How to Get Started on Your Intuitive Eating Journey

Welcome back to our 4-part series on Intuitive Eating 101. In our previous post, we shared an introduction to Intuitive Eating and why it’s a framework that can provide you with last, long-term results. In Part 2, we will discuss principles 1 – 3.

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #1: REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY

If you Google search, ‘how many diets are there’, the Wikipedia link provides a list broken up into categories such a crash diets, medically prescribed diets, and weight management diets. Look on the cover of nearly any magazine and you will see a headline related to weight loss or diets. Diet culture is everywhere and there is something for everyone.

Rejecting the Diet Mentality is the first Intuitive Eating Principle and for good reason. Making the choice to cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body starts with examining our beliefs and the things we’ve been taught about food. Here are some steps you can take to start ditching the diet mentality.

  • Recognize and acknowledge the damage dieting causes. Chronic dieting can: slow the rate of weight loss, increase binges and cravings and teach the body to retain more fat when you start eating again. Dieting can produce more stress, lowered self-esteem and society anxiety and lack of self-confidence and self-trust. Recognize what’s going on and how these messages have affected you personally.

Even if you aren’t currently on a diet, it’s still important to consider some examples of pseudo-dieting like, counting or limiting carbs, only eating ‘safe’ or ‘good’ foods, restricting foods (for non-medical reasons), only eating at certain times of day OR not eating at certain times of day, and second-guessing or judging what you deserve to eat based on your food choices earlier in the day. Do you follow any of these behaviors and how are they serving you?

  • Be aware of diet mentality traits and thinking. Ever feel like you have no ‘willpower’ or that you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be eating certain foods. These point to diet culture talk and don’t have a place in Intuitive Eating.
  • Get rid of dieter tools. The scale is probably the most common diet tool and one of the toughest to get rid of. The scale is just that, a tool, and it never paints of the full picture of health or the body. Yet, we give so much power to the number on the scale. Getting to a point where you can ditch the scale – and have the number not send you into a downward spiral – is a great goal to work toward.
  • Be compassionate to yourself. Instead of beating yourself up for your food choices, instead, consider whether or not you are hungry, or if the food(s) will leave you feeling satisfied. Instead of using exercise as a way to punish yourself for the food you ate, reframe it and consider how exercise makes you feel and whether you actually enjoy your workouts.

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #2: HONOR YOUR HUNGER

Honoring Your Hunger is the second Intuitive Eating Principle. Going back to the idea of a lack of willpower. ‘What most people believe to be an issue of willpower, is instead a biological drive.’ – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

We need food to survive and we have biological cues that help tell us when it’s time to eat. Dieting teaches us to ignore those cues. Instead, we restrict, we use coffee or gum or soda in place of food and we only allow ourselves to eat within a certain timeframe or at certain times throughout the day. Have you ever experienced these cues and instead of listening, followed your diet’s suggestion for ‘combatting’ hunger or just ignored your body altogether?

  • Light-headedness
  • Uncomfortable stomach pain
  • Gurgling or gnawing in the stomach
  • Growling
  • Headache
  • Being Hangry

The next time you experience these cues, instead of ignoring, flip the script. Check in with your body: are you hungry? What is your hunger level? If you find you experience those cues an hour or two after eating a meal, think through what you ate. Do you need more food at that specific meal time? What can you eat now to satisfy your hunger? (Because it’s okay to eat a snack or another meal, even if you ate a meal 1 to 2 hours prior!)

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #3: MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD

If I were to ask you to tell me one of your fear foods, forbidden foods, or bad foods, what would you tell me? I had my fair share and they ranged from regular pizza, ice cream, doughnuts, and just about anything made with gluten.

I’m betting that l like I did, you restrict these foods 90% of the time. However, every so often you make the choice to eat that food and you end up going ham! Then, you decide to never eat that food again and the cycle of restricting and binging goings on and on.

Being able to enjoy your fear foods, forbidden foods, and bad foods with guilt, shame or restriction all starts with trusting yourself and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.

Making peace with food means allowing all foods into your eating world so that a choice for chocolate becomes emotionally equal to a choice for a peach. It also means that your food choices do not reflect your character or morality…once you truly know you can eat whatever you want, the intensity to eat greatly diminishes. The most effective way to instill this belief is to experience the very foods you forbid.‘ – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

If you are ready to make peace with your fear, forbidden and bad foods, here are five simple steps (and I’ve done these before too!):

  1. Pay attention to foods that are appealing and make a list
  2. Give yourself permission to eat 1 of your fear, forbidden or bad foods from your list
  3. Go get this food – from the store and make it or order from an eatery
  4. Find a comfortable space, get rid of distractions and enjoy each bite. Check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you imaged it would. If it doesn’t, stop eating. If it does, continue to give yourself permission to make or order this food item more often.
  5. Journal your thoughts and remind yourself of the experience. Remember that one meal does not have the power to ruin the rest of your day.

Looking for additional resources?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this 4-part series on Intuitive Eating. In Part 3, we will go over the second three principles and help you learn how you can get started on your Intuitive Eating Journey. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 here!

Jen Elliott, CES, CPT, PN1
Jen is a fitness & mindset coach that empowers women to ditch extremes and love their bodies, while still seeing the results they desire. As a corrective exercise specialist, personal trainer, nutrition coach, and group fitness instructor, she loves moving her body and fueling it well. She lives in Cicero with her husband and fur kids. When she’s not working with clients, you can find her sipping on coffee or walking outside listening to a podcast. Learn more about Jen and how you can work with her here!

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