Intuitive eating “was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995.” Intuitive Eating is a way of eating that gets ourselves in touch with how we approached food as infants and young children. Babies have an innate instinct of satiation and aren’t super influenced by external cues yet (which I will get more into).
I used to be a fashion model, so I’ve gotten many questions about eating and dieting (whether I like it or not). I’ve done many different things for my body, both good and bad. I’ve gone weeks without eating barely anything and I’ve also binge eaten an entire batch of cookies. I used to do this dance between restriction and no restriction at all. Both would always leave me unhappy, defeated, and drained. I think the worst thing about it is that my life felt so ruled from my food intake and I want my life to feel more meaningful than that.
The principles of Intuitive Eating will vary depending on who you ask. To me, Intuitive Eating is a way of eating that doesn’t have any specific dietary guidelines. It isn’t primarily about losing weight, although that could be a byproduct of it. It’s different from any other kind of eating, because you only have to rely on yourself to do it. You gather unique information from yourself and you are the only one that really knows the truth. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, because you’re the only one watching. It seems like there could be a lot at stake and maybe you’re even thinking should I actually trust myself? The answer is YES duh! and I will break down how you can listen to yourself in this article.
How do I start Intuitive Eating?
- Cultivate Awareness. Intuitive Eating starts with awareness. This can be done with something as simple as breathing techniques. Notice your chest expand and contract with each breath. Meditation and breathing can help us be mindful throughout the day and tune into our own intuitive eating. This can help us make more educated decisions before each meal or snack.
- Notice Internal and External Cues. It’s important to be able to distinguish between these two concepts in order to tap into our own intuitive eating. External cues are something that we are probably more familiar with. This could be something as simple as looking at a food advertisement or a plate of food and feeling hungry based off our own senses engaging with the external world. Internal cues on the other hand, is about feeling hunger from within. In order to begin getting in touch with this, we need to somewhat erase the external cue. Take a moment and pause and close your eyes. Breath in and out. Do you feel full or hungry based off the sensations in your body? Internal cues aren’t about craving or desire, but the information of satiation our body can give us. The more this is practiced, the more you can tap into it even when there are external cues around.
- Drink water. Are you hungry or do you just need some extra hydration? If you aren’t sure, drink a full glass of water first. This will help you determine how hungry you really are. I think many of us have been in a situation where we’ve eaten and then realize afterwards that we were just really thirsty. Also, I know this has nothing to do with water but while you’re eating, take pauses and chew your food! It will help with digestion.
- Become a scientist to your own body and mind. Before you can make educated choices, you have to be educated about yourself. This can be as simple as taking note of how you feel after eating certain foods. For example, sometimes nut butters make me feel overheated and slow my digestion. This could sound weird to some people, but this is only a fact that I could know about myself because I developed an awareness around it. I can’t eat food before I go to bed either because it gives me too much energy to fall asleep. These little details vary from person to person. Once you’ve been paying attention to yourself for a while, this will start to make sense. Notice the sensations and also the feelings around food. Do you eat more when you feel a certain emotion? Does a specific food bring up a certain emotion? Take note and don’t judge, just observe. The information your body gives you will help guide you.
- Don’t rely too much on outside advice. People always have an idea of what is good and bad but it’s all subjective. Seek advice from within and that is the truest advice you will receive. I think as women, we are socialized to seek answers elsewhere, but the healthiest choice will always be our own inner wisdom. You don’t need to ask someone if a food is good or bad for you or if they think you should eat it. What do YOU think? You have all of the answers and your body will tell you. Say goodbye to the food police. It’s also nice to not always involve others in the personal relationship you have with your body. I have found that by involving others, it can lead to more stress around my habits and body image. Remember, that you are the boss! Intuitive eating is a beautiful and personal thing. Because you are the only one getting the information from your body, you’re the only one that needs to know. Hush the voices of the outside critics.
- Question your own habits. Where do they come from? What do they mean? For example, I’ve always had such a sweet tooth. I remember when I was in grade school and sometimes, I would feel stressed so I would reach for ice cream, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the negative emotions of stress. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to do this, but it was not coming from my own intuition. It was a habitual stress response. Having an awareness of this, helps me listen to my inner voice. Before making a food decision, I ask myself why I want to eat the food and I check in with my emotional state. A good prompt for situations like these is to ask yourself how you feel when wanting to give into a food habit. This can be helpful to better understand yourself and how to love yourself through intuitive eating.
- Are you craving nutrients or are you giving into an addiction? This distinction can be hard to make at first. Sometimes from a sugar or caffeine withdrawal headaches are normal and not something that we are “doing wrong.” Cravings always do pass. So, when you have a craving for something that has felt toxic to your body and mind in the past, notice the craving and observe it instead of acting on it. The good news is that cravings always go away. You haven’t craved the same food 24-7, 7 days a week, right? It’s always changing. In the meantime, keep yourself busy drinking water or doing an activity like listening to a podcast. Redirect yourself to more channels of positivity as the wave passes over. I like to imagine it like an ocean waves peacefully passing through. It’s loud and strong, but beautiful and temporary. Also take note of the satisfaction factor. If the foods you are consuming aren’t leaving you satiated enough, maybe it’s time to try some different foods.
- Don’t fixate. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror so much. Just stop. Forget that you even have a body! I know it sounds extreme (and a little funny), but it’s super necessary and especially if you spend time hating on yourself. That negative energy alone can drain you of making smart decisions. I’ve done it before. I would stand in front of the mirror for a long time and fixate about things that I didn’t like and wanted to change. It’s okay to not like things about yourself and want to make changes, but it’s never okay to fixate. Fixation is what leaves to self-doubt and hate in my opinion. I also want to say that you can still love yourself while wanting to make changes. For me, this looks like not looking in the mirror to much. I’ll change by intuitively eating and moving, not from staring at myself for hours. It’s okay to check your outfit and makeup quick, but the minute you catch yourself fixating, STOP. Take a deep breath and be you. Have fun and get away from that mirror! Also limit social media. That also can lead to fixation if you spend too much time on it. Focus on intuition and not weight loss. This will also reduce stress and cortisol in your body which can get in the way of making healthy changes.
- You aren’t a sum of your past. Be sure to honor your health in the now. Did you do terrible things to yourself before? Did you eat until your whole body hurt? Did you starve until your whole body hurt? It doesn’t matter! Intuitive eaters choose again and choose out of love. Your past is not important. It’s all about the present moment and how you feel NOW. What is your body telling you NOW? Assess the way you feel in each moment. The future and the past are not your responsibility. Each moment you have a chance to make an educated choice for your body and mind. Intuitive eating is all about being present with your body, loving it, accepting it, and listening to it. Adding in some gentle nutrition and nourishment will help you thrive without having to restrict yourself.
- It’s okay to feel hungry or not hungry. You might notice that with cultivating awareness around your intuition may cause you to actually eat less. It’s different for everyone, but if this is the case, just know that it is okay. Intuitive eating has helped me stop eating sweets late at night. Naturally, my body will notice a difference and feel hungry when I first make these changes. If you notice that you are eating more, that is also great. There is no need for restriction, as eating should be a pleasurable thing that nourishes the body. You can give yourself unconditional permission to eat when you are following your intuition.
Practice mindfulness around each of the things on this list and notice the changes you will see in your life. Trusting your body can take time, but it’s worth it. The best thing is that intuitive eating is far from a diet. It’s also a beautiful gift to learn to be able to trust yourself and that’s what intuitive eating is all about. Intuitive eating isn’t some diet that will come and go. It’s a lifestyle and something that will serve you for life.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
- Mental Clarity
- Reduced Emotional Eating
Are you interested in learning more about intuitive eating? Feel free to send me a DM with any questions you might have. My blog, The Heartbeet is all about intuitive eating. It’s about listening to yourself and shutting out the voices of doubt, whether it’s from yourself or others. Take your power back and go listen to that inner wisdom!
I love you all!