Updated: Aug 31, 2021
We are FRUSTRATED with yo-yo diets, weight lost and then re-gained, feeling cr*appy about ourselves, out of control, stuck and losing confidence in ourselves.
Ya feel this too right? Right.
There are MANY advocates for dieting out there, counting calories, tracking macros etc. Just calorie deficit, obviously. But personally, I have yet to meet someone, whose general goals are to feel, move and live better, where any form of restriction or stringent tracking works long term (yes, I know there'll be a small percentage of people out there that this DOES work for, and I'm not knocking that. But my aim here is to help the majority where this doesn't work for your mind and body). Whilst I don't specifically coach everyone in intuitive eating, many of these principles end up winding their way into my one-to-one work. Why?
We all have a relationship with food, and that relationship lasts for our lifetime.
Also, we can not even be AWARE of how diet culture affects us. We're not even aware that a weight loss goal, more often than not, is an accumulation of messages we're received about our size, attractiveness, likeability, success, and worth. The diet, and much of the fitness, industry, exists be externalises our self-worth and then trying to sell it back to us.
I'm also NOT saying that a weight loss goal is bad, at all - but it's usually not the underlying motivator anyway. We latch onto a weight loss goal because we feel under-confident, concerned about our health or aging or being there for our children, lacking in energy and mobility, and worthless. THIS is what we should be addressing, and intuitive eating principles can help.
They allow us to reconnect with our bodies from a place of kindness.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
And first of all, that means being aware of it. To be of value, you do not need to be smaller. It's not a problem with you. It's not that you weren't motivated enough or had enough willpower. You didn't fail at the diets, the diets failed you. It's a broken system. Everyone is different, so reflect on your own experience of diets - have they moved you towards or away from a place of confidence, honouring your body and a healthy relationship with food long term?
2. Honour Your Hunger.
Your physical hunger cues exist for a reason; its your body trying to take care of you. And your body deserves to be loved, respected and nourished. Many of us are so out of touch with our bodies that we don't know how to feel it, or recognize its messages. That's ok; by opening up a space of awareness we can listen and respond. Notice how your belly feels, how your mind and energy levels are, what your breath is like. All of these allow us to tune into our hunger signals (note: honouring your body and hunger can also mean eating when not hungry - I come across this a lot).
3. Make Peace With Food.
You have unconditional permission to eat. No it doesn't mean you'll eat nothing but chips, cake and chocolate every day for the rest of your life. Initially, we might eat more of these foods but that's part of breaking the deprivation-binge-guilt cycle. By opening up permission, it knocks food off its pedestal, and it can become a 'normal' food for us. Our body is amazing at regulating itself; and after time (depending on your history this can vary a lot) it often starts to send signals or cravings for nourishing, nutrient-dense foods also.
4. Challenge the Food Police.
No food is good, and no food is bad. When we start to remove the morality from food, it can start to disperse some of the guilt we have around it. Nurturing self-talk that's rooted in self-love can be really important here, observing without judgement our choices and behaviours.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor.
This is so important; we sometimes can reach physically full without being satisfied. We can try avoid the food, and feel unsatisfied still. Slowing down can be a powerful tool here to help honour our hunger and feel satisfied. If you notice you are speeding up through a meal, it's a sign you're moving from physical hunger to emotional hunger.
7. Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food.
Firstly, it is NOT wrong or bad to eat with our emotions. Often we harbour guilt or shame around eating for stress, comfort, sadness etc., but it's ok for food to be connected to our emotions. It doesn't mean that it's the only tool we have to process emotions though, and discovering other ways to reach to a difficult emotion or stress can really help.
8. Respect Your Body.
Your body allows you to experience life; it's an amazing collection of cells that houses you, and amazingly, it ALWAYS has your best interests at heart. It always helps you, and always tries to keep you feeling good and functioning. Honouring and respecting your body can feel difficult and audacious when we live in a culture that forces a dissociation and dissatisfaction with it; but be audacious!
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
Exercise and movement is a practice UNRELATED to food and the size or shape of your body. We move to feel good, for joy, out of respect and honour for our bodies. Not to work off that cake, to grow or shrink our bum, or to fit into that dress. We move to feel good in life!
10. Honour Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
You don't have to eat perfectly. Not one meal makes us healthy or unhealthy. Embrace the joy and pleasure that food can bring; notice which foods lift your mood, energy and satisfaction. Gentle nutrition starts to lead you towards options that build your health. Out of all the principles, this comes last. Without healing your relationship with food, this principle can still be tinged with diet mentality. Food is a friend, but it may be that it's been a foe for so long in your life.
Bring into an awareness the beliefs you hold around food.
Honour that place.
Now take a step forwards.
Trust your body.
What questions do you have about intuitive eating? Leave your question in the comments below!
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