We grew up with the concept of ‘3 meals a day’ engrained into us. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were compulsory. Then all these new concepts started to emerge; ‘eat 6 small meals a day’, ‘protein shakes are essential’, ‘intermittent fasting is the way forward’, ‘we need high protein and fat is the enemy’, ‘no actually healthy fats are essential, so stock up on avocados and coconut oil’. And now you’re lost in a sea of diet opinions, trying to somehow integrate all of them into your daily food intake. Before you know it, you’re having breakfast, a protein shake, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, a coffee, dinner, post-dinner snack… the real question is, are you even hungry? It is so engrained into our brains to eat at certain times, when the truth is, we as a society massively overeat. We have totally forgotten to actually listen to our bodies.
If you’re freelancing from home or in a co-working space all day it can be hard not to base your day around food. Your next lunch break or snack is what breaks the day up. So odds are you have your routine and will eat in your allotted times regardless of whether your body is telling you it wants food. This is where we go wrong!
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating, put simply, is ditching any sort of diet and trusting your body to tell you when you should and shouldn’t eat. Seems easy enough right? Well, it can prove to be pretty tough. Our brains have a sneaky little habit of trying to make us eat, even if we don’t really need it. Oh, the deception! Because we are creatures of habit, when you check the time and think ‘oh its time for my afternoon snack’, you probably don’t stop to consider whether you’re eating because you’re hungry or just because you’re craving something at that time, because that’s what your body is used to.
Shifting towards intuitive eating can be a little tricky at first because we, as creatures of habit, like staying in the same structure we have always known.
According to the original intuitive eating pros, these are the 10 principles of intuitive eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
This is not a diet! It is a new mindset to approach your food choices with. There are no restrictions, tracking macros/calories or meal plans of any kind. It is getting back to the basics and listening to your body to make choices about food.
- Honour Your Hunger
Don’t starve yourself. If you are hungry, eat. And eat foods that will satisfy your hunger too. If you get to a stage of ravenous hunger, the likelihood is that all senses of conscious eating will go out of the window (and you’ll probably eat your food very fast, which isn’t ideal either!).
- Make Peace with Food
Don’t restrict what foods you can or can’t eat. This creates a mindset where you feel deprived of that food, which in turn will cause intense cravings, and likely bingeing on the ‘evil forbidden food’ for fear that you won’t have it again for a long time. This is very counter-productive. If you change this mindset, the ‘forbidden food’ will likely become much less appealing to you, because you know you can have it whenever you might want it!
- Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created.
- Respect Your Fullness
You were likely told as a child to finish all the food on your plate, right? Well, throw this concept out the window. Stop eating when you’re full, not when all the food is gone. Slow your eating down, and try to stop eating when you feel satisfied, not stuffed.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
Emotional eating? Not so intuitive! If you’re feeling anxious, sad, or bored, bingeing on a whole pack of cookies or tub of ice cream will often leave you feeling worse. Find a positive outlet for your emotions, that will also make you feel better in the long run. Eg. Meditation or exercise.
- Respect Your Body
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles (body acceptance), respect your body and accept your body. Part of rejecting the diet mentality is also rejecting rigid body ideals imposed on us. As I’ve mentioned, its totally normal to have goals for your body, but don’t be overly critical about yourself, and learn to accept yourself now just as you would if you had your ‘dream body’.
- Exercise—Feel the Difference
Sure, the large majority of us exercise because we have an end goal which is often aesthetical. But really try to concentrate also on the other benefits of exercise. The endorphins you get, the positive changes it has on your body and mind, not just the amount of calories you’re burning! Once you start to enjoy exercise for all its amazing benefits, instead of looking at it as a chore to burn fat, odds are you will probably enjoy it more which increases the likelihood of adherence.
- Honor Your Health
Remember that what you put into your body long term and consistently is what really makes a difference. Eating one bad meal will not change your entire body, just how eating one healthy meal will not. It is okay to satisfy your taste buds aswell as your health. Once we shift from seeing ‘unhealthy food’ as the enemy, the likelihood is we will stop craving it so much. Making baby steps to try to achieve intuitive eating means adjusting your outlook on food as a whole. We need to change the way we view food and dieting in order to make long term changes.