Nowadays, we are more and more focused on technology (cell phone, computer, television, etc.) and we sometimes forget the essential: to be connected to ourselves and to what we feel. On the nutrition side, diets sometimes advocate restriction and lead us to have food cravings, which in turns create an unhealthy relationship with our body. Thus, these type of diet of push us to ignore the messages that our body sends us. Have you ever tried diets to lose weight? Have these diets been effective in the long run? Have you ever taken the time to listen to your body? I will tell you about a method that aims to end diets, control and restriction: intuitive eating. It consists of listening to our body, recognizing our needs and desires and respecting them as much as possible.
We will first review the principles of intuitive eating, and then continue with a few tips, to give you a better understanding this method and to be able to apply it in our daily lives.
The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a positive approach that aims to listen to our body and food signals about hunger and satiety. This approach is based on 10 principles, which are not rules. Integrating these principles will help you develop a healthy relationship with your body and your food.
Reject the Diet Mentality
Weight-loss diets often sell you the idea of a quick, easy and permanent weight loss. However, deprivation and restrictions are often put forward in this type of diet. Thus, we cut in carbohydrates, in lipids (fat) or foods such as wine and desserts. These habits then lead to a vicious and unhealthy cycle with regards to food. With intuitive eating, there is only one rule of thumb: stop believing in fad diets and trust your own intuition.
Honoring Your Hunger
The intuitive diet sees nutrition differently. With this concept, finishing your plate is not necessarily a good thing. In this particular nutrition method, eating everything on your plate means that you ignore satiety signals and that you fail to listen to your body simply to eat everything that is in front of you. You should stop eating when you feel comfortable and not full, regardless whether your plate is empty or not. Your body must constantly be fed with energy and carbohydrates. If you try to moderate your hunger and you deprive yourself, that’s where you stuff yourself.
Make Peace With Food and Allow Ourselves to Eat EVERYTHING
Allow yourself to eat all the foods that you desire. You have the right to EAT everything. Human nature is unfortunately made so that when we forbid a food we love, there is a good chance we will want it even more. Thus, the more you forbid food and the more you will crave it and feel the need to eat it. Intuitive eating pushes us to make peace with food and not to be at war against it.
Stop categorizing Foods as “Good” or “Bad”
Every aliment has different nutritional profiles. It is not necessary to classify them as GOOD or BAD. This classification makes you feel guilty when you consume a bad food and encourages an unhealthy relationship with food. Challenge the food police and think instead to vary your diet and diversify your food. Eating a cookie or a piece of cake will not make you a bad person. Intuitive eating promotes moderation. So, in moderation, we can eat anything! All foods, even the least nutritious have their place in a healthy diet. No deprivation = less excess!
Listen to Your Sensation of Satiety
From a very young age, we are conditioned to eat at a certain time and eat “X” amount of food. In addition, our desire to reduce waste is a strong incentive for us to finish our plates, despite ourselves. However, when our stomach is full, it sends us signals. If we take the time to listen to our body, it is possible to determine when we are no longer hungry. Try to condition yourself to eat slowly and take breaks during the meal to assess your level of satiety. That way, you will take the time to taste your food. You will also learn to feel and respect your satiety.
Discover the Satisfaction and Pleasure of Eating
You do not like broccoli? Nothing forces you to eat it. Replace them with your favorite vegetables. Spoil yourself every day with foods you love. Have fun experimenting with recipes and changing your diet. You will notice that the more you eat what you want in a pleasant environment, the happier and more satisfied you will be. You will therefore tend to be satisfied quicker with a smaller portion of food.
Live Your Emotions Without Resorting to Food
We feel many emotions in our everyday life: anxiety, boredom, loneliness, anger, etc. Food can bring you comfort for a short period of time. However, it is very rare that it allows you to fix your problems in the long run. You will have to face your problems and the consequences of overeating. Pay close attention to the reasons why you eat. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I eating out of boredom? Do I really feel hungry? Without putting pressure or blaming yourself, try to raise awareness at this level. Try to find other ways to comfort yourself and solve your problems.
Respect Your Body as It Is Now
Just like our physical appearance, we do not choose our weight. The only thing we can do is accept it. Respect your body. When you have unrealistic expectations about your ideal body, this is when you slip into mentalities of weight loss diets and other approaches. So, the more you love yourself, the less you will judge yourself and the more you will shine!
