What is Intuitive Eating Anyway?
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How to get back to basics when it comes to nourishing yourself 

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When you think of the word ‘eating’, what comes to mind?  Do you think of the different foods that you enjoy? Do you picture the people you typically share your meals with?  Perhaps you’re thinking about various diets you’ve followed over the years.  You may even have some negative feelings come up as you reflect on your own eating habits.  When it comes to our individual eating habits, you can imagine that there is a plethora of variables that affect our daily choices; including energy levels, mood, digestive health and activity level to name a few.  But what if I said that many people are currently eating according to variables that are outside of themselves and not based on internal signals as mentioned in the examples above? Rather than tuning into things like hunger and fullness cues and energy levels, millions of people lean on external factors to guide their eating choices instead.   

Read on to learn more about these cues, and the benefits of nourishing yourself intuitively. 

So What Exactly Is Intuitive Eating? And Where Did It Originate? 

Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 Principles and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. It is a weight-neutral model with a validated assessment scale and over 140 studies to date. The principles work by either cultivating or removing obstacles to body awareness, a process known as interoceptive awareness.  Essentially, Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs. (1) 

The 10 Principles:  

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality 
  2. Honor Your Hunger 
  3. Make Peace with Food 
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor 
  6. Feel Your Fullness 
  7. Cope With Your Emotions with Kindness 
  8. Respect Your Body 
  9. Movement- Feel the Difference 
  10. Honour your Health- Gentle Nutrition

Benefits of Eating Intuitively 

A recent 2021 study conducted a meta-analysis to explore the psychological correlates of Intuitive Eating. Nearly 100 studies were collected to analyze patterns and trends that hold true across this body of literature. Here’s what they found: (2) 

Intuitive Eating is POSTIVELY associated with: 

  • Body appreciation 
  • Body image flexibility 
  • Body function 
  • Body acceptance by others 
  • Mindfulness 
  • Positive affect 
  • Self-compassion 
  • Self-esteem 
  • Social support 
  • General wellbeing 

Intuitive Eating is NEGATIVELY associated with: 

  • Shape and weight concerns 
  • Eating disorder psychopathology 
  • Internalization of beauty ideals 
  • Binge-purge symptoms 
  • Eating restraint 
  • Emotional eating 
  • Anxiety symptoms 
  • Depressive symptoms 
  • Negative mood 

    What Kind of Messages Is My Body Sending Me? 

    If you’ve ever introduced solids to an infant, or had the pleasure of feeding a baby, you would have witnessed them responding to their hunger and fullness cues in a very instinctual way.  When babies are hungry, they will open their mouths and accept the food that it being offered to them.  Once they are full, they will demonstrate this by keeping their lips closed, turn their head, push the food away, or communicate by making sounds.  Babies are relying solely on their internal hunger and fullness cues, which is an incredible skill that we all possess.  These intrinsic cues can be muddied as we age however, and many of us begin to rely on external cues instead. 

    Some examples of external cues include: 

    • Diet Culture 
    • Peer group 
    • The media we consume 
    • Advertising 
    • Our environment 
    • Socio economic status 
    • Upbringing and parent’s relationship to eating and food 

    Besides hunger and fullness signals, we have the ability to tune into the thoughts and feelings that come up as we’re eating, as well as how satisfying and enjoyable each food truly is.  Furthermore, our bodies send messages related to things such as hydration status, overall sleep quality, energy levels and stress. 

    I Want to Try Eating Intuitively, But Where Do I Start? 

    Meeting with a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor can be a great first step to help guide and support you on your journey to food freedom.  While working together, you will learn strategies to improve your relationship with food and your body.  Unlike following a diet, this process will involve getting more in touch with yourself, your goals and your needs; as you are the expert of your own body. You will create small action steps, which feel right to you, that will form the foundation for lifelong sustainable habits.  

    If you’re curious to know which variables are influencing your eating habits, I invite you to start by slowing down and pausing when you’re reaching for your snacks and meals.  Tune into your body and listen to what your body and thoughts are telling you.  Get to know what sensations you feel during moments of physical hunger and fullness.  Listen to the dialogue that runs through your head when you’re deciding on what to eat.  Be mindful and present during your meal and assess if you’re truly feeling satisfied and comfortable afterwards.  

    Ready to start your intuitive eating journey?

    Our Calgary dietitian, online nutritionists, and certified intuitive eating counselors do everything we can to help you move towards your personal best weight and a sustainable lifestyle.

    You won’t find any weird fad diets, unnecessary food restrictions and anyone trying to sell you shakes, supplements or so-called miracle cures here. 

    As trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. 

    Interested in learning more about intuitive eating? Check out these blog posts:

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