What Does it Mean to Eat Intuitively?

In todays world, there is so much conflicting information out there. Some include, eat lots of protein, carbs are bad, eliminate gluten, stay away from fat, eat a high fat diet, vegan and vegetarian equals healthy, dairy is the devil, and the list goes on. 

I read something recently that said, “It’s Simple… just eat five small meals per day and run. Also, eat only breakfast and dinner, and walk. Also, eat LOTS of protein, lift and don’t do any cardio because its bad for your joints. Also, don’t eat too much protein and make sure you’re sleeping a lot. But don’t be sedentary, but not be too active, its bad for your blood pressure. Make sure you replace all your lost salt, but NEVER eat too much sodium. It’s easy, just eat vegetables. Don’t eat potatoes or corn, though. Fruit is good for you but fruit is also sugar so its bad for you. Oh and I forgot to mention that sugar is a vital source of quick burn carbohydrates that your brain needs to survive, and you should avoid it at all costs. Protein hurts your kidneys, make sure you eat a lot of it. DRINK WATER. Don’t over hydrate. Never starve yourself, unless you’re calling it “intermittent fasting” and then its ok to starve yourself a little bit. Being vegan is obviously the most healthy lifestyle and also, it’s terrible for you. Fish is so good for you, oh and its full of mercury, stay away from it. Get some sun everyday for Vitamin D and skin cancer!

To me, this shows that there are lots of conflicting information that comes from when something works or doesn’t work for someone and so things are ever changing. So, which one is right?!

Thats where and why intuitive eating comes in. Everyone and every body is different; needing different things at different times (and thats normal and ok!). Eating intuitively has nothing to do with diets, willpower, exercise, dos and dont’s; its about learning to trust YOUR body. This new “non-diet” approach helps you understand your hunger cues and tune into your body signals. This helps us break the cycle of yo-yo dieting and restricting and pushes our society to get back to, actually just eating when hungry.

Babies have the best sense of intuitive eating – they know when they are hungry so they cry to get food, eat until they are full and then stop eating until they feel that hunger sensation again, thats it. As we grow up and listen to all the chatter around food and food rules and should and shouldn’ts, we start to forget what our bodies want and do what others tell us we are “supposed to do.”

The way to really start learning to how eat intuitively is to start by letting go of the rules. Stop counting calories, or macros or eliminating certain food groups because you think or were told that “you should.” This will start to heal your relationship with food. Stop thinking food is the enemy. I bet that immediately you’re thinking, “so, you’re telling me to eat whatever I want, whenever I want? That doesn’t make sense. Wont I gain weight?, etc” …That right there, is the relationship and mindset that you need to heal. Because, that doesn’t happen to be the case at all. Your body is a lot smarter than you think. 

Just because Karen said she heard dairy is the devil, doesn’t mean it is or it isn’t. So, for example, if you don’t eat dairy for no specific reason, go ahead and add diary back into your diet; see how your body reacts and feels. Go ahead, eat that cookie at 2pm on a Tuesday. Even go ahead and eat that vegetables that your body is craving for dinner. It’s all part of life. Now you’re thinking, “WHY? What does this mean, how does this work?” It all goes back to human nature of wanting what we can’t have or putting rules or emphasis on things that don’t need it. 

If you tell yourself you can eat WHATEVER you want WHENEVER you want, your first thought is that you’ll just eat sleeves of Oreos, pounds of French fries and cartons of ice cream. But you know what, you might for a day, but then your gut and body knows what it needs (it is a lot smarter than we are because it goes off of what it needs and not off of emotion or cravings), and that is the beauty of intuitive eating.

Will you crave a burger sometimes? Yes. Should you eat it, sure, why not? If you don’t, you will think about it, obsess over it and that cycle becomes a dangerous rabbit hole. When we eat something we “cant have”, we throw all of our body cues out the window. You’re thinking to yourself, this is SO GOOD and that you don’t know “when you’re going to have this again”. We subconsciously don’t care about what our body is telling us aka that we may be full or not even want it, etc

Now, where do you go from here? Start to focus on the main principles that help move us in the right direction.

There are 10 main Intuitive Eating Principles:

1. Get rid of the “diet mentality” and forget about that article that said to “do x” to lose weight. Don’t let yourself fall back into that yo-yo cycle. 

2. Start to listen to your hunger. Make sure your body is fueled with the right kind of energy which means, protein, fat, carbs and greens. With that, you will less likely feel the urge or need to overeat.

3. Start to be ok with what food is. Stop fighting with it. Give yourself permission to be ok with food. This will slowly allow you to let go of deprivation and guilt. 

4. Say NO! to your inner food police. It will scream at you when you are about to eat something that you yourself have deemed “bad”.

5. Focus in on the signals your body is giving you when you eat. Don’t ignore them to then just get uncomfortably full. Stop in the middle and ask yourself, what is your current fullness? If you are ACTUALLY hungry, you will know it, and keep eating. If you aren’t, stop and know you can have this same thing again at some point (no guilt!). 

6. Ok, we know satisfaction has a lot to do with eating. When you do what you want, eat what you want, in a place you want to be in, you will find that you don’t need “as much” food to become satisfied. Satisfaction ends up coming from so much more than the actual food. 

7. Ever realized that a lot of your emotions somehow relate back to food? Start to shift emotions away from food. Find other way to comfort yourself or resolve an issue without having to turn to food because your body and mind does not understand emotional hunger.

8. Learn to ACCEPT YOUR body. Stop comparing. Stop wishing for something that isn’t possible. Respect yourself and be grateful for the body you have. This doesn’t mean we cant have goals, but is your respect yourself, you will feel better about who you are. 

9. Now, don’t forget to exercise! Don’t just “go to the gym” because you’re supposed to. Don’t feel like you have to kill yourself everyday to be healthy. Listen to what your body needs that day. Sometimes thats a spin class, sometimes thats a walk, sometimes thats nothing. But, find what you enjoy so that you work out because you LOVE your body not because you hate it. Make sure you’re reasoning for working out isn’t just “to lose weight” because that motivation ebbs and flows. If you focus on how you feel form working out, it can push you that extra step you may need! And lastly, no one if perfect. You don’t have to “be perfect” to “be healthy.” 

10. Define what healthy means TO YOU. Understand where that definition comes from. Listen to your body. Allow yourself to feel certain ways and get rid of that guilt stricken diet mentality you have been stuck in for far too long.*

* Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole