What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a tool that empowers you to be the expert of your body. This method of eating is based on listening to and trusting your body’s internal cues and wisdom. It is a sensation-based means of learning what foods your body needs to be properly nourished.
This body-based practice moves away from the intellectually-based diet mentality and towards a simpler, instinctual way of choosing what’s right for you. It is tapping into your internal guidelines, rather than blindly following an external set of rules about food. It is also a great way to improve your relationship with your body and with food. Since there is no one specific diet that every person will thrive on, this helps you determine what works best for you. Food is medicine, and when practiced and used properly, intuitive eating is a fast track to supporting your health and vitality.
Intuitive eating is …
- Paying close attention to how you feel in your body before, during, and after eating
- Listening to and learning to trust the feedback signals in your body
- Making choices based on your body’s feedback signals, making you more present while eating
- Practice in honing a fine-tuned awareness of the signals that your body is sending, learning over time to listen on a visceral level
- Making choices based on foods that leave you feeling satiated, nourished, and energetic.
- Paying attention to symptoms, as they may be directly connected with food choices – either immediately or days later.
Intuitive eating is a process that takes commitment, practice, and patience. You will learn to discern the difference between a craving and a physical or energetic need. The more you listen, the more feedback you get, building a foundation of trust over time.
Intuitive eating is also a process of trial and error. For example, when you check in with yourself and ask what your needing in that moment and the answer is a donut, you can allow yourself to eat that donut. The key is to check in with yourself during, right after eating, and a few hours later. You may find that it gave you momentary satisfaction (and a sugar high) but eventually left you feeling more tired and hungry later on. Creating a connection with the negative side effects of foods to the ones that caused it builds your internal compass. You and your body will remember that yucky feeling associated with eating the donut. And then you get to consciously choose, judgment-free, whether that food is worth the consequences and whether it aligns with your goals of vitality in full awareness.
This process is an opportunity for kindness and compassion with yourself. It may take months of trial and error, but trust in yourself that you will find the foods that work best for you. When we find ourselves repeatedly making choices around food that inhibit our goals of vitality, it’s time to look deeper at the emotional picture driving our choices. Food is a doorway to understanding so much more about ourselves, invariably revealing a great deal more than just taste preferences.
Why learn Intuitive Eating?
The feedback you gain from a practice of intuitive eating is useful on many levels. It takes some of the guessing out of knowing what, when, and how much to eat. Respecting your body’s wonderful built-in signals will help reduce the pendulum swing of undereating and overeating (which helps keep weight down!), reduce uncontrollable cravings, and helps you slow down to see what you’re satisfying – hunger or emotions. Other benefits of intuitive eating include improved self-esteem, increased optimism, increased satisfaction, and reduced preoccupation with food to meet a psychological need. We could all use a little more of that.
Co-authored by Avery Wood and Dr. Emma Andre