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What Is Intuitive Eating?

Ready to ditch diet culture and embrace a different approach to eating? Get ready to learn all about Intuitive Eating and its long-term benefits!

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating (IE) is an approach to eating that rejects rules and restrictions we commonly see in mainstream diet culture. It is a refreshing approach to nourishing your body that doesn’t rely on counting calories, macros, or grams of fat. Instead, you tune into your hunger cues and listen to the natural intuition of your appetite.

What Are Hunger Cues?

Hunger cues are your body’s method of signaling you to say “hey, I could benefit from some energy and nutrition right now!” You may notice that there are several different reasons why you feel hungry, this is normal and is all part of IE!

Physical hunger is a physiological need to eat. This type of hunger is your body’s way of telling you that the gas tank is running on low, and it needs more fuel. It will be different for everyone, but the most common ways to recognize physical hunger are when you feel like your mood is tanking, you are irritable and hangry, you have a grumbling stomach, and you feel fatigued.

Emotional hunger is also sometimes called heart hunger. Just like it sounds this type of hunger is dictated by your emotions! Positive and less enjoyable emotions can influence your hunger. You may notice that you crave different foods when you are sad versus happy, or even bored.

Understanding your hunger cues will help you deepen your insight into your relationships with food and eating. It is a gentle approach to nutrition that recognizes there will be times when you want to eat foods to nourish the body, and other times you want to eat foods to nourish the soul.

How Do I Practice Intuitive Eating?

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch wrote a book together about intuitive eating. Like many women before them, they realized that the pressure put on women to appear thin was unrealistic and also damaging to their mental health.

Major themes within IE include challenging thoughts or labels that identify food as good or bad. As soon as black and white thinking is attached to food, it provokes an emotional response if we end up “breaking the rules”. There can be feelings of guilt and shame, which leads to comfort eating and the vicious mental cycle repeats!

As you work on your mental narrative with food, take time to reflect on how you address yourself too. IE encourages you to abandon harsh judgemental criticisms of your body and instead promotes a positive or neutral viewpoint of your physical looks.

It can be hard to break old habits and be kinder to ourselves, but once you start changing your ways you’ll wonder why you hadn’t been that kind to yourself years ago.

Including regular movement and physical activity is also a pillar of IE. The human body is designed to move, and when you regularly include exercise, your entire system shifts for the better. You will have more energy, improved blood sugars, improved blood pressure, and overall a sense of fulfillment!

Benefits of Intuitive Eating

The most reported benefit of applying IE to your routine is the changes that happen within. People experience a boost in their self-esteem, and their body image and overall feel lighter because they spend less energy obsessing about restrictive diet culture.

Unlike most other diets you read about online, IE is sustainable. It is not focused on calorie restrictions or removing entire food groups from your diet, so no matter where you are and what is being served to you you can always practice IE.

 

The future of nutrition is evolving, and the anti-diet approach is becoming more prevalent. This is great news for everyone because restrictive diets can do more harm than help.

If you want to learn more you can browse through the books and community with the original IE website, www.IntuitiveEating.org.

 

Image credit: Caju Gomez on Unsplash; Dan Gold on Unsplash

Julia Zakrzewski

Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and a lifelong foodie. Her passions include eating great food, debunking nutrition myths, and educating people on how they can improve their health! Her specific interests include diabetes and cardiovascular health. In her spare time Julia teaches yoga, and walks her miniature schnauzer.

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