Updated: Jun 17, 2022
What You Can Expect To Gain From Reading This Post
A better understanding of each of the Intuitive Eating principles and an opportunity to participate in a simple activity for each to further your exploration.
To remind you, the 10 principles are:
1. Reject The Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace With Food
4. Challenge The Food Police
5. Feel Your Fullness
6. Discover The Satisfaction Factor
7. Cope With Your Feelings Without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise--Feel The Difference
10. Honor Your Health--Gentle Nutrition
Principle 1: Reject The Diet Mentality
Diet mentality is all that unhelpful, external, health-hype that keeps you trapped in a cycle of control and chaos. Healing diet mentality requires returning to an internal locus of control in your food life, which begins with your ability to practice self-awareness without judgement. This is not an easy task for some of us. Self-awareness is one thing, but being kind and patient about what can arise when practicing self-awareness is a continual journey.
The next time you believe you have to impose external food rules on yourself ask yourself these questions:
1. What triggered it, was it body dissatisfaction, or a series of eating experiences?
2. Has it ever led to long term success and self-trust?
3. Try to stay with your feelings for a few days before ultimately deciding if external food rules are the best way forward for you.
Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
Your hunger is such a biologically driven instinct it's hard to believe that you can lose touch with it if you have chosen to ignore it for an extended period of time. Consciously ignoring hunger does not set you up to look after one of your most fundamental needs and sends a message to yourself that self-care is not important. It's also common to rely on external cues to decide when to eat, rather than listening to our inner, biological cues.
Notice what primarily triggers eating for you. Is it driven by...
1. The clock or a set time?
2. A scheduled break at work or school?
3. Boredom or painful emotions?
4. The presence of food?
5. Actual hunger signals coming from your tummy, energy, and ability to focus?
Principle 3: Make Peace With Food
Being in an adversarial relationship with a life sustaining force is both painful and exhausting. If you've been dieting, restricting or relying on external food rules, food is more likely your enemy than your friend and you understand the pain and exhaustion. Taking steps toward making peace with food is an important part of reconnecting with your intuitive eating self and improving your relationship with food and your body.
1. Make a list of all your "forbidden" foods.
2. Decide on one item from the list to experiment with.
3. Purchase the item and notice your anxiety level surrounding choosing to make it available.
4. At a time when you are not ravenous and you are alone, plate a serving of the food item and as you eat notice...
5. Were you surprised by your findings?
Principle 4: Challenge The Food Police
The food police are all the unhelpful food voices...diet talk, fat talk, your inner critic, unhelpful "health" messages. Basically all the SHOULDS, FADS, HYPE and anything that does not respect your food boundaries and personal nuances. All things food police related are externally controlled and motivated and have very little to do with your internal food compass. Your own food police voice may be strong if you have a history of dieting.
1. Over the course of one day notice how many food police messages you encounter.
2. Notice your own self-talk. Is it policing in nature?
3. How often do you use the word "should" regarding food?
4. Opposing food police is self-advocacy. Can you identify one area of your food life where you are a strong advocate for yourself?
Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness
At the core of feeling your fullness is respecting your limits. This is rooted in a belief that it's okay to stop because you know you have unconditional permission to eat again when you feel hungry, whether it's in five minutes or five hours. It also requires full-body presence while you eat so you are actually aware of when you become satisfied. There is no way you can recognize it's time to stop if you are distracted while eating.
The next time you realize you have eaten past gentle satisfaction ask yourself... 1. Was it because you simply weren't present and missed the cues?
2. Was it because you liked the taste so much you consciously chose to keep eating?
3. Was it because you felt panicky about when and what food would be available for you next?
It can be helpful to practice pausing, if only for 30-60 seconds when you start to sense satisfaction before making a final decision to stop eat eating.
Principle 6: Discover The Satisfaction Factor
How satisfied are you with most of your eating experiences? If you've been dieting, restricting, or listening to the food police, then probably not very satisfied. You have the right to enjoy ALL of your eating experiences. It's my experience that enjoyment is deeply connected to how invested you are in your entire eating process, beginning with taking the time to day-dream about what you would like to eat. If you are more satisfied with food, you are less likely to keep following external rules that don't serve you.
1. Brainstorm a list of meals you love (my menu planner post can help with this).
2. Identify if any of them are "off limits".
3. Start with choosing just one and plan a time to revisit it from start to finish including shopping for the ingredients.
4. After the meal notice if you feel different from previous eating experiences.
Principle 7: Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
When life is painful, sometimes it feels like food is one of the only sources of comfort. Comfort eating in itself isn't bad or wrong. The problem is the after effects of guilt and shame following a food coma. Food does and always will have emotional connections. If we can respect and embrace the beneficial aspects of emotional eating, such as honoring a memory, a celebration, a family favorite, then we disassociate the stigma attached to emotional eating and can recognize that eating to numb, hide, detach or avoid painful emotions is its own topic altogether.
1. Can you identify an eating experience that was purely motivated by a pleasant emotional connection?
2. Can you identify an eating experience that was purely motivated by a painful emotional connection?
3. The next time you choose to eat to cope with pain can you recognize it as one choice in a landscape of various choices you could make to cope?
4. What are a few other helpful choices you could make instead?
Principle 8: Respect Your Body
You don't have to convince yourself that you love or even like your body, but you don't get to neglect, abuse or punish yourself because you don't look or feel the way you want. Respecting your body requires application of all the Intuitive Eating principles: honoring hunger and fullness, listening to yourself rather than outside sources, enjoying yourself, getting quality movement and having quality eating experiences.
Is there something you enjoy doing that you have stopped participating in because you are too ashamed of your body?
1. Do you want to try reconnecting with it?
2. Do you have the right clothing that fits you right now to participate in it?
3. Do you have a place organized to participate in it?
4. Can it be adapted or modified to meet your current needs if the full version is unrealistic for you right now?
Principle 9: Exercise--Feel The Difference
I have always preferred the term movement to exercise. I like that movement includes any and all movement you get during your day. Exercise feels like a very specific type of movement to me. I enjoy focused exercise sessions, but I have really come to value shorter movement bursts during the day that help me shift stagnant energy. This type of movement is particularly helpful if you aren't ready for formal exercise, are exhausted, or currently view exercise as only a means to an end.
1. What are your primary reasons for moving and/or exercising?
2. Have you ever viewed movement as a way to shift energy or get unstuck in both mind and body?
3. I recommend participating in one of my free movement videos the next time you feel stuck. Notice how you feel after.
Principle 10: Honor Your Health--Gentle Nutrition
Is there room for honoring your health within Intuitive Eating? Absolutely. The core of Intuitive Eating is practicing solid, self-care. The type of self-care that is grounded in being able to identify and nurture your needs every single day. This requires being adaptable and flexible. One nutritionally focused meal or food item a day that you enjoy and don't feel forced to eat can impact your entire day in a helpful way. Even if you've been dieting for ages, chances are there are still some healthy choices that you also love.
1. Brainstorm a list of favorite healthy choice foods.
2. Brainstorm a list of favorite play foods (foods that are just for fun, taste, social or emotional connections.)
3. Notice that there is room for both types of food in your life.
4. Notice which list you feel more drawn to right now.
The Intuitive Eating principles cover a wide range of fundamental wellness ideas including not having weight be the primary measure of well-being. Join me for a free masterclass, Ditch the Scale if you want to learn more.
See you soon for more Intuitive Eating.
Yours In Health,
E. Tribole & E. Resch. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. New York. 2003.