There aren’t any restrictions or bad foods with intuitive eating. This approach is all about relying on the signals your body sends you. This article will cover some principles that will help you transition from a diet mindset to an intuitive approach to food.
Discover the satisfaction factor
Diets often take a lot of the enjoyment out of eating. You can’t have your favourite foods and you feel like you’re cheating when you eat something tasty. It can feel isolating when nobody eats the same foods as you and you end up eating alone. All of this can leave you unsatisfied after having a meal. That can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods and the struggle continues.
Intuitive eating wants you to enjoy every meal. When you make eating a pleasurable experience, you may find that it takes less food to satisfy you and it’s easier to see when you’ve had enough to eat. Try to make each meal an event. Rather than eating in a hurry, sit down in a nice environment and enjoy it in good company if possible. Try to always think about the following:
1. What does my meal taste like? What kind of flavours can I identify? What’s the texture like?
2. What does the chair I’m sitting in feel like? How about my surroundings, do they feel pleasant?
3. Am I in good company? Is having a nice chat when eating contributing to my enjoyment?
4. What’s good about my experience of eating this meal?
Handle your emotions without food
The problem with many popular diets is that they don’t consider emotions as part of the equation. Emotional eating is so common that almost everyone does it to some extent. When you let emotions rather than hunger drive your eating habits, you will constantly struggle, no matter the diet. That’s why intuitive eating wants to address your emotions separately.
The first step is to be aware when your “hunger” might be based on emotions. You have to practice that and you will get better at it over time. When you recognise it, you should start by asking yourself: what do I really need now? Is it connection? Better relationships? Am I feeling tired, stressed, or frustrated? The answer to this will often guide you in what to do next. But in general, there are several actions that help deal with overwhelming emotions:
- calling a friend
- taking a walk
- taking a cold (or hot) shower
- playing a game
Respect your body
Often we take on very restrictive diets because we feel our bodies don’t look how we want them to. Some want those veiny Tour de France calves, others want to put on some thigh muscles for sprinting, and many want to be slimmer for easier climbing. With intuitive eating, you’re encouraged to accept that for most of us, our bodies may never look like the ones we see when watching the Tour de France. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve as you keep training and eating well. But you’re encouraged to practice not feeling bad about your current body.
Support your health
Most diets put nutrition and healthy foods first. They try to make you eat kale because it’s healthy and it’s up to you to figure out how to start liking kale. This often creates the mindset that healthy food doesn’t taste good, so you tend to eat less of it. With intuitive eating you are first encouraged to choose foods you enjoy eating and worry about the proportion of nutritious and healthy ingredients second. This order of priorities paradoxically often leads to overall healthier choices in the long run.
Exercise the way you enjoy
Intuitive eating recognises the importance of movement. The last principle of intuitive eating encourages you to do exercise you enjoy. It tells you to shift focus from exercising to burn calories or lose weight to feeling energized, strong, and alive. For those of us who love cycling, this principle is really easy. Let’s make one ride this week purely about fun!
If you’re unsure whether this approach to eating is right for you or whether you should recommend it to your cycling friends, keep reading. The next article will highlight all the scenarios and types of people that tend to do well and that tend to do poorly with intuitive eating.