Intuitive eating is the opposite of dieting. It doesn’t restrict what you should eat but it still offers rules and recommendations. They are meant to help you maintain a healthy relationship with food and learn about feelings of hunger and fullness.
Reject the diet mentality
The first thing that intuitive eating calls for is to forget about dieting. If you were constantly on the hunt for the new diet that’s going to help you eat healthily, lose weight, and improve performance, you have to make a change in your mentality. Intuitive eating wants you to consider that most diets simply don’t work.
Most research shows that regardless of the type of diet, one third to two thirds of weight is typically regained within a year, and almost all is usually regained within five years. In fact, research suggests that many dieters gain back more weight than they lost.
Honour your hunger
It’s much easier to handle your hunger if you don’t let it get out of hand. The principles of intuitive eating suggest that when you’re hungry, you should feel free to eat. When you let your feelings of hunger rise too much because of restrictive diets, it’s much more likely you will experience regular bursts of binge-eating of processed unhealthy food.
It’s important to differentiate real physical hunger, as described in the previous article, from learned emotional hunger. When you feel a slowly building urge to eat, you should honour it. That might mean you will eat intuitively at different times a day than you’re used to or eating more or less frequently.
Feel your fullness
The same rules apply to feeling full. It’s just as important to listen to the signals of comfortable fullness when you feel you have had enough. As you eat, check with your body if your hunger is going away. You can imagine a scale of 1 to 10.
- One is “I need food right now!”
- Four is “I’m feeling better but I really want to continue eating.”
- Six is “It feels like a meal now but I’m not very satisfied.”
- Eight is “I’m feeling energized but I still have room for a dessert.”
- Nine is “I’m feeling very full now, I hope I don’t have to move a lot soon.”
- Ten is “My belly feels tight and I definitely need to lie down.”
What level of fullness feels right to you? It might be different before a ride and after. But it’s important to be aware and listen to these signals.
Make peace with food
With intuitive eating, all foods have the green light. This approach is trying to prevent situations where you binge on ice cream uncontrollably because your restrictive diet prevented you from having one whole summer. Allowing yourself ice cream every day sounds dangerous but it leads to much better outcomes than you think.
Once you allow yourself to eat what you really want, your cravings lose some of their power. But this principle can take a while to master. Have some self-compassion and don’t judge yourself too harshly. When you have a food you previously considered forbidden, think what you would say to a close friend if they started eating it. Use those words in your head rather than any negative self-talk.
Challenge the food police
Intuitive eating wants you to leave morality out of your eating habits. Foods are not good or bad and you are not good or bad for choosing them. Try to avoid phrases such as “cheat meals”. If you have something that you would consider a cheat meal in the past, call it “choice”. On your intuitive eating journey, you don’t even have to call it anything. It’s just a meal.
The next article will follow these up with a few more principles to help you live a diet-free lifestyle and enjoy food.