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A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating

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.

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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

6

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.
  • 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 to stuffed. Aim to eat when you’re hungry but not starving. Stop when you’re comfortably full — not stuffed.

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Intuitive eating

Intuitive eating involves coming to peace with your body’s needs, letting go of the guilt associated with eating and ending the struggle of rules.

Intuitive eating and mindful eating

With mindful eating, there is no explicit rejection of dieting. 

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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Intuitive eating
Intuitive eating

Rejects the diet mentality, promotes giving yourself permission to eat without labeling some foods "good” and others “bad,” acknowledging when you’re eating your feelings and accepting the body you...

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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Intuitive eating

This is not a diet. Intuitive eating is an approach to health and food that emphasizes learning to give your body what it needs.

It doesn't involve rules related to how or w...

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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Reject the diet mentality

Dieting isn’t sustainable. Quick-fix plans cannot deliver lasting results.
T
he first principle of intuitive eating is to stop dieting—and to stop believing societ...

Honor your hunger

Eat a sufficient amount of calories and carbohydrates to keep your body “fed” and satiated. Once you learn to recognize these signals in your own body, it becomes much easier to trust your instincts and repair unhealthy relationships with food.

Make peace with food

Give yourself “unconditional permission to eat.”

People realize they don’t really want that food that was forbidden before; they just got caught up in society telling them they couldn’t have it.

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Mastering mindful mealtimes
  • Cook or prepare food yourself if possible.
  • Don’t scroll through social media when eating.
  • Turn off all streaming services.
Intuitive eating
  • It does not approve the diet culture.
  • It respects all body shapes and sizes.
  • It helps you recognize your body’s cues for hunger and fullness.
  • It helps you evaluate habits you want to change, but without policing food.
  • It helps you liberate from food’s control.
  • It makes you see food as fuel rather than filler.
Awareness Is Key

Emotional eating is sometimes called "mindless eating" because we often don't think about what we're doing and let our unconscious habits or drives take over.

Find Relaxation Techniques

When you’re under stress, your body is likely producing higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that tends to make people crave sweet and salty food—the stuff that’s generally not good for us. 

Create a simple stress management plan, or find stress relievers that fit with your specific situation.

Cope in Healthy Ways

Many people use food to deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, frustration, and fear. There are healthier ways to cope with emotions:

  • Talking to a friend.
  • Journaling: When you feel like reaching for unhealthy food, reach for a pen instead.
  • Exercise.

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The art of eating
The art of eating

... is a question of psychology as much as nutrition. We have to find a way to want to eat what’s good for us.

We make frequent attempts – more or less half-hearted – to change what we...

Food preferences are learned

All the foods that you regularly eat are ones that you learned to eat.  Everyone starts life drinking milk. After that, it’s all up for grabs. 

But in today’s food culture, many people seem to have acquired uncannily homogenous tastes: food companies push foods high in sugar, fat and salt, which means we are innately incapable of resisting them but that the more frequently we eat them, especially in childhood, the more they train us to expect all food to taste this way.

0.3% of young women are anorexic

... and another 1% are bulimic, with rising numbers of men joining them.

What statistics are not particularly effective at telling us is how many others – whether overweight or underweight – are in a perpetual state of anxiety about what they consume, living in fear of carbs or fat grams and unable to derive straightforward enjoyment from meals.

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The sensation of hunger

Hormones get released when we are hungry: NPY and AgRP from the hypothalamus, and ghrelin from the stomach.

Ghrelin levels tend to be higher in lean individuals and lower in peop...

Feeling sated
About a dozen or so hormones are responsible for making us feel full. 
  • GIP and GLP-1 are responsible for stimulating the production of insulin to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Other hormones are involved in slowing down the movement of food through the stomach.
  • CKK and PYY are vital in reducing the feeling of hunger. (Increased PYY causes a loss of appetite and is particularly high in patients who have a gastric band fitted to reduce the size of the stomach.)
Overeating is a habit

Even though your stomach has a hormonal system for telling your brain it is empty, it can also raise your hunger levels at specific times by learned associations, even if you had a large meal.

If you repeatedly eat chocolate after dinner when you sit on the couch, your body can start to associate sitting on the couch with eating, and you'll experience a craving.

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Eat Plenty of Protein at Every Meal

Eating food increases your metabolism for a while because extra calories are required to process your meal. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).

Protein increases your metaboli...

Drink More Cold Water

Drinking water may speed up your metabolism for about an hour. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it.

Drinking water can also help you fill up and help you eat less, especially if you drink it half an hour before you eat.

Do a High-Intensity Workout

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short, intense bursts of activity and help you burn more fat by increasing your metabolic rate.

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Why food

Negative emotions may lead to a feeling of emptiness or an emotional void. 

Food is believed to be a way to fill that void and create a false feeling of “

Emotional vs. true hunger

Physical hunger

  • It develops slowly over time.
  • You desire a variety of food groups.
  • You feel the sensation of fullness and take it as a cue to stop eating.
  • You have no negative feelings about eating.

Emotional hunger

  • It comes about suddenly or abruptly.
  • You crave only certain foods.
  • You may binge on food and not feel a sensation of fullness.
  • You feel guilt or shame about eating.
Emotional hunger isn’t easily quelled

While filling up could work in the moment, eating because of negative emotions often leaves people feeling more upset than before.

This cycle typically doesn’t end until a person addresses emotional needs head-on.

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