What Exactly is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating provides a new way of eating that is ultimately struggle-free and healthy for your mind and body. It is a process that unleashes the shackles of dieting (which can only lead to deprivation, rebellion and rebound weight gain). It means getting back to your roots – trusting your body and its signals. Intuitive Eating will not only change your relationship with food; it may change your life.” – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

Pretty bold claims, if you ask me. I’m sure that you, like many others, have tried at least 1 diet. Perhaps you are on one now. Maybe you characterize yourself as a yo-yo dieter, always looking for another diet to help you lose weight and feel comfortable with what you can and can’t eat. We live in a culture that is obsessed with diets, weight loss and being smaller – and it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype.

When I found Intuitive Eating, I was coming off nearly 2 years of restriction, elimination diets, food labels, cheat days and obsession with what I put into my body. I was tired. My main desire was to have my brain space occupied by something other than food and exercise.

Intuitive Eating helped me do that – and it changed my life at the same time.

WHAT IS INTUITIVE EATING?

Intuitive Eaters march to their inner hunger signals and eat whatever they choose without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma. The Intuitive Eater is an unaffected eater.” – Intuitive Eating Book

Intuitive Eating goes back to basics and provides a foundation and framework for building a positive relationship with food and your body. There are 10 principles that make up this framework:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Feel Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
  10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

While this idea of stress and struggle free relationship with food sounds great, the reality is that it does take some time to get to the point of being an Intuitive Eater. The book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, progresses people through 5 stages.

THE 5 STAGES OF INTUITIVE EATING

First, you need to be ready. Perhaps, like me, you are tired of dieting, of fighting with your body, of the guilt and shame that come with eating forbidden foods, like bread and ice cream and cookies. The journey to Intuitive Eating starts with you making the choice to make the change.

Next comes, exploration. You’ll be going back to basics, learning how to listen to your hunger and satiety cues, learning to make peace with food, experimenting with foods you haven’t eaten in some time, and working on establishing a more positive relationship with food and your body. This stage can be tough, but remember that hard work is required to make lasting change. When you enter stage 3 and 4, things start to get easier. You will start establishing trust – with your food choices and your body. You’ll be able to better honor your hunger, respect your fullness, enjoy your once-forbidden foods more often and begin to enjoy all foods again.

When you enter stage 5, ‘you will feel empowered and protected from outside forces telling you what and how much to eat, and how your body should look. You will feel free from the burden of dieting.’ – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

All this sounds great, right? Maybe a little too good to be true? Are thoughts of eating binges and excessive weight gain running through your head as you think about saying goodbye to diets or eating your forbidden foods regularly?

HOW TO START YOUR INTUITIVE EATING JOURNEY

It all starts with mindset. Think through all those diets you’ve tried over the years. How many of them have worked – for the long-term? How was your relationship with food during those diets? Did feelings of guilt and shame surface when you cheated? How did restriction make you feel? Take some time to think through these things and determine if diets have ever really served you well.

Then consider this: what’s the worst thing that can happen if you try out Intuitive Eating? It won’t work and you go back to another diet. The lack of rules and rigidity with this method can throw some off, but it’s the lack of rules and rigidity that produce long-term results. By moving through the principles, not only are you establishing a different and more positive relationship with food and your body, but you are being equipped with the tools and strategies that will help you in the long-term.

Looking for additional resources?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 4-part Intuitive Eating 101 Series. In Part 2, we will go over the first three principles and help you learn how you can get started on your Intuitive Eating Journey!

Jen Elliott, CES, CPT, PN1

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