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What is Intuitive Eating and Is It Healthy?

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Intuitive eating is an eating behavior that involves eating in response to hunger and satiety (fullness), instead of eating according to diet rules or external triggers or emotions.

Image Credit: Dima Sidelnikov / Shutterstock

Image Credit: Dima Sidelnikov / Shutterstock

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a module that helps people recover from adverse side-effects of prolonged dieting or other dietary problems.

During chronic dieting, people often develop a specific dieting mindset, which increases their rigidity about good food and bad food and causes lack of self-trust around food. Long-term food restrictions can also lead to increased binging (overeating). Moreover, people may undergo food apathy and social withdrawal. Intuitive eating is developed to help people recover from all these diet backlashes.

Intuitive eating gives a person freedom to eat food unconditionally, with curiosity and without being judgmental. It is centered on the theory that people need to make peace with food and all foods are equally safe in terms of providing nutritional benefits. However, one should always keep in mind that intuitive eating does not allow eating with uncontrolled abandon.

What are the principles of intuitive eating?

There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, which are developed to breakdown dieting cycles and regain a natural hunger-satiety cycle depending on body’s need. Following are the principles of intuitive eating:

Reject the diet mentality – discard all information on quick, easy, and permanent weight loss strategies. Stop dieting and start firmly believing that each and every weight loss diet plan comes with false hope.

Recognize your hunger – try to learn the body’s natural signals for food. Eat when you feel hungry and stop when your stomach is full. Feeding your body with adequate nutrients is essential in order to prevent body’s drive to overeat.

Make peace with food – start believing that all foods are equally good for your health. Allow yourself to eat foods that are otherwise restricted in a given diet plan. Eating a well-desired food can actually bring more dietary satisfaction and prevent you from feeling deprived. A feeling of food deprivation can eventually lead to excessive craving, overeating, and overwhelming feeling of guilt.

Challenge the food police – firmly stop all your negative feelings that mark a food as good or bad. Never feel guilty if you cannot follow a specific diet plan. In other words, completely stop following the dieting rules about good/bad or high/low calories.

Feel your satiety – understand your hunger as well as satiety. During a meal, take a pause to think about the taste of the food, and stop eating when you are comfortably full.

Discover the satisfaction factor – experience the pleasure and satisfaction of eating. Do not eat food when you are preoccupied/distracted with some thought. Put full concentration on the food so that you can appreciate and enjoy it.

Deal with your feeling without using food – try to overcome your emotional distress, such as anxiety, stress, loneliness, and anger, without using food. Eating can provide only a temporary relief, but it cannot fix any of these problems. So, it is better to find other ways to resolve your problems.

Respect your body – respect your genetic makeup. Do not keep any unrealistic expectation about body image. Accept happily the dimension you have; it will help you choose food logically and not emotionally.

Regular exercise – maintain a regular routine for physical activity and feel the difference. Experience the feeling of being active rather than working out to burn calorie.

Nutrition – choose foods that are nutritious and at the same time satisfying and tasty. Too much diet consciousness can make you knowledgeable about calorie and nutritional value of each and every food, but you eventually forget to be happy with food. Remember that a day of not eating healthy food would not make a difference in long run. It can only be disadvantageous if you eat unhealthy food on a daily basis.