In parts one and two of our series the “New Normal,” we explored Mindful Eating and Joyful Movement. Today, we are going to take you on the last part of our three-part journey and learn more about the concept of Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating, created in 1995 by two dietitians (Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch), is a framework rooted in self-care that asks us to turn inward and use the wisdom our body possesses to better nourish and sustain ourselves. This process helps us to remove the ‘noise’ and obstacles to listening to our body that typically come from external rules, beliefs, and thoughts we have learned over the course of our lives.
Well over 100 studies validate the use of Intuitive Eating and have shown improvements such as reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased energy, improved body image and self-esteem, increased satisfaction with life and reduced stress levels, as well as a decrease in the rates of disordered and emotional eating.
Using the Intuitive Eating framework can be scary at first. It is not always a linear path to success; it’s often a winding journey, but if incorporated fully it allows us to tune in to our body’s needs and better serve our health in the long run.
Intuitive Eating has 10 core concepts outlined below:
Reject the Diet Mentality. Diets have a 95% failure rate. That’s right, 95% of people who diet will gain back the weight lost within 2-5 years, and many will gain even more than they lost. Reject the idea that dieting is the answer. The habits we create are far more powerful than any one diet.
Honor Your Hunger. Hunger is a normal, biological process. Our body needs to know that it will consistently have access to food and be nourished. Trying to ignore or ride out feelings of hunger often lead to intense cravings and out-of-control eating.
Make Peace with Food. Stop labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and give yourself unconditional permission to nourish your body. No one food is going to tip the balance and make you unhealthy. In fact, restricting foods can lead to persistent thoughts about that food or food group and an intense feeling of deprivation. The feelings of deprivation can, in turn, lead to cravings and overeating when presented with that food. The overeating can then trigger feelings of guilt, which can start the cycle all over again.
Challenge the Food Police. The Food Police are the thoughts that allow us to label ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what we eat. They are fueled by unreasonable rules that are outlined by fad diets and diet culture. These thoughts may lead to feelings of shame around our food choices. Challenging the Food Police is an essential part of embracing your intuitive eater.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor. It is critical to make sure that your food is satisfying; otherwise, you are more likely to continue searching for something that will help you feel more satisfied, which can increase the likelihood of overeating. Ever wanted a cookie, ate a rice cake instead, and then continued to eat until you wind up having a few cookies in addition to all the other things you ate along the way? Deriving pleasure from our meals goes a long way toward making us feel satisfied and content.
Feel Your Fullness. To feel our fullness, we need to listen for our body’s signals. This requires us to choose foods that are pleasing to us, that will be satisfying, and eat mindfully. It’s helpful to pause throughout your meal and check in with your body, how the food tastes, how you are feeling, and whether you’re reaching a comfortable place in the hunger/fullness spectrum (are you feeling satisfied?).
Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness. Emotional eating is a common practice for many. We often eat for reasons other than hunger, perhaps in response to stress, anxiety, or boredom. Each emotion typically has its own trigger, which often cannot be solved by food. While food may take your mind off of the uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing in that moment, it does not serve you in the long run, especially if it’s the only coping tool you have access to. In fact, it can often make you feel worse and you will still need to work through life’s challenges that are separate from food. If you are struggling to do this on your own, a licensed mental health specialist can help guide you through this part of the process.
Respect Your Body. We cannot control our body’s DNA or genetics. Just as we can’t choose to be taller, we also can’t choose the exact way we want our body to look. We can, instead, treat our body with respect, regardless of size.
Movement – Feel the Difference. Shift focus and learn how different your body can feel from Joyful Movement. You may find yourself more energized or better able to handle whatever life throws at you. You may find you sleep better or are less stressed from engaging in regular movement.
Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition. Choose foods that both honor your palate and your health. Consistently nourishing your body over time is a way to honor your health.
To dig deeper and find out more, you can visit intuitiveeating.org
This completes our three-part journey. Intuitive Eating is the larger umbrella that encompasses both Joyful Movement and Mindful Eating. Using these mindful practices allows us to tune in to our body’s cues so that both our biological and psychological needs are met.
If you want to learn more about how to put this into practice, please schedule an appointment with one of ACPNY’s Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists.