THE 10 INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLES:
1. REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY
This is an important starting point for most clients, where you can really assess your own history with dieting. If it is all you’ve known, for years – decades even – the thought of ‘rejecting’ it can be daunting. But when we truly unpack the fact that diets do not work and in many cases cause physical and emotional harm, we begin to move away from a desire to shrink ourselves at all costs and instead move towards adopting more health-promoting behaviours for our longevity and happiness.
2. HONOUR YOUR HUNGER
Ignoring or suppressing hunger signals is how most people engage in dieting, which, in turn, can often trigger a primal drive to eat past the point of comfort at a later stage. This restrict-binge cycle is a result of not honouring your hunger. This principle helps you relearn what hunger feels like in your body and to listen for the myriad signals your body sends in relation to hunger.
3. MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD
Making peace with food is about giving yourself unconditional permission to eat; rejecting the rules about what’s allowed and what’s off-limits. Having these rigid rules around foods can lead to feelings of deprivation, which can turn into intense cravings or bingeing. When all foods are allowed, we gently develop our ‘habituation’ and often foods lose their power: previously ‘off-limit’ foods can begin to live in the cupboard the same way gravy granules or flour can – just food, to be used or not used.
4. CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE
Do you have a voice in your head that commends you for eating “good” foods and guilts and shames you for eating “bad” foods? That’s the food police, a recruit of diet culture, monitoring every bite you take and judging it. Years of dieting can make it feel like this is your ‘normal’ thought process, that you’re certain on what foods are healthy and clean and what foods are unhealthy or bad. The moral judgment associated with food is what is being challenged here, rejecting negative thoughts and strict rules that show up when you eat.
5. DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR
Pleasure is important. Eating enough food (i.e. principle 6 feeling our fullness) may still leave us feeling unsatisfied if it has come from a place of restriction. Satisfaction can be present at every meal when we give ourselves permission to choose foods that we find pleasurable.
6. FEEL YOUR FULLNESS
Reaching satiation or comfortable fullness is a skill we can relearn within intuitive eating. Mindful and reflective eating allows you to pause and determine how your food tastes and how your hunger is being honoured. External rules such as ‘finishing your plate’ or adhering to portion sizes are replaced by internal cues such as satisfaction and fullness.
7. COPE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS WITH KINDNESS
Emotional eating is a legitimate way to self-soothe in the midst of negative experiences. It may be a tool that you use and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The issue is when eating is your only coping mechanism, when you feel you have no other outlet or release or way to soothe. Finding additional ways to process anxiety, loneliness, boredom, or anger that do not involve eating can be extremely important and provides you with access to more varied tools in times of discomfort or crisis. Self-care practices are essential to this stage of your intuitive eating journey.
8. RESPECT YOUR BODY
Your body deserves respect. This can be one of the most difficult principles for those who have spent years at war with their bodies, talking negatively to themselves, and punitively trying to shrink themselves. Diet culture convinces us that smaller bodies are better bodies and that we can all have the ideal body if we want it bad enough. Learning to respect your body means that you exist without caveat. You are so much more than a body and your worth cannot be defined by how you look or what you weigh. Your body deserves respect, nourishment, and care. You don’t have to love it. You don’t have to worship it. You just have to respect it.
9. JOYFUL MOVEMENT
Diet culture often frames exercise as a punitive way to manage your body, to burn calories, to lose weight, to shrink, to shred, to beast. For so many, it can feel like a chore rather than an enjoyable, experiential or affirming moment in their day. Movement can be joyful. It doesn’t have to be militant and exhausting in order to “count.” Any kind of movement that you enjoy and that feels good is worth pursuing and can enhance your health, longevity, and happiness.
10. HONOUR YOUR HEALTH WITH GENTLE NUTRITION
There’s a reason this is the final principle: if we haven’t fully committed ourselves to rejecting the diet mentality or making peace with food, any attempt to incorporate nutrition can turn intuitive eating into just another diet with another set of rules on what to eat or how to eat. When you are ready to engage in gentle nutrition, you can discover a way to make food choices that honour your needs for your physical and mental health.