In the past few years, you may have heard of something called “intuitive eating.” As body positivity has grown more mainstream while dieting has begun to decrease in popularity, intuitive eating is an approach that more and more people are embracing. As a non-diet dietitian, it’s a shift I’m excited about!
Not exactly sure what intuitive eating is? Let’s chat!
Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to eating. It teaches you to use internal cues, like hunger, fullness, and how food makes you feel, instead of external diet rules that dictate what, when, and how to eat. The goal is to build a healthier relationship with food and your body, and to approach eating and nutrition from a place of self care, not weight loss. It centers around 10 main principles, which you can read here.
The basis of intuitive eating is letting go of the diet mentality. This means throwing all food rules out and unlearning much of what diet culture has taught about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If you’ve ever felt completely paralyzed trying to make a decision about food because you have so many different and conflicting diet rules running through your head, then you can imagine the freedom that comes with intuitive eating!
With intuitive eating, no foods are off-limits. This may feel scary at first, like without the restrictions, you’ll go completely crazy around food. And you might in the beginning, but that’s okay! When you’re allowed to have a food whenever you want, it looses some of it’s allure, and you won’t be craving it all the time. Also, your taste buds will get bored over time – yes, even with brownies! Intuitive eating has actually been shown to increase dietary quality.
One of the most helpful parts of intuitive eating is getting in tune with hunger and fullness cues. Dieters often find themselves suppressing hunger until it becomes unbearable, then eating so intensely that they blow past fullness and feel stuffed. Intuitive eating teaches you to honor the subtle signs of hunger, so you can make rational choices about food, and stop eating when you feel satisfied.
Intuitive eating also means putting intentional weight loss on the back burner. Research shows 95-97% of diets fail, and that dieting is the greatest predictor of weight gain over time. Although we have been told most of our lives that being at a larger BMI is unhealthy, that’s not necessarily true. Bodies naturally exist in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and forcing yourself (temporarily!) into a smaller body does not improve health. Instead, intuitive eating focuses on building health promoting habits, and letting your body settle at the size it’s supposed to be.
So what do intuitive eaters eat? Whatever they’re craving! For me, the best part of intuitive eating is that eating becomes more pleasurable. It teaches you to ditch the guilt and slow down to savor the foods you love, so eating becomes an enjoyable activity!
If intuitive eating sounds a bit vague, that’s because it is! Intuitive eating is a practice, not a set of hard and fast rules. It can be hard at first, especially if you’re used to the rigid rules that come with dieting. That’s why I encourage people to work with a dietitian experienced in intuitive eating who can help you incorporate the principles into your life.
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