What is intuitive eating? How you can learn to eat with happiness
Stop following stressful diet rules by improving your mind-body connection with intuitive eating.
We are all born intuitive eaters. It is our body's natural signals that ensure we get the nutrition, movement and self care our own unique body needs. But dieting and food rules cause us to replace our innate internal drives with outside food rules, leading to a disconnect between body and mind. This can lead to obsessive food thoughts, binge- restrict cycles and even physical discomfort.
Here's how to stop food stress and learn to nourish your own unique body, diet-free.
Intuitive eating basics
Intuitive eating is our natural way of eating. For some people, their intuition around food may never have been taken away so they eat intuitively without thinking about it. An intuitive eater may notice they are getting hungry mid morning and grab a snack, leave some of their lunch when they get full and have a sweet snack before bed without second guessing or over-thinking any of it.
For others, eating can feel like a constant math equation or war with extreme hunger and fullness as we try to use food rules to guide our eating. The process of intuitive eating helps us connect back to our innate eating signals while removing judgement around food.
Intuitive eating encourages eating when hungry (instead of waiting for a certain time or more extreme hunger) and respecting fullness (because food will be available again whenever you want more) but there is much more to a healthy relationship with food than hunger and fullness.
Intuitive eating also acknowledges the important role that eating plays in our emotion, social and cultural connection as well as challenging the social constructs that cause us to develop a distrust with our bodies and guilt towards food. A healthy relationship with food is one in which food supports our whole life, rather than our life being dictated by our food. This is what learning intuitive eating will help you achieve.
Get started with Intuitive Eating with your FREE e-book "5 steps to get started with Intuitive eating"
What guides eating as an intuitive eater?
Eating naturally is a complex interplay of instinct, emotion and rational thinking.
Our bodies have innate instinctual drives that guide us to seek enough and satisfying foods which support our bodies. But for many, dieting has taught us to fight against our basic biological instincts. Getting enough food is one of the first learnings as you move through intuitive eating, because otherwise your biological drives will increase food thoughts, reduce energy levels and reduce your headspace for reconnecting with your body.
Although, as humans, we don't just mindlessly eat based on our instincts. Food plays an important role in our emotions, social connection and culture. As you move through intuitive eating you learn to let go of societal rules for eating and strengthen your mind-body connection to guide your eating.
"A healthy relationship with food is one in which food supports our whole life, rather than our life being dictated by our food"
Strengthening your mind-body connection
Your mind-body connection is the backbone of intuitive eating. When immersed in outside food and body rules, we can lose trust or even awareness of what our own unique bodies need. This can lead to a fight between our body's internal messages and our mind which is acting on outside rules.
Intuitive Eating is a framework that guides you back to understanding and trusting these innate signals, as well as your unique emotional needs and thought pathways.
Many people fear that letting go of rules around food and body will mean you eat only "unhealthy" foods, when we are used to following rules it can be hard to imagine what letting go of rules is really like.
In reality, intuitive eaters actually eat a wider variety of foods, experience less binge eating and have improved health markers. They also report better body image, improved confidence and greater overall life satisfaction.
What can eating look like as an intuitive eater?
If focusing on healthy eating feels stressful then it’s not healthy. As an intuitive eater you may find you:
- trust your hunger cues and respect your fullness. Though, you know it's ok to eat outside of hunger as well. That’s normal too.
- choose a salad because that’s what you feel like right now. At other times you choose a pizza because that’s what will hit the spot. There’s no right or wrong.
- understand your body and which foods make you feel good. Though, even if eating does not feel good in the moment, you don't feel guilt. Guilt does not belong in eating.
- are flexible and more relaxed around social eating without a pressure to eat with food rules and then have more headspace to enjoy the experience.
Want to become an intuitive eater? I've got you covered! Get started today with your FREE e-book "5 steps to get started with Intuitive Eating"
3 steps to start becoming an intuitive eater
Here's three steps to find peace and happiness around food.
Befriend your bodyFind some moments in the day to pause and consider what feelings are inside your body. Your body communicates it's needs with you through internal sensations. For example, emotions can show up as tightness, heaviness and uneasiness inside your chest, gut and head. Hunger and fullness sensations are also felt within these same areas of the body. Learning the different messages can help you work with your body and feel your best.
Eat when you are hungryDon't wait until you are ravenously hungry as this is when you are more likely to experience binge or emotional eating. Eat at earlier hunger, developing trust with your body that food will be available when it needs. If you are not feeling hunger throughout the day, start with a regular structure around food including breakfast, lunch, dinner and some snacks while you develop connection with your hunger cues.
Reconnect to the eating experienceSo often, we are focused on how much we should be eating or which foods we should be avoiding that we forget to tune in to learn how food actually feels in our bodies. Connecting with the sensations of the eating experience and using our internal cues to guide us can help to feel more satisfied and less likely to experience out of control eating behaviours.
For more support with these steps and much more, grab your FREE e-book "5 steps to get started with Intuitive Eating"
Written by Emma Townsin, Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor
Emma is the founder of Food Life Freedom and the host of the Food & Life Freedom Podcast. For personalised support to stop stressing over health and heal your relationship with food and your body, learn how you can fast track your way food and life freedom.
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