Many people struggle with their relationship with food or their body image. Right now there are endless ads about getting a “beach body” or social media influencers showing what they eat in a day, which can really make people feel terrible about themselves and think they need to change the way they look. You are enough just the way you are! A lot of people have felt pressure to diet from messages they’ve gotten from friends, family, society, and sometimes doctors. Diets are not long-lasting for weight loss and can be gateways to eating disorders. The “anti-diet,” Intuitive Eating, is actually the way to make peace with food once and for all.
Here is an overview of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
Diets do not work long-term. People will inevitably gain the weight back at some point, if not end up at a heavier weight than they were prior to starting the diet. When people gain weight back, they often feel like a failure or like they do not have willpower, when in reality it has nothing to do with lack of willpower. When people diet, they end up in a state of deprivation and the body has many natural biological mechanisms to help you in this state. Your body cannot tell the difference between you choosing to restrict calories or there being an extreme scarcity of food.
- Honor your Hunger
Your body gives you signals when it is hungry. Listening to your body when it gives these signals is important. If you do not listen to them, you will become excessively hungry and could overeat. Your body gives other signals, such as telling you when you have to go to the bathroom. You wouldn’t ignore those signals, so why ignore hunger cues?
- Make Peace with Food
Give yourself permission to eat any foods. Having foods that are “off limits” leads to cravings and when you finally cave in to cravings you will feel out of control because your body does not know when you will be able to have this food again. If the food is always available your body does not need to binge on this food.
- Challenge the Food Police
The food police is the negative self-talk you have about foods being “good” or “bad” or even you being “good” or “bad” for what you’ve eaten or how much. All food is guilt free because food is not a moral issue! It can take practice to “talk back” to these messages, but it is possible.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Eating can be an experience that brings joy if you allow it. Eating what you really want in a pleasant environment can be a truly pleasurable experience.
- Feel Your Fullness
Be mindful while you are eating and honor when you feel full. Some people were taught they have to finish what is on their plate or they eat until they are uncomfortably full. Listen to your body.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Some people use food as a way to cope with emotions. This may soothe emotions in the short term, though it does not fix problems and can make people feel worse in the long run. Instead, find effective coping strategies that don’t lead to you feeling worse.
- Respect Your Body
There is body diversity in the world. Some people live in bigger bodies and some people live in smaller bodies. No matter your body size, your body deserves respect. You don’t necessarily have to love your body to respect it.
- Movement-Feel the Difference
Lots of people exercise for the purpose of losing weight but this creates a negative association with exercise when your body is not changing in the ways you want. Instead, change your mindset about movement. Focus on how it decreases stress, helps you feel more energized, builds strength, etc. When movement is no longer tied to losing weight, it is more fun and enjoyable.
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that make your body feel good. You do not have to follow rigid food rules in order to be healthy. One meal or snack will not make or break you.
This has just been a quick overview of intuitive eating. If you would like to learn more about it, I recommend the following books:
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, 4th ed.
The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food
If you need support around your relationship with food or body image, make an appointment with a therapist who is knowledgeable about eating disorders and intuitive eating.
Blog written by Sentier Psychotherapy Therapist, Andrea Schroeder, MS, LPCC.