What It Means to Eat Intuitively

According to intuitiveeating.org, eating intuitively is a "dynamic integration between mind and body." It is a personal process of respecting health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.

When you are practicing intuitive eating, you are able to go out for ice cream with friends and enjoy the moment. You are able to recognize that you are full and because of that you'll stop eating the ice cream. You're also able to love every bite and continue eating the ice cream if you don't want to stop. Intuitive eating is knowing which foods bring you pleasure and which make you feel good.

It holds the fact that you alone hold the power to control and recognize what hunger, fullness and satisfaction feel like. "Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool–it’s time to unleash it and liberate yourself from the prison of diet culture and weight obsession". 

What It Doesn't Mean to Eat Intuitively

Intuitive eating is not a diet. If it requires a scale, counting calories, tracking macros, or measuring food, it is a diet and not intuitive eating. 

Kirsten Ackerman, also known as The Intuitive RD, and self-proclaimed non-diet dietitian, states that intuitive eating is not anti-weightloss. "What this means is that someone may gain some weight when starting their intuitive eating journey (particularly if they have been restricting themselves)... and sometimes people do lose weight. The bottom line is that it is all okay. Weight does not hold any [significance] in the measure of intuitive eating progress."

Ackerman also says that intuitive eating is not anti-health. "When entering intuitive eating, there is a period of reclaiming foods [they have had a negative relationship with]. From the outside, this may look like someone is heavily focused on non-nutritionally dense foods. After a period of time, the person’s relationship to food becomes more neutral and they can start having more balance in their diet."

The 10 Principles from the Book: Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality Remind yourself that your body is the best thing you have to offer to this world and losing weight is not what you were put on this earth to do. Dieting will not make you happier.

2. Honor Your Hunger If you are hungry, eat what makes you feel good. Eat what you enjoy and be sure to indulge your cravings because restriction results in overeating.

3. Make Peace with Food Get rid of the "bad" and "clean" food rhetoric. Food does not have a moral value. You should never feel guilty for eating.

4. Challenge the Food Police The Food Police are the voices in your head that enforce the rules of diet culture. They tell you not to eat the chocolate or cake when you want to eat it. Tell the Food Police to shut up.

5. Respect Your Fullness Stop eating when you are full. Most people eat to the point of feeling ill or made themselves sick as a result of overeating. It will take time to relearn the ability to hear your fullness after years of restriction and overeating.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor When you eat the food you want in a healthy environment without judgment or guilt, you find it take less food to decide you are satisfied. 

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find different ways of celebrating outside of food. Go for a hike with friends or buy yourself a new sweater. Food is not the only way to reward yourself.

8. Respect Your Body You do not expect a 10-year-old child to fit in the clothes of a toddler. You should not expect yourself to fit into clothes from a few years ago. Your body is constantly changing while maintaining beauty and strength. Respect its size and treat it well, it's the only body you have.

9. Exercise It took me years to discover that exercise is not a punishment for what I ate, but a celebration of what my body can do. If you hate working out, you may not have found the right exercise for you yet. If you haven't already, give weightlifting a try.

10. Honor Your Health Being healthy does not mean cutting carbs and working out every day. Healthy means eating foods that make you feel good and responding to your cravings. It means moving your body in ways that excite you and resting when you need it.

From personal experience, intuitive eating means finding a balance that I am still trying to master. I maintained a strict and restrictive diet for years and eating intuitively has allowed me to incorporate foods I enjoy that used to be "off limits." I’ve gained some weight, but I’ve also gained a life and much more physical and mental strength than I would have ever imagined.

Gabriela Cantero