tips to get started.
A lovely viewer of mine recently requested a video on Intuitive Eating, and honestly, I’m not sure why I haven’t talked about this topic yet.
I’d wager that many of you reading this have practiced intuitive eating before without even realizing it. I certainly have. And that’s because it’s inherently a part of us. As children we eat the foods our bodies tell us we want. We eat when we’re hungry, we stop when we’re full, and we don’t think twice about it. This is the core of Intuitive Eating. But often through childhood we’re told to eat everything on our plate – regardless of hunger or fullness – and as adults, this can translate into habits that bypass those feelings of satiety.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is simply about listening to your body, and specifically, respecting hunger and satiety signals which means eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full. But Intuitive Eating is also about making food choices without feeling guilty about it and ditching the calorie-counting, weight loss diet mentality.
Intuitive Eating can take time to get the hang of, but there’s no race you’re trying to win. It’s all about integrating it gradually into your lifestyle, and today I’m going to share some tips on not only how to respect hunger and fullness, but also how to listen to your body so you can trust yourself and enjoy the food you eat.
1. Ditch the Calorie Counting
Intuitive eating totally throws calorie counting out the window. This is something that I really stand by, and for a couple of reasons:
- If you eat based strictly on calories, you’re missing a big part of the picture. Think of it this way: you could have the same amount of calories in an avocado as you could in a couple cookies, but just because their calories are the same, does not make them an equal food. When it comes to being healthy, what matters is the quality and nutrient-density of the foods you eat.
- Restricting foods in this way leads to feeling immensely deprived and often results in uncontrollable cravings.
It’s liberating to ditch the diet mentality and realize that food is something to energize and nourish us, not deprive ourselves with. The same goes for exercise: being active in a way that feels good for you, and to focus on feeling your body move and strengthen rather than strictly for “burning calories”.
2. Tune Into Your Hunger and Satiety
One of the biggest principles of intuitive eating is eating when we’re hungry, and stopping when we’re full. The problem though is it’s easy to say we’ll stop eating when we’re full, but actually doing it can be hard. So here are some tips:
- Eat Slowly. You can do this by pausing between bites by putting fork down or holding it in non-dominant hand. This will give your body a chance to receive satiety signals which takes about 20 minutes or so. Eating slowly also improves digestion by allowing our gastric juices to do their thing.
- Notice Cues: Our bodies have inherent cues that let us know when we’re beginning to feel full so that we know when to stop or slow down. You may notice that food stops tasting as good, you become less interested in the food before you, you may take a deep breath, or your stomach physically feels full. These are some of the cues that let you know when it’s time to stop.
- Be Present. Being present when you eat not only makes it more enjoyable, but it prevents you from missing out on those vital cues that you’re getting full. Turn off the TV, put your phone down, and be present by noticing the flavour and texture of each bite, and being aware of what’s on your plate.
- Don’t Overload Your Plate. It’s easier to overeat when our plate is loaded with food. Start with smaller amounts on your plate, and if you’re still hungry when you’re finished, eat more. And even if there is too much on your plate, remember that you don’t have to eat it all if you’re no longer hungry.
On the flip side, make sure you eat when you are hungry and not to dismiss it. Our body wants and needs fuel and going against this cue can create wonky metabolism patterns and reinforces a notion that not eating is good, and eating is bad which is not the goal of intuitive eating.
3. Respect Yourself
It’s important to choose foods that honour your health, your unique needs, and that help you feel your best (and are delicious), but remember that nobody is perfect and it’s unrealistic to try and be, especially when it comes to eating. It’s all about the choices that we make most of the time that add up, but it’s not black and white. Nothing ever is. And that’s why my next point is key.
4. Give Yourself Permission
Food isn’t only about nourishment (although that’s a big part of it), it’s also about allowing ourselves treats, too, just for the sake of it. I allow myself treats sometimes because I know that most of the time I eat very healthfully and I know that stressing out about every little thing can be way worse. But I also care for the part of me that finds joy in eating a treat with a loved one, or baking something yummy to share with others, or having some chips at a friends house. And while there are a couple foods I choose to avoid because of my gut health, and I firmly believe that certain therapeutic “diets” or styles of eating can be immensely useful, I still allow myself wiggle room while doing my best to respect my body’s needs.
5. Love Your Body
This is one of my favourite points of intuitive eating: recognizing that everybody’s body is vastly different. Our genetics, our body shapes, and our unique wants and needs vary.I’m 5’2″ and I will never be a 6’0″ supermodel, and I’m cool with that.
One of the best ways for us to shift our perspective about the body we feel we need to have, is to love what our bodies are capable of. I’m not saying I’ve never had things I want to change, but my legs help me walk, my arms work, I can breathe, and the less we focus on our appearance and instead what our body can do, the more we can learn to love them. Our bodies are so intelligent, and being proud of and fascinated by them is key to not fearing food, but instead enjoying it and trusting and loving ourselves in the process.
Do you practice Intuitive Eating? How has it changed your life?