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Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating or IE is a phrase that was coined in the mid 1990s by two dietitians. There is definitely more than one definition for IE and my favourite is this from the National Eating Disorders Association that describes intuitive eating as, “The process of trusting your inner wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without fear of judgment and without influence from the diet culture”. It is a process that essentially means getting back to your roots when looking at eating habits and trusting your body and the signals it gives you. For example, eating when you are genuinely hungry and stopping when you are full. We are all born with the ability to be good intuitive eaters and anyone who has spent time around babies and small children knows they are pretty great at telling you when they are hungry as well as letting you know when they have had enough! Somewhere down the line as adults, we forget to listen to that intuitive inner voice we all have, and often get caught up in what someone else promises us is the “new perfect eating plan”.

There are 10 basic principles of intuitive eating, here are the top there:

  • Reject the Diet Mentality: Intuitive eating means letting go of the hope that a new and better diet is just around the corner. If you are waiting for someone else to tell you how to eat, then that prevents you from hearing your own internal cues.
  • Make Peace with Food: There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. Cookies are not awful foods and apples are not perfect foods. Our diets are composed of a combination of foods that can be described as supportive for health or not. Depriving yourself of a certain food often makes it appear more attractive and feelings of deprivation can lead to cravings and impulsive food choices.
  • Respect Your Fullness: Listen and learn to identify the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Again, children are very good at this but as adults we learn to override these signals and rediscovering these is a crucial part of becoming an intuitive eater.

So, what are the benefits of IE? A 2014 study showed that using an intuitive eating style approach can be a very helpful and realistic alternative to traditional weight loss methods and a recent 2019 study has also suggested that eating intuitively may result in lower stress levels and a greater feeling of well-being. As a nutritionist who has worked in the disordered eating field, I feel one of the most positive aspects of intuitive eating is the fact that it frees an individual from the idea that certain foods are forbidden. With the holiday season and all that comes with it just around the corner, now could be an excellent time to focus on being more aware of why you choose to eat what you do. Seasonal advertising is a powerful tool!

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