Intuitive eating is the most sustainable long term approach to nutrition. But what does it mean, and how can you start using it?
Calorie counting, food tracking, and meal plans can be a viable approach to weight loss for a short period of time. But what happens next? Nobody should track calories forever. The best way to eat is one that is sustainable, flexible, and versatile.
What is intuitive eating?
As the name suggests, intuitive eating is a way of working with your body’s natural cues to eat in a way that is both physically and mentally healthy.
This is a way of thinking about food that rejects diet dogma and instead embraces food as a natural and necessary part of living a full and energised life.
Intuitive eating shuns rules and numbers. Its main goal is to support you in building a good relationship with food.
How does intuitive eating work?
Intuitive eating can be a challenge, because so many of us have spent years ignoring our hunger and appetite cues in favour of obeying calorie counters. Successful intuitive eating means really tuning in to your body’s signals. Food, after all, is energy.
- Are you hungry?
- How hungry on a scale of 1-10?
- Has the hunger built up gradually or quickly?
- How are you feeling physically and emotionally?
- Are you tired? If so, do you need food-energy or sleep-energy?
- How is your environment influencing your food behaviour?
- Is your body craving a food or type of food? What might this mean?
Learning to listen and interpret your body and brain cues around hunger, appetite, and energy are invaluable skills to developing an eating practice that frees you from diet mentality.
Does intuitive eating mean eating everything?
It might sound like intuitive eating means doing away with any rules around food, and eating everything with wild abandon. That’s not it at all.
The point is that your body makes the rules. If you feel particularly tired and run down one evening and really fancy something sweet, have it. No guilt, no regret, and certainly no 10K run in the morning to “get back on track”.
Similarly, if your body is telling you it wants light, fresh food for a few days, you can enjoy choosing salads and fruits. There’s no judgement or merit associated either way.
1) Puts you in touch with your body’s hunger, satiety, appetite and food preference signals
2) Promotes a healthy relationship with food and body image (1)
3) Allows you to set a healthy example to children and others
4) Helps you achieve food freedom after dieting or tracking
5) Creates autonomy over food choices and food intake
6) Breaks down unhealthy associations about “good” and “bad” foods
7) Is flexible and ultimately sustainable for every stage of life
How to get started with intuitive eating
One thing to know before you start is that intuitive eating takes some getting used to. There may be some bumps in the road and it will be trial and error. But remember the golden rule of intuitive eating: no judgement. So if you overeat, or feel lost without diet rules, don’t worry. Tomorrow is always another day.
Delete any food tracking apps you may be using
Start a food, energy, sleep and mood diary
Eat when you feel hungry (and get used to what this feels like)
No foods are off limits
Stop eating when you want to (you don’t have to clear your plate)
It’s OK to leave behind embedded rules around food, meal timings, food combinations and anything else
Intuitive eating can bring up some challenging emotions around food and eating. Be prepared for these so you can deal with them if they arise.
Your inner food police – be prepared to gently shoo away the inner voice telling you which foods are bad, or that you can’t eat that or will need to burn off the calories
Knowing what hunger feels like – if you’re a long term dieter you may be out of touch with your own hunger cues so use a diary to develop the relationship
Feeling your fullness – you’ll also need to get familiar with the true feeling of satisfaction and fullness from eating
Emotional eating – intuitive eating also means being intuitive about when not to eat, so start developing different ways of dealing with difficult emotions
Interested in knowing more about how intuitive eating could work for you? Drop me a line.
‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’
References used in todays blog: