There are many diets out there with promises of weight loss, healthy living, and happier life. But when is “being the best version of yourself” really the best version of yourself? Learning to accept our bodies and appreciate here and now is even more important than endlessly pursuing a lean physique and an Instagrammable picture.
When dieting becomes an obsession it is time to take a step back and evaluate what is really healthy for us: is it just a look or is it a sustainable lifestyle? If you are miserable following a certain diet for a long period of time and feel like all you think about all the time is food and calories it is time to stop.
Intuitive Eating can be a helpful tool when it comes to pressing the stop button to all the voices in the “health industry” and look inside. What is really good for you? When are you really hungry? Learning to listen to what your body has to say can help you live a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.
What is Intuitive Eating?
As Rachel Hartley puts it in her blog, “Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to eating that emphasizes internal cues over external diet rules. Non-diet means that the focus isn’t on the scale, but instead on promoting health-enhancing behaviors, better body image, and healthier relationship with food.”
Learning to listen to your body can help you understand your eating behaviors like hunger and fullness, cravings, emotional eating, and even eating things just because you think they are healthy. Have you ever eaten something just because you read it is good for you but you don’t actually like it (aka celery juice, apple cider vinegar, and the likes)? At Ekoa, we believe you should learn to eat healthy and tasty for a truly healthy life.
Intuitive Eating is also an approach developed to help people heal from the side effects of chronic dieting and eating disorders. People who are always on restricted diets often experience a “diet backlash”: regaining all the weight they’ve lost rapidly, increased binging, reduction in trust of self with food, wrong ideas about good vs bad food (e.g.: carbs are bad for you), social withdrawal, and more.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
A truly healthy lifestyle is one you can maintain for a long period. It is a sustainable way of living that should be natural to you and fit your needs, both physical and emotional. Intuitive Eating has scientifically been proven to be associated with both physical and emotional benefits including:
- Lower body mass index (BMI)
- Lower triglycerides
- Higher HDLs, (the “good” cholesterol)
- Higher self-esteem, wellbeing, optimism, body appreciation and acceptance, proactive coping skills, psychological hardiness, unconditional self-regard, pleasure from eating, and variety of foods eaten
- Lower internalized thin ideal, eating disorders, emotional eating, and self-silencing
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
First and foremost, Intuitive Eating isn’t about will power or self-control. It is about trusting your body to give you accurate information about the what, when, and how much to eat. Here are some principles to guide you in your journey:
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Forget the promises of fast weight loss, magic pills, and extreme dieting. Reject all the lies that diets have made you believe about yourself and take a moment to think about what this mentality has made you do and feel. Take a moment to look yourself in the mirror and appreciate your body, your traces, your characteristics. Breathe and set yourself free from any thoughts of food and find your peace.
- Honor Your Hunger: Accept that hunger is a biological process that means your body needs energy, aka carbohydrates, to function. Ignoring your hunger cues and feeling constantly hungry can lead to cravings, overeating, and binges. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and food.
- Make Peace with Food: Go ahead and give yourself permission to eat all the foods you enjoy. Telling yourself you can’t have a certain food will only lead you to overeating and an uncontrollable desire for that food. After a while, when no food is off-limits and you learn to eat according to your needs, you will start finding it less exciting.
- Challenge the Food Police: Stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and counting all the calories in the food you eat. Reject negative food thoughts, guilt, and other diet rules that accuse you every time you eat something. Silence those voices and enjoy your meal!
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: This is similar to mindful eating principles: find joy and satisfaction in the eating experience. Sit down, breathe, take time to enjoy your food and nourish your body. Creating an inviting environment for a positive eating experience is shown to promote satiety with much less food.
- Respect Your Fullness: Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.
- Respect Your Body: Accept who you are and do not compare yourself others. Each person is unique and has different genetics, body, and are subject to different environment. Reject unrealistic and overly critical views of your body size or shape. Learn to respect and love yourself!
- Stay Active: Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit the gym 7 days a week. A simple walk can help reduce stress levels and can be more beneficial than HIIT training sometimes. By staying active you will experience increased energy, better sleep, and improved quality of life.
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food: Eating ice cream will not make the problems go away and if you always trick yourself into feeling better after eating sugar your brain will follow the lead every time. Find ways to cope with emotions without turning to food. Journaling, going out for a walk, talking to a friend, and dancing are better ways to relieve stress, anxiety, anger, or boredom.
- Honor Your Health (Gentle Nutrition): Make conscious decisions about what you want to put in your body and educate yourself about your nutritional needs and how you have to address them. You don’t need to eat perfectly and eating shouldn’t occupy the central stage in your life. Make it an act of self-love and care by creating a healthy relationship with mind and body!
There are many benefits in ditching the diet and learning to listen to your body by practicing Intuitive Eating. The most important one is being in peace with yourself and loving your body no matter what stage in life you are.
Shut down the voices that bring you down and develop a healthy relationship with your body and the food you eat!