Making Intuitive Eating Easy
It sounds easy, but why is it so hard?
Intuitive eating is a principle of eating where you make peace with all different foods. You get to remove any unnecessary diet restrictions, making all foods neutral, and allowing you to just listen to your body!
Well… it can be, but it will probably take some practice first.
The challenge is that many of us do not trust our body or haven’t tried trusting it in the past, so we don’t know where to start. It may even feel daunting if you have a history of dieting, thinking you’ll only eat junk food and become an unhealthy person if you only eat what you want.
Intuitive eating meaning
I want to remind you, that intuitive eating is about learning to trust your own knowledge of food and your body. It is not as simple as eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It’s about practicing to listen to your body and eat what feels right for you. Ultimately, this means that you combine your knowledge of food, what makes you feel your best, and what you want in a particular moment.
What intuitive eating looks like
Here are a couple examples of trusting your body and your knowledge:
You are at work or school and you get a lunch break. You aren’t super hungry right now, but you know that you won’t have a chance to eat again for several more hours. You know you’ll be too hungry if you wait to eat until after work/school which will make it too hard to focus and will negatively affect the rest of your day. You choose to eat most of your lunch now and plan to have a snack later if needed.
You are excited for dessert with your meal tonight! Your partner has made your absolute favourite dessert, cheesecake. You know that won’t feel good if you only eat cheesecake, so you make sure that you eat some of your dinner – a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and veggies – but you also make sure that you leave room for dessert and won’t be too full.
You are really hungry today! You’ve eaten your normal breakfast and snack already and are hungry for lunch, but it is only 10:30 am. You decide to eat your lunch early to honour your hunger, knowing that you can get more food for lunch later if you need it. You don’t feel bad about eating your lunch early, because you trust the hunger signals that your body is giving you and you know that it is totally normal to be hungrier on some days compared to other days.
Easing into intuitive eating
Thinking about adding flexibility to your nutrition? Here are a few steps that you can take to start practicing intuitive eating to help you ease in.
1. Building trust with your body and hunger cues.
Stomach rumbling is not the only way that your body tells you it is hungry. You may start to feel low energy, sluggish, or even shaky. You may notice that you are starting to think about food and can’t seem to get it out of your head. You may notice that your focus has really dropped off and you are struggling to stay on task more than usual.
The first step is to slow down and pay attention to your hunger cues and potential hunger cues. When you notice these sensations or when you notice yourself heading into the kitchen for food, ask yourself, is this my hunger?
2. Pay attention to your satisfaction and fullness from different foods
This one is a bit harder because fullness cues are a little more subtle. At the end of a meal or snack, pause to check in with what you ate and how you feel. Are you still hungry? Are you satisfied? Are you too full?
Then wait and see. After that feeling, when do you get hungry next? Was it 30 minutes or 3 hours? This is a great way to start learning which foods keep you satisfied for longer.
3. It’s okay to get it wrong or forget!
Intuitive eating takes practice and learning to trust your body takes time. There will be days that you thought you packed enough food and you end up starving at 2 pm. There will be times that you thought you were satisfied at the end of a meal and felt too full 10 minutes later. That is okay, this is part of the learning process! The true principle of intuitive eating is not judging yourself as good or bad for eating, but rather seeing the act of eating as something that is just as neutral as sleeping and other daily body functions.
Looking for more information on intuitive eating or nutrition counseling?
As university-trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and intuitive eating support. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you.