You might have heard recently about intuitive eating. If you’re wondering what it is and what the benefits are, stay tuned, because that’s what this episode is all about.

Before you listen to this, I recommend you listen to the previous episode #61, where I discussed Body Intelligence or BQ.

Intuitive eating is a type of Body Awareness, which is the first pillar of BQ (body intelligence).

Intuitive eating is a concept that was developed by Evelyn Tribole, a dietician and counsellor, and Elyse Resche, a nutritionist.

They define intuitive eating as:

“a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.”

It is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought, and the authors of this approach call it ‘weight neutral’. 

The idea is to trust and use your inner signals, both mental and physical, as a guide for what to eat, how much to eat, and when.

I wanted to speak about this because it’s so close to my heart and it’s a big part of the Metabolic Typing process that I was trained in and use with many hundreds of my clients.

An End to Dieting Mentality

Intuitive Eating proposes an end to the dieting mentality – but what does this actually mean?

I had a bit of internal conflict around the idea of dieting and not dieting for some time, and after some reflection I got clear on my position around this.

Firstly, I believe that there are circumstances where it makes sense for some people to follow specific diets.

Here are some examples of this:

  1. Many overweight people have fatty liver and dysregulated insulin. In this case, a short period of low carb eating might be required to regain insulin sensitivity and to get rid of cravings sooner.
  2. Some people develop temporary intolerances to certain foods – and this can happen in periods of intense stress or if you eat too much of a certain food, or if your immune system is triggered – so in this case it makes sense to follow a low-stress diet for a short period to allow the body to recover from its inflammatory/reactive state.
  3. People with gut health issues might need to temporarily or permanently be on a specific ‘diet’, such as a FODMAPS diet, or a high fibre diet or a diet for Crohn’s or celiac disease, for example.
  4. People with a chronic lifestyle disease may need to follow a specific type of diet to manage their symptoms or condition, such as diabetes, heart disease etc.

The idea is to trust and use your inner signals, both mental and physical, as a guide for what to eat, how much to eat, and when.

What I’m saying is this – in certain situations, some people DO need to have a certain mentality around what they do or don’t eat, because it may affect their wellbeing.

That aside, if we look at what the word diet means, it’s simply the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

So to be clear, what we’re talking about with Intuitive Eating is that we are aiming to stop being obsessed by food and eating habits, to stop unnecessarily restricting ourselves, and to stop having negative or harmful thoughts around food or our bodies.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Let’s explore the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.

1. Reject the diet mentality

This principle is about ignoring the quick fix marketing and solutions we are sold, and the promise that the next diet will work and solve all your problems.

The truth is, when we rely on someone else for the answer, we give them our power. And in actual fact, your body is designed to give you all the signals you need to eat  in a way that nourishes and supports good health. It’s our in-built survival mechanism

2. Honour your hunger

Leading on from the first point, we must learn to recognise true hunger and to give your body enough of the right kinds of food.  

Our bodies use carbs and fat for fuel, and can also use protein if the other fuel sources are not available. We need to trust that our bodies will tell us when we are truly hungry and give them a balanced die.

3. Make peace with food

Food is not a reward or a punishment. Restricting is a sure fire recipe for creating guilt, binges and uncontrollable cravings. 

It’s important that we allow ourselves to eat healthily in a way that supports our bodies and minds and to use self-compassion when we feel urges.

4. Challenge the food police

There is no good or bad food. There is no forbidden food or treat food. There is no need to do calorie accounting. Applying these labels and this intense scrutiny creates guilt, judgement and self-loathing.

In actual fact, there is just food, and it is a fuel. Thinking this way about food, without any labels can help you to make peace and eliminate the negative thoughts and feelings about it.

5. Respect your fullness

Our bodies tell us when we’ve had enough to eat. When we make the time and space to notice these signals, we will naturally stop eating.

Mindfulness is a tool that can help us observe this simple and powerful signal.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor

Rather than busily scoffing our meal or feeling wanting for something else, we can enjoy eating and feel satisfied with our eating by simply paying attention to our food and the experience of eating it.

When you truly experience the process of eating – the texture, colours, flavours and smells – then it’s much easier to feel satisfied.

7. Honour your feelings without using food

Some of us have been conditioned to reach for food when we’re anxious, lonely, bored, stressed, angry or sad.  

But food won’t solve the problem and may make things words, by throwing feelings of guilt into the mix. 

There are healthier ways to manage your mind and your emotions and you can use those processes to replace food and honour your feelings, so that you can sit with them and let them go in a healthy way.

8. Respect your body

A lot of people think that a healthy body must look a certain way. The reality is, as I learned in my Metabolic Typing qualification, we are all different sizes and shapes and, we are biochemically unique on the inside.

Our physical bodies are adapted to different climates – cold climates, mountainous climates, hot climates.

Our biochemistry is adapted to the available food sources that are in those local environments. 

Respecting your body starts with recognising that your natural shape and size gives you unique strengths and skills, and by fueling your body with the right foods for YOUR body type.

9. Exercise and feel the difference

Further to this, each person does best with a different type of exercise. Your physiology gives clues as to which exercise might work better for you – but also consider your levels of stress, your stage of life and what you like to do.

If you’re only exercising to lose weight then you’re missing out on a wealth of other benefits like stress management, endorphins, strength, flexibility, agility, stamina and mobility.

Look for other motivators or goals around exercise and you’ll quickly learn to love it. 

10. Honour your health

Finally, nobody has a perfect diet. One meal won’t throw your entire life off track. Rather, choose foods that help your body to feel strong, clear, capable and well.

If you choose foods that create these feelings most of the time, it will make healthy eating so much easier, and you’ll be able to turn it into a habit that you love.

Summary

To wrap things up, you can see that the principles of intuitive eating are about body awareness, body knowledge and then body engagement – they are intrinsically tied with the principles of BQ, as discussed in episode 60 of this podcast.

Choose foods that help your body to feel strong, clear, capable and well.

The skills and tools that help you become an intuitive eating are mindfulness, thought watching and thought change modelling.

Changing your relationship with food is about more than just making a plan and doing it – it also means unravelling your old mental patterns and beliefs so that you can let go of past behaviours, and start taking positive actions in the right direction.

For assistance with intuitive eating, visit melaniejwhite.com/contact page.

Ready to learn more about intuitive eating?

Changing your relationship with food can be the start of a whole new relationship with yourself. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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