If you’re new to Intuitive Eating or have come across it in your travels online, you wouldn’t be wrong in feeling like there’s a lot of information to sift through!
So, to cut through all of the noise, I want to offer you four steps to get started with Intuitive Eating. This is not a complete list, but it’s a good place to get the foundations that you can work towards putting in your day to calm some of the overwhelm you might be experiencing with your eating (or with exploring Intuitive Eating!)
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating was created back in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and is a framework for (re)connecting the mind and the body by prioritizing internal cues over external diet rules. Intuitive Eating aims to integrate our instinct, logical thought and emotion through self-care practices and is a weight-inclusive, evidenced-based approach.
What are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
To provide some structure and containment to the idea of Intuitive Eating, the framework is made up of 10 principles:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement—Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
You can learn more about the principles over on the official Intuitive Eating website.
Who can try Intuitive Eating?
The lovely thing about Intuitive Eating is that it is an approach that any human with a body can try – you don’t have to meet any qualifying criteria. Medical conditions, food allergies and dietary restrictions can all be accommodated and honored.
Yes, Intuitive Eating does require a certain level of food security and access and some parts might not be appropriate to begin with if you have an eating disorder but this is where working with an Intuitive Eating dietitian is a great way to make sure you’re getting Intuitive Eating tailored to your specific needs.
How to start Intuitive Eating In 4 Steps
1. Use very gentle structure to find rhythm to your eating
Lots of people want to jump straight into the ‘eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full’ part of Intuitive Eating. But if you’ve been feeling out of control with your eating, binge eating, restricting or letting external factors like calorie counting and diet plans influence your eating, you’re probably going to have a hard time feeling attuned to these signals.
If you are not used to eating regularly, a very gentle structure to your eating to create rhythm will look like not waiting too long between meals and eating enough to not need to be thinking about food every hour.
2. Work on slowing down to get the hang of your personal signals of hunger and fullness
The next step that will support you to reconnect with your personal signals of hunger and fullness is to work on slowing down.
When we rush, with our eating and in our lives, it is difficult to pick up on the messages and wisdom our body sends us. Learning to slow down, check-in and be present gives us a better chance of picking up those hunger and fullness signals. There’s a guide for you here if you don’t already have it called the Attuned Eating Toolkit.
3. Learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger and fullness
It’s one thing to feel like emotional eating happens to you, versus learning what your under and over emotional eating means and how it’s different from your experience of physical hunger.
The aim here is developing the attunement skills so you can feel you have more choice and can decide if you want to eat to help navigate the emotions or if you want to try something else.
4. Start building in other resources as you get clearer about your needs other than food
I’ll admit, this step is one that takes some time. It involves learning about the little and big things that allow you to stay present.
‘Resources’ are both internal (our ability to connect with our breath, remembering we’ve done hard things before) and external (a smile, nature, smelling orange oil, fuzzy blanket, a hug). After you figure some of this out, it’s practicing these as options along with food and building safety so that you know you have other things and people to lean on when anxious, down and frustrated without the autopilot of food.
And if you’re looking for more traditional resources, here’s a list of books that I love.
A final tip – you don’t have to heal on your own
Healing your relationship with food and becoming an attuned eater doesn’t have to be a solo journey. If you’d like some support getting started or for a deeper dive into the nuances of Intuitive Eating, decoding your food cravings, healing your body image work and somatic work for stress management, the team and I would love to partner with you. Explore our services.
I hope this post and resources inspire you on how to start Intuitive Eating. Let me know how it’s going in the comments below and what nuances you might be stuck on.
Originally published February 2019
Thank you, Tracy!