What is Intuitive Eating?

By now you might have heard about Intuitive Eating (don’t worry if not) and found yourself wondering what it actually is.  

I spend most of my time working with clients on Intuitive Eating, frequently talk about it over on my Instagram page, and spoke about it on Laura Thomas’ podcast. So I figured it was a good time to give you all an overview here on the blog and explain what Intuitive Eating really is.

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Intuitive Eating is a health-promoting framework to help you tune into your body’s internal cues for hunger, fullness, pleasure and satisfaction.

How often have you thought “gosh, I’m hungry … but it’s not lunchtime yet”, or “no, I shouldn’t, I’m being good”?

These thoughts around our food intake are rooted in external rules and restrictions, rather than using our bodies to guide our food choices and coming from a place of self care to serve your fundamental needs and pleasures.

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Intuitive Eating can help you get out of your head about what you should or shouldn’t be eating – quietening down that voice that’s constantly questioning if you’ve made the ‘right’ food decision.

Working on Intuitive Eating can help you rebuild trust with your body – trusting that our body can tell us what and when we need to eat, and knowing that you can trust yourself around all foods. It helps you get out of the cycle of restriction and ‘over-eating’ that many of us find ourselves in when trying to control our food intake – you know that one where you vow to ‘be good’ and then later that day (or week) you end up head first in a tub of ice cream (or whatever you vowed not to eat).

Throughout the process of Intuitive Eating, we learn to challenge black-and-white thinking around food, whether that’s thinking of foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’, or more obvious external rules such as calorie counting or work-out plans.

This framework of Intuitive Eating was developed in the 90’s by two American registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and consists of the following principles;

  1. Ditch the Diet Mentality
  2. Honour your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Feel your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Understanding Emotional Eating
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Joyful Movement
  10. Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

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Now, you might be wondering, “what’s the big deal if I’m ‘good’ during the week and then ‘treat’ myself at the weekend?” And it’s true, not everyone becomes a cropper from this kind of dichotomising language around food (and movement – but that’s another convo for another day). But I’d invite you to consider how much headspace is currently taken up with thoughts about food – the ‘healthiness’ of it, how much you’re ‘allowed’ to eat, whether you can have dessert because you ate a chocolate biscuit at work, how long you need to run for to ‘work off’ what you ate at the weekend.

If thoughts like these are occupying a lot of your time, I firstly want to say, I’ve been there – experienced intense anxiety around what I ‘should’ be eating and how long I should be working out for. But secondly, although our current diet- and body-focussed culture would suggest otherwise, these thoughts do not need to take up so much of your brain. There can be (and should be) space to consider and think about your passions, interests, friends and family – things that often get pushed to the side when anxieties around body and food become too loud.

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In this series of blog posts I’ll be taking a dive into each of the principles of Intuitive Eating, to give you more info on what each one means, and how you can start practicing them, so stay tuned!

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To find out more about Intuitive Eating, why not check out the resources below (including Amazon Associate links):

Intuitive Eating – Evelyn Tribole + Elyse Resch

Just Eat It – Laura Thomas, PhD

Don’t Salt My Game podcast

Food Psych podcast

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Image: Daria Shevtsova

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