As an Intuitive Eating Dietitian, folks often have different expectations of what it might be like to work with me. I’m happy to help break the mold as I empower my clients with the 10 principles of intuitive eating.
Intuitive Eating is what empowered me to thrive, both in my practice as well as in my personal life, my sense of self-worth, and my relationships. This personal journey guides me towards the bustling business that I run today…and absolutely love!
What is Intuitive Eating…and what isn’t?
When you think of working with a dietitian, what do you picture? Weight loss goals and apps, restricted food lists, and tiresome meal plans? Intuitive eating is about as far from that as you can get.
Intuitive Eating is based on ten core principles, which we’ll go over in-depth.
One common myth is that you can seek weight loss with Intuitive Eating. While I completely understand your desire for weight loss – I was there too – your body knows the best weight for you. This is something called your set point weight. With Intuitive Eating, we cannot predict if your weight will be more or less than your current weight….or no change at all! Weight loss, gain and maintenance all can happen.
Whatever weight happens is what is needed and I can promise that it will be easy to maintain and you’ll feel good both physically and mentally. To learn more about your Set Point Weight, click here: Set Point Weight Theory: What It Is & How To Find It
Another common myth is that Intuitive Eating is all about eating endless junk food and ignoring proper nutrition. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
We often forget that when we hear “listen to your body” that also includes your brain! So, yes, we do think about what makes us feel good and what our bodies need from a nutrition and health standpoint as intuitive eaters!
Intuitive Eating is about letting go of food rules and regulations that keep you in a cycle of dieting and low self-esteem. With Intuitive Eating, all foods fit; this includes cookies and ice cream as well as fruits and veggies.
Who created Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating was created by two registered dietitians (just like me!) named Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND. These two champs literally wrote the original book about Intuitive Eating and have continued to spread the word and educate about this research-backed self-care model.
For their book and other recommendations, visit my roundup of The 5 Best Intuitive Eating Books To Read ASAP.
Evelyn and Elyse created the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: let’s go over those now and give examples of how to begin incorporating the principles into your daily life as you work towards Food Freedom. These ten principles are the foundations of how I practice as an Intuitive Eating Dietitian!
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
There are ten principles of Intuitive Eating and they have improved my life as well as the lives of my clients and members of The SociEATY.
And while you can see that they’re numbered 1-10, feel free to move through them in whatever way makes the most sense to you. Where you start and where you focus your energy can depend on your unique journey. You’re the captain, Gorgeous.
1. Reject the diet mentality
A crucial (and also difficult) step in Intuitive Eating is to let all diets go. This can be harder than you’d guess when you may have spent years or even decades dieting, and diets are woven throughout our daily lives.
Rejecting the diet mentality is about letting the goal of weight loss go. It is also about removing any tools or social media influencers who prompt weight loss, exiting conversations about weight and finding other, more constructive ways to spend your time.
Like the stages of grief, you’re invited to get really freakin angry at all of the lies dieting has made to you. The truth is, you’re worth it now. Your worth has nothing to do with your size. And a different size will not improve your life.
Note: It’s normal for this to feel hard.
It’s normal for it to not happen overnight.
Don’t let this stop you from pursuing learning more about intuitive eating as you wait to be 100% free of your desire to lose weight. It takes time to “rewire your brain” away from the diet mentality that we have practiced for years and years. What matters more is how we act on those thoughts VS having them!
How to get started with rejecting the diet mentality?
Journaling is a great place to start. How do you tend to talk to yourself about yourself? Are you belittling yourself or restricting yourself from having joyful experiences because of your size? How is dieting holding you back? Take note and know that this is your baseline. Things are going to change for the better.
Your benefit? A mind free from broken promises with space to cultivate a life that you love.
2. Honor your hunger
This principle is one of those things that sounds simpler than it is: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
Based on my own personal experience with binge eating and from feedback from my clients: this is so much harder than you’d guess. By dieting, you’ve been undermining your relationship and communication with your own body.
But with practice, you’ll learn to be in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
How to get started with honoring your hunger?
For some of you, this may start with learning to find your hunger cues again. If you’ve been a chronic dieter, you might not have noticeable or expected hunger cues: you can’t blame your body for slowing down communication if you haven’t been listening!
Here is my post on How To Get Hunger Cues In 3 Easy Steps.
Your benefit? A constructive, trusting relationship with your body.
3. Make peace with food
Have you been seeing food and your hunger as the enemy? It is time to make peace.
All foods can fit: we don’t need rules or regulations to make things more complicated and more difficult.
This step is giving yourself full permission to eat anything (absolutely anything) whenever you want. This step can sometimes be difficult if you’re working on it at the same time as honoring your hunger (the step before). As you learn to tune into your hunger, focus on enough foods first.
Next, give yourself permission to eat any and all foods. From my own experience and from feedback from my clients, it can get overwhelming if you invite too many previously “forbidden” foods at once.
