Nutrition

22.09.2021

INTUITIVE EATING IS AN EATING PHILOSOPHY THAT HELPS YOU TO BECOME RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT TO EAT AND WHEN TO EAT IT. It is based on the fact that your body knows when it is hungry and when it is full, and that you alone decide on your food choices.

Intuitive eating goes beyond conscious eating, which is about being fully engaged in the actual eating experience. Rather than simply suggesting a non-judgmental presence while you eat, intuitive eating encourages you to change your relationship with food by listening to and acknowledging what your body wants to eat.

What exactly is intuitive eating?

A simple definition of intuitive eating is respecting your health and meeting your physical and physiological needs by listening and paying attention to your body’s signals about what to eat. In other words, your eating decisions are based on what your body wants. You eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.

Intuitive eating is not a diet. On the contrary, it is often considered an “anti-diet“. And for this reason, there is no right or wrong way to do it

couple sharing snacks

What are the benefits?

While many people are initially attracted to diets for their promise of weight loss, the benefits of intuitive eating go beyond weight loss.

The benefits are physical and mental

  • Decreased food restriction and less binge eating behaviours
  • A healthier relationship with food
  • Improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, even without weight loss
  • Decreased depression and anxiety
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improve body image

Although intuitive eating is not focused on weight loss, studies show that intuitive eating can lead to significant weight loss, lower BMI, long-term weight maintenance and lasting behavioural changes.

How can I put intuitive eating into practice?

The concept of intuitive eating is simple: you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Although it does not sound complicated, it does take some practice!

After several diets or a bad relationship with food, it can take time to really feel what your body needs.

The first step in intuitive eating is to learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger.

Physical hunger

Physical hunger is a lack of energy, increased irritability and hunger pangs, and is a physiological need to eat.

 

Emotional hunger

Emotional hunger is motivated by uncomfortable emotions such as sadness or boredom and is the desire to eat to satisfy cravings, even if you are not physically hungry.

Once you have learned to differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger, the next step is to pay attention to when they occur. The next time you are hungry, ask yourself if you are physically or emotionally hungry. If the hunger is physical, eat until you are comfortably full, but not too full.

girl crying while eating a cupcacke - emotional eater

The 10 principles of intuitive eating

There are no hard and fast rules to intuitive eating, but there are 10 principles aimed at increasing body awareness, removing barriers to self-acceptance and helping you become aware of the body’s internal sensations, a process called interoceptive awareness:

1. Reject the “diet” mentality

Get rid of the idea that there is a magic diet that will work for you. Instead of jumping from one diet to another in search of a quick fix, commit to listening to your body.

2. Honour your hunger

Don’t think of hunger as a bad thing or something you have to overcome. Learn to identify your physical hunger signals and eat when you are hungry.

3. Make peace with food

Don’t assign a moral value to food as “good” or “bad”.  Give yourself permission to eat what you want while paying attention to what your body really needs rather than cravings.

4. Stop categorising foods

Don’t categorise foods as either “good ” or ” bad ” or feel guilty about eating them.

5. Feel your fullness

Stop eating when you are comfortably full, instead of clearing your plate or eating more than you need because something tastes good. Check in with yourself during your meal, eat slowly and pause to assess your current level of hunger or satiety.

6. Discover the satisfaction and pleasure of eating

There is a difference between feeling physically full and satisfaction. When you deprive yourself of what you really want, you may feel physically full, but you will not feel satisfied. Make the meal enjoyable by preparing a meal that you like, sit down and enjoy the experience of eating it.

7. Don’t use food to cope with your emotions

People often use food to try to soothe uncomfortable emotions, such as boredom, stress or sadness. Instead of using food to try to make yourself happy, find other ways to deal with your emotions, such as sports, keeping a journal or meditation.

8. Respect your body

Stop criticising your body and learn to love and accept yourself as you are. It’s okay if losing weight is one of your goals, but respect your body unconditionally.

9. Exercise for pleasure

Instead of looking at exercise as a way to burn calories or speed up weight loss, try to see it as a way to honour your body’s need to exercise regularly. Find a sport you enjoy and shift your focus from weight loss to its other benefits, such as increased energy and a better mood.

10. Honour your health with a healthy diet

Even though intuitive eating does not impose strict rules on eating, it is always best to choose healthy and nutrient-rich foods. You can indulge whenever you want, but ideally, your food choices will honour your health as much as you honour your body’s desires.

Tips for being more attuned to your signals

  • Get plenty of rest
    Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night balances the hormones of hunger and satiety. When we are tired, our hunger signals are exacerbated and satiety becomes more difficult to identify.
  • Drink enough water
    Drinking enough water ensures that our hunger signal is not simply a thirst signal.
  • Get moving every day
    Doing 30 minutes of physical exercise a day helps our satiety signal to be more effective.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully
    Taking the time to eat slowly allows us to savour our food and recognise satiety signals more easily.
  • Enjoy your food!
    Enjoying food with all our senses allows us to identify what we like about the food (or dish) and/or what we don’t like. It also allows us to better identify when the food no longer tastes good (decreased interest in the food).

Intuitive eating is an anti-dieting approach that involves listening to and honouring your internal hunger and satiety signals. The idea is that when you learn to identify your body’s needs correctly, it can lead to a better relationship with food, a decrease in binge eating behaviours and long-term weight maintenance. If you are used to restrictive dieting, it may take some time to get in touch with your body’s needs, but following the 10 intuitive eating principles can help you to get there.

If you need advice or are having difficulty starting to eat in a more intuitive way, please contact a Vivapp coach. They are qualified and will be able to help you achieve your goals.

written by Aurelia Corbaz

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