Intuitive Eating – the new anti-diet?
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Normally when you hear the phrase ‘diet’, you might associate it with calorie counting, forbidden foods and regular weigh-ins. Well, there’s a new eating plan on the block that you might want to try – especially over the indulgent Christmas period – called Intuitive Eating. It’s important to realise that this is not your normal diet, a belief that is reinforced by its first guiding principle: “reject the diet mentality”.
The term Intuitive Eating was fashioned in the nineties by two registered dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, based in California. They were inspired to write a book after seeing their clients yo-yo dieting and following quick fix diet plans which always ended in failure. They created an evidence-based approach to eating that encourages individuals to listen to their body in relation to what, when and how much to eat.
Don’t be fooled if you think Intuitive Eating means you can get away with eating that whole selection box in one go, though. The eating plan can take time and effort to implement, and involves adopting the following 10 principles:
1. Reject the diet mentality
- Dieting is not sustainable and does not create a healthy body or mind. This principle encourages you to throw out anything that is linked to diet culture: stop following those celebrities that endorse skinny teas and reject anything that dictates how you eat
2. Honour your hunger
- Learn to recognise your body’s hunger cues and respond accordingly with enough calories to fuel your daily activities. Feelings of deprivation and hunger indicate a biological need that should be answered
3. Make peace with food
- Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Take away any barriers to forbidden foods, and you’ll soon realise that you don’t want chocolate for breakfast
4. Challenge the food police
- This refers to the voice inside your head that tells you not to eat carbs, because they ‘make you fat’. It also refers to the people around you who make comments on your food. Both result from years of listening to subliminal diet culture, and should be switched off
5. Respect your fullness
- This is the reverse of principle 2 and focusses on learning to read cues your body gives to tell you when it’s full. Eating slowly and giving your body a chance to catch up with your mind can be helpful, as well as acknowledging when you are eating because you are stressed or bored
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
- Food should be a source of pleasure and joy. Taking the time to appreciate the intricate flavours and textures of a dish, as well as embracing your environment, are important to help stimulate feelings of satisfaction (which is why eating lunch at your desk is not going to make you feel good!)
7. Honour your feelings without using food
- Life can be tough, and finding coping mechanisms like meditation or exercise are much healthier than using food as your weapon to cope with your emotions
8. Respect your body
- Learn to accept and enjoy the way you look, rather than striving to look like one of the Kardashians
9. Exercise: feel the difference
- This principle is all about embracing movement and finding something that you enjoy. It is not about going to the gym to burn calories. Movement brings a whole host of health benefits that will have a positive impact, both mentally and physically
10. Honour your health with gentle nutrition
- Food should be eaten for its pleasurable aspects, but it should also be used to provide wholesome nutrition. Yes, eating your basic 5-a-day is still important, but at the same time you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to drink 8 glasses of water
Still not sure about the Intuitive Eating way of life? Studies have shown that followers have lower BMIs, better body image, improved self-trust and greater emotional functioning, to name just a few of the benefits!