I used to have a complicated relationship with food. I spent years practicing eating disordered behaviors and feeling shame when I consumed what I considered to be “bad” foods. In more recent years, I’ve redefined my relationship with food by learning how to become intuitive eater. Intuitive eating is the practice of “making food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honoring hunger, respecting fullness and enjoying the pleasure of eating” (benourished.org).

chocolate, candy, sweet, coffee, cupcake, girl, eating
Jocelyn Hsu

It’s normal to experience guilt and self-judgement when making our food choices, but it doesn’t have to be. Intuitive eating requires mindfulness and an awareness of the fact that there are truly no “good” or “bad” foods. Any food you consume does something for your body and can be useful to it’s function in some way. Re-learning how to think about your diet will decrease the guilt you feel when you consume it.

Intuitive eating also teaches individuals to respond to their internal cues that signal when they are hungry or full. Rather than trying to self-determine when they eat, intuitive eaters let their body remind them when it’s time to eat or time to finish. They refrain from going hungry or filling themselves up too much. Overall, intuitive eaters view eating as an enjoyable and positive experience. They eat what they would like and when they would like it by listening to their body’s needs and taking into account internal cues.

The concept of intuitive eating was developed in Evelyn Tribole’s and Elyse Resch’s 1995 book titled Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. Tribole and Resch outline 10 principles of intuitive eating on their website and in their book. 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Shed societal pressures telling you to go on diets -- many times, the dieter does not find the results they are looking for. Forget about the detox teas or other short-term attempts at weight loss you see promoted on social media, they can only end up hurting in the long run.

2. Honor your Hunger. Give your body the fuel that it needs to survive. Without adequate energy and carbohydrates, the body can’t function properly and will eventually shut down. Responding to your internal stimuli and eating when you feel like you need to will keep your body happy and healthy.

3. Make Peace with Food. End the “food fight” and let yourself eat unconditionally. Allow yourself to have the foods you crave to prevent potential binges down the road.

4. Challenge the Food Police. Shed your conception of eating minimal calories to be “good” and the alternative to be “bad.” You need an adequate amount of calories to keep your body energetic and alert throughout the day. Remind yourself that it’s unreasonable to follow these unwritten rules that the “food police” have created.

5. Respect Your Fullness. If your body is signaling that you are no longer hungry, stop eating. Let yourself be comfortably full.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Find the joy in eating and the satisfaction it can provide. Your body will be left feeling content and well-nourished when you enjoy the foods you eat.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Remember that there are other ways to cope with negative emotions besides food. Although it may provide short-term comfort, in the long wrong, binging in an attempt to resolve issues will leave you feeling much worse.

8. Respect Your Body. Practice body positivity and celebrate your genetic blueprint. Your body deserves the same respect you would give to your loved ones, and nourishing it is a sign of appreciation.

9. Exercise — Feel the Difference. Without putting immense pressure on yourself, simply get more active and feel the difference. Even taking a brisk walk as opposed to driving to your destination will leave your body feeling energized and satisfied.

10. Honor Your Health. Remember that the key to being healthy is not eating a perfect diet. Your body deserves to be well-fed, nourished, and respected in order to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Learning to eat intuitively may not happen overnight, but it is a fulfilling process that will improve your well-being and health in the long run. I feel happier in my body than I ever thought I could and intuitive eating played a major part in helping me get there. To learn more about intuitive eating, you can take a look at the Original Intuitive Eating Pros website.