Most of us are inundated with conflicting messages about food for our entire lives.
We’re told to count calories, to eat certain portions of this or that, that this food is amazing for you and this food should be avoided at all costs.
We’re taught to trust everything but ourselves when it comes to food (and actually, this is true in general, too!).
Intuitive eating is a kind and compassionate return to trusting yourself with food. It’s an anti-diet way of eating that focuses on connecting with your intuition.
What does your body need? What would truly nourish your mind, body, and soul in this moment?
The truth is, your body knows what you need. You just need to listen to it!
There are 10 simple principles of intuitive eating from one of the leading books on the subject, Intuitive Eating.
1. Reject the diet mentality. We’re inundated with information about diets from the time we’re kids. Weight Watchers. South Beach. Atkins. Paleo. Keto. Grain-free. They’re all based around the idea of restricting food. How would it feel to reject the idea that you have to eat other than how your body naturally wants to?
2. Honor your hunger. When you feel hungry, eat. When you feel satisfied, stop. It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.
3. Make peace with food. Remember that food is not your enemy, to be fought with. It’s fuel, it’s nourishment that is here to support you and help you live the life you want to live.
4. Challenge the food police. These are the rules like “You have to eat three meals a day,” “carbs are bad for you,” and you’re “good” for eating a salad for lunch. You don’t need the food police. You can trust your body.
5. Respect your fullness. This is about eating more consciously. Listen to your body’s signals that you feel full and satisfied. Try pausing halfway through eating to check in with how you feel.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor. You may be physically full but still not satisfied. That’s okay. Discovering the satisfaction factor is realizing that when you eat what you want, you’ll likely feel more pleasure, more satisfaction, and overall more content.
7. Honor your feelings without using food. Sometimes we use external things like food to numb out when we don’t want to feel what we need to feel. Try finding other ways to cope and comfort yourself that don’t involve eating.
8. Respect your body. We’re taught from a very young age to have a lot of judgment around our bodies. Many of us have a constant critical dialogue running in our heads, especially around food. Learn to love and accept your body as it is right now.
9. Exercise – feel the difference. Moving your body isn’t about exercising to punish yourself, or burn enough calories so you can eat the thing you want, or to look a certain way. Reframe moving your body as a way to feel your best and nourish yourself.
10. Honor your health. Be gentle. Connect with how certain foods make you feel and remember that it’s about the consistency of what you eat over time— one meal or one day of eating won’t cause you to be unhealthy or gain weight.
Ready to get started? Below are six tips for intuitive eating.
1. Take an inventory of your social media presence.
Are you following any accounts that are helping create a toxic relationship with food? Do you follow fitness accounts that make you feel bad about yourself whenever you see their photos pop up in your feed?
After you purge your social media feed, can you bring in some more body-positive Instagrammers whose feeds and relationship with food inspire you to have a more loving relationship with your body and your plate?
2. Discover your physical signs of hunger and fullness.
What does it feel like to be hungry? What does it feel like to be full? To start connecting to these feelings, try placing one hand on your belly before you get to the table and taking a few deep breaths into your stomach. Your belly is where you feel hunger and fullness first, so taking a moment before and after eating to connect to those feelings can help you eat more intuitively.
3. Give food your full presence.
Oftentimes, we’re eating on the go or while we’re reading, scrolling on Instagram, or working. See if you can give food your full presence. Eat each meal slowly and mindfully without distractions, really savoring each bite, chewing it thoroughly, and paying attention to when you feel satiated. Think of it as an eating meditation!
4. Notice your food self-talk.
Is there a voice in your head that declares you “good” for eating vegetables and “bad” for eating dessert? (Spoiler alert: the answer is most likely yes.) Start to notice those thoughts (it can be helpful to write them down) and reframe them.
For example, a thought like “Eating dessert makes me lazy and weak” can become “Eating dessert has nothing to do with who I am as a person. Eating sweets fills my soul and I am free to eat them as I like.”
5. Notice how foods make you feel.
Start to make the connection between certain foods and feelings. For example, certain foods may make you feel:
Or a variety of other feelings.
6. Don’t forget pleasure and satisfaction.
We aren’t machines. Food is deeply connected to memory, to pleasure, to joy. We don’t always need to eat the “healthy” thing. The key is to remember that those foods you often restrict and then binge on are limitless. You don’t need to binge on them because you can always eat more tomorrow. There are no restrictions. When your body wants dessert, see if you can offer it dessert without judgment or attachment to what you think “eating dessert” may mean.
Here are some journaling questions that can help you get started with a more intuitive way of eating:
- Think about your current relationship with food. Describe it and then describe how it makes you feel.
- What would you like your relationship with food to look like and how would you like to feel about food?
- What foods make you feel amazing?
- What would eating mindfully look like for you?
- What is one thing you can do today to start eating more intuitively?
About Eryn Johnson
Eryn is a mystic and seeker currently based in Philadelphia. She teaches yoga, reads tarot, does reiki energy healing, and loves to write. She is also the host of the Living Open podcast, and if she’s not teaching yoga or reading tarot you can probably find her in a crystal shop, buying plane tickets, or googling someone’s birth chart. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @erynj_ and at www.living-open.com.