Intuitive eating is a mindset we often encourage as part of our treatment program, however, it is often misunderstood. This anti-diet philosophy respects that we were all born with natural bodily cues to eat intuitively. Your body is wise and will tell you what you need if you listen. Just like our bodies know when we are thirsty or when it is time to urinate or sleep, our bodies tell us when and what to eat.
Intuitive Eating Principles
By the time you are in your teenage years, you have most likely been introduced to diet culture. Diet culture dictates rules about eating that cut you off from your internal body cues. It instructs you to restrict your eating to certain times of day, limit the amount of food you eat, ignore hunger, and avoid certain foods altogether. In turn, this leads you to distrust your body. Intuitive eating allows you to get back in touch with your body’s internal cues of hunger and fullness and food preferences.
Reject Diet Mentality. To move past harmful diet habits, you need to stop counting calories, stop eating only at certain times of day, and stop avoiding foods you believe are unhealthy.
Honor Your Hunger. Dieting reinforces and encourages starving. If you allow yourself to get too hungry, you are more likely to binge eat. To break a cycle of binge eating, your body has to be able to trust that it will have consistent access to food. Learning to respect this biological cue allows for the building of a better relationship with food.
Make Peace with Food. Permit yourself to eat what you want. This means no more rules about good and bad foods. Telling yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food may lead to emotional and physical deprivation and binge eating. When you break your food rules and consume “bad foods”, you are more likely to eat large portions of this food out of guilt.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Diet culture teaches us that food is merely fuel but it is so much more than that. Food is supposed to be enjoyed. Allowing yourself to have pleasure in eating can be an entirely different experience. When you eat what you want without guilt, you can enjoy your meal and feel satisfied in a way that isn’t possible when you are depriving your body of what you want or need.
Feel Your Fullness. Just as your body tells you when it is time to eat, it tells you when you have had enough. To honor your fullness, you have to trust that you are allowed to have the foods you want in appropriate proportions. Once you establish this trust, you can listen to your body signals telling you that you are full. By mindfully observing your level of fullness without judgment, you will know just when to stop eating.
Experience Your Emotions With Kindness. Food is our earliest comfort and humans are designed to find food rewarding. However, if eating is your only coping skill then it can be beneficial to learn some other strategies for managing negative emotions.
Respect Your Body. Focus on accepting your body as it is now rather than trying to change it. Treat your body with respect and listen to its needs.
Honor Your Health With Nutrition. Focusing too much on nutrition can derail one from eating intuitively. It is important to include a range of foods that you both enjoy and that meet your body’s nutritional needs.
If you have been struggling with diets or engaging in disordered eating, the process of becoming an intuitive eater can be a difficult and ongoing process. At Avalon Hills, we are committed to helping our clients learn the skills necessary to live a healthy lifestyle outside of our treatment program. For more information on our program and how we incorporate intuitive eating, visit our website.