New Year, New You

Intuitive Eating

It's All About Trusting Your Gut

Many people have a complicated relationship with food. Unrealistic expectations about how we should look, a string of unsuccessful diets in an attempt to lose weight, and emotional triggers all contribute to eating patterns that may not be healthy. And it can be a vicious cycle. You tell yourself, “I’m not good enough, I need to go on a diet.” You lose a few pounds. You gain them back and feel shame for losing the battle. That shame can then lead to more self-judgment, more pain and a return to eating habits that aren’t healthy or sustainable.

Enter intuitive eating. You might call it the un-diet, because it’s not about losing weight. The idea behind it is that you regain a healthy relationship with food and learn to have a better body image. Intuitive eating means you eat when you’re hungry, because your body needs nourishment. And you stop eating when you’ve had enough. Intuitive eating puts you in charge. There are no suggested or preferred foods, no scales, no calorie-counting…nothing that feels restrictive or makes you feel deprived. 

Here are the ten basic tenets of an intuitive eating practice:

  1. Forget about the latest weight loss diet fads that promise unrealistic results. They’re restrictive, can cause feelings of deprivation and usually set you up for failure. In short, they don’t work in the long run.
  2. Hunger is part of being alive. It’s a physical signal that we need to eat. Ask yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10, how hungry am I? Try to eat before you get overly hungry and stop before you’re stuffed.
  3. Stop thinking about foods as “good” or “bad.” Make peace with food instead of fighting it. It’s just food. It’s our fuel. 
  4. Food is not the enemy. And you aren’t “good” or “bad” based on what you eat. Try to nip those messages in the bud.
  5. Honor your body’s signal that you’ve had enough. Keep tabs on how you feel as you eat so you’re attuned to your body’s “I’m full” alert.
  6. Enjoy food fully. Savor the aroma, texture and taste with every bite. Make each meal an enjoyable, relaxed experience and be present. This may actually help you eat less food.
  7. Be aware of your emotions. Don’t judge them; acknowledge them. Try to deal with them in a way that doesn’t involve food. Call a friend, take a walk, meditate or read a book.
  8. Your body is beautiful. Stop the negative self-talk about your body. Remember that it’s just not realistic to look like a supermodel. Look around you and notice all the body shapes and sizes you see. Yours is no better nor worse. Delight in what your body does for you each and every day.
  9. Move more. But don’t think you have to spend hours at the gym with the goal of losing weight. Be active for how it makes you feel. Enjoy having more energy, stamina and strength. 
  10. Gentle nutrition. This means that you try to eat foods that are best for your health and wellness but remember that the occasional treat or big meal isn’t going to affect you negatively in the grand scheme of things.

In short, listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Listen to those messages without judgment. Embrace the notion that you’re doing it for your overall well-being and happiness. 

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