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A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating

It is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.

Essentially, it’s the opposite of a traditional diet. It doesn’t impose guidelines about what to avoid and what or when to eat.

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A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/quick-guide-intuitive-eating

healthline.com

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Key Ideas

Intuitive eating

It is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.

Essentially, it’s the opposite of a traditional diet. It doesn’t impose guidelines about what to avoid and what or when to eat.

The basics

To eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to trust your body. Distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:

  • Physical hunger. This biological urge tells you to replenish nutrients. It builds gradually and has different signals, such as a growling stomach, fatigue, or irritability. 
  • Emotional hunger. This is driven by emotional need. Sadness, loneliness, and boredom are some of the feelings that can create cravings for food, often comfort foods. 

History of intuitive eating

Some of the concepts of intuitive eating have been around at least since the early 1970s, though the term wasn’t coined until 1995.

The program was built on the principle that diets don’t work and that lifestyle changes and personal care are more important for long-term health.

Key principles

  • Reject the diet mentality. The diet mentality is the idea that there’s a diet out there that will work for you.
  • Respond to your early signs of hunger by feeding your body.
  • Food is not good or bad and you are not good or bad for what you eat or don’t eat.
  • Respect your fullness. Just as your body tells you when it’s hungry, it also tells you when it’s full.
  • Discover the satisfaction factor. When you make eating a pleasurable experience, you may find it takes less food to satisfy you.
  • Honor your feelings without using food. Find ways that are unrelated to food to deal with your feelings.
  • Respect your body, rather than criticizing your body.
  • Exercise — feel the difference
  • Honor your health — gentle nutrition. One meal or snack isn’t going to make or break your health.

Research-based benefits

Emerging research suggests that intuitive eating is linked to healthier attitudes toward food and self-image, as well as that it can be learned through interventions.

Get started

Without judgment, start taking stock of your own eating behaviors and attitudes. When you eat, ask yourself if you’re experiencing physical or emotional hunger.

If it’s physical hunger, try to rank your hunger/fullness level on a scale of 1–10, from very hungry to stuffed. Aim to eat when you’re hungry but not starving. Stop when you’re comfortably full — not stuffed.

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Making peace with food

It doesn’t mean giving in to every craving; it means getting rid of the idea of “giving in” to “bad foods” altogether. Eat that Oreo when you want it, without any negative emotion attached, and you won’t feel like you need to eat the whole bag.

Respect your fullness

Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Intuitive eating is about understanding what foods your body feels best eating, and how to make your own food choices based on your own hunger and fullness

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Quiet your inner food police

Recognize and silence your inner critic.

An example of your inner food police: if you're scanning a restaurant menu and you catch yourself saying "That’s not healthy. That’s too many servings. That’s too high fat, " that voice is not yours, although it feels like it. It's only fueled by external messaging.

Stop moralizing

Food isn’t good or bad. Don't fall for this 'black or white' way of thinking.

Health and nutrition exist on a gradient. Keeping your health in mind when making food choices is totally in line with intuitive eating, but being rigid about healthy eating isn’t.

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Intuitive eating and mindful eating

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Intuitive eating rejects the diet mentality altogether—that’s the biggest difference.

Principles of intuitive eating
  • Honor your hunger. Reject the diet mentality, make peace with food and challenge the food police.
  • The act of eating. Respect your fullness, and discover the food delight factor.
  • The emotion of eating. Honor your feelings without using food, and respect your body.
  • Exercise—feel the difference.
  • Honor your health.

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