There are no rules, no strict plan, instead a flexible and supportive framework that is tailored to you and your needs.
In this post I focus on the first two principles of Intuitive Eating ‘Reject the Diet Mentality’ and ‘Honour Your Hunger’. I’ll explain what they are, and how you can get started with learning to eat intuitively with actionable tips.
Principle 1: Reject The Diet Mentaity
Rejecting diet mentality is crucial to the entire intuitive eating process.
In order to be an intuitive eater, the pursuit of weight loss must be put aside. Diets just don’t work in the long-run for the majority of people. No scientific literature supports that dieting can induce sustainable, long-term weight loss over 2- 5 years.
Time and again, the weight comes back and often with more. Yet we’ve been told to blame ourselves and our lack of willpower – and it’s just not true.
In Intuitive Eating we move the focus away from seeking weight-loss and onto gentle nutrition, joyful movement, self-care and reducing stress.
This principle is the first step of many steps to help you to accept your body. It can be a really hard process to move away from seeking weight loss and to give up that dream of being thinner. At this stage, just know that your worth is not defined by how you look, or a number on a scale.
So what is the diet mentality?
Diet mentality is where you choose foods based on ‘health’ (you think) and weight management over choices based on your hunger and fullness signals, cravings, life circumstances or your own personal food preferences. >
Diet mentality is the thought that somewhere, out there, there’s a diet that works for you offering you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily and permanently.
You might not even see it as a diet. It may be that you’re in a constant state of semi-hunger and avoiding fullness or that you’ve cut out sugar or carbs. Recently diet mentality has had a shiny makeover into ‘wellness’, ‘health’ and ‘clean-eating’. But a diet is a diet is a diet.
Diet mentality motivation
To look ‘better’
To change your shape
To change your size
Intuitive eating motivation
Feel good in your body
Improve your health
Enjoy life to the max without a backlash of guilt, stress and worry
Build on body image
Be attuned and responsive to your body’s needs and desires
Acknowledge the value of self-care
Intuitive eating is
Movement through exercise gives me joy and makes me feel good in myself
Am I hungry? Ok, let's eat
Do I like this food? Do I feel like this food right now?
Does this food ‘hit the spot’?
Will this make me feel good in my body? Energised, satisfied?
Diet mentality is
Exercising to make up for eating ‘too much’
Working out to burn calories
‘I’m going to start a diet tomorrow’
I’ve earnt this
Having ‘cheat’ days
I don’t eat sugar/carbs/gluten
I don’t want to feel full as I’ll gain weight
The one thing you can do right now:
Journal out your feelings for 10 minutes. What has dieting cost you? Or if you’ve moved past dieting, what residual diet mentality are you holding on to? How does it make you feel? Let yourself be angry, sad, upset, whatever you’re feeling. Write it all out, reflect, and then burn it or delete.
Principle 2: Honour Your Hunger
In essence, this principle encourages you to eat when you’re hungry.
It sounds so easy, but our relationship with food is often never that simple. We are complex human beings and it can be difficult to change food habits that have been shaped over a lifetime.
I often work with women who’s ‘normal’ is being in a constant state of semi-hunger. There can be this subconscious fear that once you start eating to complete fullness, you are going to put on weight.
When you don’t honour your hunger with adequate energy your body switches into a primal drive to overeat. Food choices become skewed, and a wild west out-of-control ‘give me food!’ takes over.
If you’re not fuelling your body consistently, how do you expect to get a consistent message from your body.
One of my favourite analogies is to describe hunger as a natural response like needing to go to the bathroom. Peeing is such a good example of being intuitive! If you need to pee, you pee. There’s no guilt involved.
If you need to pee again after you peed 30 minutes before, you go pee. You don’t hold it in, because you already peed, or get guilty and angry with your body for needing to pee again. You might think, hey that’s weird, but nothing more. You pee, and you move on with your day.
But what happens if you stop yourself peeing? Then you really need to go pee! And eventually. You wet your pants. Hunger is the same. If you ignore your hunger – your body will override your willpower and you’ll overeat.
The one thing you can do right now:
Be gentle on yourself, it can take a while to tap back into your hunger signals. Start by taking time to stay connected with how your stomach feels though out the day. Make a note of your mood, how your stomach feels (empty, rumbling, pleasant) at different points through out the day and before, during and after meals.