How to get started with making peace with food?
One by one, start buying the foods that you’ve not allowed yourself to eat in the past. It is normal if this feels stressful at first. It is also normal to eat past fullness: this is okay! You’re learning to trust that these foods will be around, not just making a quick visit.
As you build trust and peace with eating, these foods will lose their power on your mindset and will not be a big deal to have around. Honestly? You’ll forget that you even have them. How’s that for clearing out the mental clutter and anxiety?
Your benefit? The full-on permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s amazing to not be limited by food rules.
Note: I know you might think that you’ll want the cookies 24/7 but remember: our bodies are smart! Once we have full permission to eat all foods, they don’t hold the same intrigue. Our bodies tell us what feels good and what doesn’t!
4. Challenge the food police
Challenging the food police is about establishing firm boundaries between you and any food decisions that are based on a food being healthier than another. Food choices have nothing to do with morals, food is just food.
Not sure if you have food rules, to begin with? With how much diet culture is normalized, it can be hard to tell which of your beliefs are supporting a healthy relationship with eating. Here is How To Identify & Break Food Rules.
Nutrition is still important (we’ll get there at the end of the list) but nutrition should not be the only or always the main reason that you’re making food choices. With permission to crave what feels good, your body will naturally seek a variety of foods: both the “fun” kinds and the really nutrient-dense ones.
And you know what? The more you give yourself permission to eat the fun foods, the more your body will also crave the fruits and veggies, too. We sometimes inadvertently avoid them because we’re supposed to be eating them, which isn’t all that fun.
How to get started with challenging the food police?
This is a time to pause and really listen to your inner dialogue. What is fueling your decisions about food choices? If you’re hearing the word should, better or healthier as a reason to eat something, remind yourself that you have unconditional permission to eat all foods. Then, ask yourself what sounds best in this moment.
Your benefit? A less complicated relationship with food. Food is just food.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
One of the things that I really missed out on during my time of binge eating and restricting was any satisfaction or fun around food. At all. Everything was about rules, control, and restriction. My life felt out of my control so I had some small (waning) sense of peace as I controlled my eating.
For example, I didn’t enjoy eating out. In fact, eating out at restaurants made me feel anxious and overwhelmed because I wasn’t in control of each little bite and calorie. Talk about a mood killer for dates!
These days I truly enjoy most foods. Whether it is the perfect (I mean PERFECT) Golden Oreo Cheesecake or the Easiest Broccoli Chicken Stir Fry, I enjoy it all. And matching meals to my cravings means I am eating – and enjoying – a wide variety of nutrients, flavors, textures, and styles of cooking.
How to get started with discovering the satisfaction factor?
The simplest way to get started here is to eat without distraction and to ask yourself how the food tastes. This is a great question to ask yourself while eating to stay tuned into the experience. Not only does this help connect with the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), it helps to tune into your fullness cues. Turns out, that is the next topic to discuss!
Your benefit? The opportunity to make memories and focus on making those amazing memories instead of being worried about how this will all shake out in the gym the next day.
6. Feel your fullness
As much as you should respect your hunger, tuning in to your body as you approach fullness is just as vital. This is more difficult to accomplish when you’re dieting, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it becomes far easier.
You don’t need to stay in the clean plate club if that is how you grew up. And you don’t need to finish a single-serving packaged item if you don’t want to. (And it’s okay if your fullness says you need TWO!)
How to get started with feeling your fullness?
Getting started here actually has to do more with letting go of dieting restrictions because we tend to overeat and eat past fullness when we feel that food is scarce. I go in-depth about that idea in my blog post, The Truth About Extreme Hunger.
Your benefit? The ability to trust yourself around all foods, because you will not be at risk of binging anymore.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
If you accidentally stub your toe and have tears in your eyes and a few choice words flying out of your mouth, do you shame yourself for feeling pain or having a creative thing or two to say about it?
Probably not. But for some reason, we tend to have unrealistic expectations of not having big emotions and not knowing how to cope with them when we do. We often try to smother and block the emotions with food, instead of approaching them with kindness or curiosity and truly coping with them.
Having feelings is completely normal. Learning strategies to better understand them, tend to them and move through them is where we can level up as a society. Self-care is a piece of the puzzle here: Emotional Self Care.
How to get started with coping with your emotions with kindness?
For this pillar of Intuitive Eating, I’ll suggest that you speak to yourself as you would a cherished friend.
Instead of the usual judgment and shame that can easily bubble up as you have big feelings, instead, ask yourself what is going on and how you can help in a way that will ACTUALLY help. Will eating the pint of ice cream and becoming uncomfortable fix your bad day? Cultivate curiosity over judgment, kindness over shame.
Your benefit? Wellness mentally, spiritually, and physically. Boom!
8. Respect your body
If you really think about it, how many times a day do you say something complimentary and appreciative of your body? Is the number small?
How about negative things? How often are you critical of your body, checking to see what has changed in the last week or day, and disappointed at what you discover.
Your poor body doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.
Diet culture would have you believe that your body is less than awesome. You, Gorgeous, are fabulous, just as you are. Right this very minute.
Respecting your body doesn’t mean that you have to love every little thing about your body, every single day. That isn’t realistic. But it is about appreciating the power and beauty that your body has, right at this moment.
And, respecting your body also means treating it with care! This can look like moving your body and providing it with nutrient-dense foods so that it can help carry you into your old age!
How to get started with respecting your body?
The first step is similar to stopping the food police: what is your inner monologue saying about your body, how it feels, how it moves, and what you’re assuming people are saying about you (most likely a reflection of your feelings about your body vs. theirs)? Then, practice reframing those harmful thoughts into something positive or even neutral.
Finally, what can you do for your body to show it respect and take care of it? This gets easier (and more believable) with practice.
If you notice that you’re body checking, check out this article for help with How To Stop Body Checking FAST!.
Your benefit? The opportunity to start noticing and appreciating all of the wonderful things that your body does for you on a daily basis and treat it with care so that it can allow you to actually LIVE that wonderful life!
9. Movement – feel the difference
When you exercise, are you thinking about the calories you’re burning versus the food you’ve “earned?” Or are you enjoying the sensation of releasing stress, the strength of your muscles, and the wind in your hair as you power down the trail?
What kind of exercise do you truly love? If you like HIIT group sessions, go ahead and enjoy them. But if you enjoy water aerobics and rock climbing more, there is no issue with that. Do what makes you happy and respect your body by engaging in physical activity for the sake of enjoying what your body can do, not punishing it for past eating or to earn future meals.
How to get started with movement – feel the difference?
See if you’re talking about exercise because you “should” do it, or if your body is quietly asking for one thing vs. another. “Should” is a good clue that you might feel more satisfied with a different activity or even a rest.
Your benefit? A lifetime relationship with physical activity that sticks because you actually like it.
10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition
Gentle nutrition is probably what you think about as the goal of working with a dietitian. Just how many vitamins and minerals and grams of fiber can you cram into each meal and snack?
The truth is, vitamins and minerals and fiber do matter, they just aren’t the only thing that matters.
You can eat all the cookies you want, guilt-free, with Intuitive Eating. However, if we have cookies and other goodies including fruits, veggies, and something high in protein, our physical comfort, and energy level are likely to be altered (and we will probably feel better!). Gentle nutrition values your health (and belief systems!) without suppressing the enjoyment of eating.
How to get started with gentle nutrition?
Why, read this post, of course! Getting Started With Gentle Nutrition
Your benefit? Knowing that your body can guide you to naturally eat a wide variety of foods throughout the day and week. No need to micromanage!
What are the benefits of intuitive eating?
Where do I even begin? The potential benefits are endless, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Better body image
- Eating without stress or anxiety
- Decreased rates of disordered and emotional eating
- Higher self-esteem
- Eating a wider variety of foods
- Increased satisfaction with life
Sounds pretty good to me. How about you?
What is the difference between mindful eating and Intuitive Eating?
Mindful eating is paying attention (on purpose) to your actual eating experience without prejudice. While this may appear to be simple, for those who multitask, it may be quite difficult.
And while mindful eating is a part of Intuitive Eating, Intuitive Eating covers more ground. It is a broader philosophy with the ten principles we went through earlier in this post.
What does intuitive eating look like?
Here is the magic of Intuitive Eating: each day can look different. It is a way of eating that is flexible, adaptable, and makes room for you.
There is no “perfect day” to aim for. Each meal might be different, but with practice, you won’t feel so overwhelmed with decision fatigue of what in the heck to eat and how to achieve harmful body standards. Here is an Instagram video showing some of the things I’ve eaten recently. You can also check out my full days of eating on YouTube!
How do I get started with intuitive eating?
I’m so glad to hear that you’re interested in putting some of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating into practice. Your life will be far better without the crushing expectations of diet culture.
I’ll ask that you take the journey step-by-step. Learning new skills takes practice, making mistakes, and asking for help.
I’d suggest this post as a great starting point: What Is Intuitive Eating? A Beginner’s Guide.
You may also enjoy reading a book or two about Intuitive Eating. Here is a round-up of my favorite books: The 5 Best Intuitive Eating Books To Read ASAP.
Key Take-Aways: The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating
The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating are your guide, and mine, to lead a life well-lived, with foods that you love and the nourishment that your body and spirit deserve.
Whether you struggle with following restrictive food rules or feel totally out of control around food, you’re in the right place. I’ve helped thousands of women learn how to stop dieting & following food rules, learn how to eat intuitively, and find food freedom that feels good.
Are you next? I sure hope so. Join us, right here.
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