5 Steps Towards Becoming An Intuitive Eater

…Eat mostly whole grains, limit added sugar, eat 4-5 servings of vegetables and fruit per day, drink around 8 cups of water per day… - Dietary Guidelines 2015 [1]

As a dietitian, I went through my schooling abiding by the dietary guidelines and preaching these (and more) recommendations to the general public. The more I preached, the more I began to feel as if I was telling people to go on another diet. Although the dietary guidelines are great recommendations and backed by more scientific evidence than ANY diet known to man…. it may still come off as restrictive and confusing.

The truth is…. majority of you all already know how to eat “healthy.” You KNOW how to feed your body the right nutrients and a balanced plate. It is not rocket science and there are plenty of resources out there to guide you if you don’t. [2]

You know how to eat well… so why don’t you? I think we all know it is not that easy. What are your reasons for not eating well for your body? Could it be that you are too focused on weight or weight loss? Could it be you prefer to chase the next fad diet? Or perhaps you are not willing to give up the foods you love so much and you feel any diet or preaching of the guidelines will take those pleasure foods away from you.

Here’s Something I Know You’ll Like.

Intuitive Eating

What’s intuitive eating???

Intuitive Eating is obtaining complete satisfaction from eating. It is listening to your body’s hunger and fullness and eating on your time. It is realizing that you cannot eat perfectly all the time and that’s ok.

So How can you begin this process???

  1. Mourn the loss of diet culture. How did it serve you? How did it harm you?

    By choosing to become an intuitive eater, you are giving up the fixation and obsession with dieting. In this case, holding on to dieting while practicing becoming an intuitive eater may only bring more guilt and frustration, not to mention this process will only be prolonged. So I encourage you to DIVE IN! Feel the FREEDOM that comes with mourning diet culture.

  2. Give yourself permission. There are no “good or bad” foods.

    Next, you need to remind yourself that intuitive eating is not another diet. You do not need to go through the "last supper” phase where you eat all the forbidden fruit before beginning the next diet. Being an intuitive eater means there are no foods off limits and you can keep all the foods you love in your meal plan. However, part of the dieting mentality is feeling guilty for eating some of your pleasure foods. Now you must retrain your brain to not feel that guilt, but instead give yourself permission.

  3. Listen for hunger and fullness.

    Let’s tap back into your inner bodily cues. As a child, you have an innate trust of your body’s hunger and fullness cues. You never have to tell a baby when to eat or how much, they will let you know when they’re hungry and they will stop when they are full. As we age, we begin to trust our body less and less because of rules that society places around eating. Intuitive eating includes regaining those hunger and fullness signals, but this takes practice. To begin, use the hunger scale below at a couple meals or snacks every day and practice listening to your body.

hunger scale

4. Use all 5 senses while eating.

It is easy to eat in distraction and instead of being present and intentional, you may be eating mindlessly. One step you can take to combat mindless eating, is getting in touch with all 5 senses- touch, smell, taste, sight, and listening. I know, this may sound silly…how does “hearing” my food help me become an intuitive eater. All I can say is don’t knock it until you try it! Notice the texture of your food. How does it look? Really taste it. Smell your food like a wine connoisseur would smell a glass of wine. Lastly, listen to the sounds. Does it crackle like Rice Krispies? How does it sound when you chew it?

5. Lastly, I want you to practice making peace with your body.

One thing that will hold you back in becoming an intuitive eater is if you are still trying to manipulate your weight. Intuitive eating is not a diet and is not meant to cause you to lose or gain weight. Could weight fluctuations be a symptom of intuitive eating? Yes. However, that is not its purpose. Practice giving yourself positive affirmations whether it is about a specific body part, or about its function. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to others. You are deserving of kindness!!

Practice these 5 steps throughout the next couple weeks. It may be a lot to do all at once, so perhaps focus on only a couple steps at a time. Be patient and understanding with yourself because intuitive eating is not meant to be a 30 day mastering course. It is a lifestyle and takes practice!

[1] https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/

[2] www.eatright.org