Exercise for Pleasure, Not to Lose Weight
There is nothing wrong with trying to have an athletic body and abdominals. On the other hand, it must always be kept in mind that you must prioritize your health and well-being. In fact, being active improves body composition, but also has a positive impact on your energy level, your confidence and your well-being, both physical and psychological. You do not like to train? Do not be discouraged, it will come with time. Give yourself time and be indulgent towards yourself. Condition yourself to enjoy training sessions, even if it seems difficult at first. From week to week, everything will become easier and more enjoyable, and you will be in a better mood!
Honoring Your Health and Taste Buds With Your Favourite Foods
You already know what is healthy and what is less healthy for you. This does not prevent you from being able to please yourself occasionally. Do not try to eat ONLY foods that you think are healthy for you. Of course, it is important to eat nutritious foods every day. However, a piece of chocolate or a handful of chips will not have a negative impact on your body and your health. Learn to balance your food choices without guilt.
What is Hunger?
The biggest challenge of intuitive eating is to differentiate between real hunger (physical signal) and false hunger (external signal). Despite the fact that real hunger may not be present, there are certain external factors that can trigger our need to eat. Our emotions are a good example. Also, we sometimes eat because “it’s time”!
Hunger “is the signal that the brain sends instinctively when it’s time to eat”. The body is able to identify when it needs to feed itself, and communicates it by the signals of hunger. It feels like a feeling of emptiness in the stomach, gurgles, a drop in energy or concentration, and so on.
How to Differentiate Hunger from Gourmandise
Now that you know more about hunger, you’ll find it easier to identify it. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before eating:
- Am I eating because I am bored? Because I am sad? Because I am angry?
- Do I want to eat following an external stimulus (advertisement, pleasant smell from a bakery, etc.)?
- Do I want to eat because I am cooking?
- Do I want to eat because other people are eating (friends, family members, etc.)?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are eating because out of gourmandise.
What is Satiety?
In general, satiety is a feeling of satisfaction that one feels after a meal. In other words, satiety is the feeling of having satisfied one’s appetite by eating enough, but not too much. It is a message that the body sends to make us understand that we have eaten enough and that it would be the moment to stop eating. Satiety can be felt in several ways:
- You stop feeling hungry;
- Your interest in your plate and the food it contains decreases;
- You slow down the pace at which you eat;
- You have the feeling of having more energy than before your meal.
The Benefits of Intuitive Eating
This approach aims for a reconnection with our body and set aside dietary restrictions and guilt. It also aims to be flexible in our approach to food, which brings many benefits, such as:
Avoid unhealthy relationships with food;
Avoid diets and restrictive nutrition plans that are too harmful to your health in the long run;
Avoid food rages and cravings.
Science shows that a person who does listen to his or her hunger usually has a more stable weight, better eating habits, and better physical and psychological health than a person who does not. Moreover, it is scientifically proven that people who eat intuitively suffer less from food disorders and have less dissatisfaction towards their body. In addition, this method is favorable for overall health and weight loss.
Mistakes to Avoid with Intuitive Eating
Not trusting our food choices
Accepting to eat intuitively means accepting to trust ourselves and following our intuition. You must learn to trust yourself. If you need help, do not hesitate to ask for advice.
Making Yourself Feel Guilty
Intuitive eating emphasizes the importance of eating when you feel hungry. However, that does not mean that it is not permissible to let go occasionally. If you feel you have eaten without really feeling hungry, you should not feel guilty. Just listen to your hunger next time it shows up!
Wanting to adopt intuitive eating Overnight
Intuitive eating is a journey and an apprenticeship. It must include long-term goals. Do not try to make drastic changes to your diet. Take your time and incorporate this method gradually into your healthy lifestyle.
Finally, intuitive eaters can eat what they want when they are hungry. This technique will help you meet your needs and avoid food cravings. Intuitive eating aims to restore the pleasure of eating well, doing physical activity, loving your body as it is and developing a healthy relationship with your body and food. It relies on the principle that every individual is an expert of their own body. It is important to pay attention to the messages that our body sends us in order to be able to meet its needs, both physical and emotional. Compassion for ourselves is very important in this process, as well as patience. This method can therefore bring you many benefits, for both your body and your mind. However, always keep in mind that this approach does not require you to apply these principles to perfection. On that note, bon appétit!