Health & Wellness

10 Principles to Help You Break Up With Diet Culture and Make Peace With Your Food

An “intuitive eater” is someone who makes food choices without experiencing a dilemma or guilt, honors their hunger, respects feeling full, and enjoys the pleasure of eating. Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole developed 10 principles of eating intuitively, in the 1990’s, around the concept that we are born knowing how to eat. I heard about these concepts while listening to a podcast called Food Psych and I just knew that I had to share them here and talk a little about what each concept means for you.

  1. Reject the diet mentality! This is so important. You should never “go on a diet.” You are a human. You have a diet. It’s either a healthy one or not. You decide.
  2. Honor your hunger. You should aim to keep your body fed with an adequate amount of nutrients and calories to sustain you through your next meal. If you eat appropriately, time-wise and with portion control, you will not feel overly hungry and you will not go into a primal overdrive causing yourself to overeat. I’d like to add here that you should also honor your lack of hunger. Know that you have enough fat and glycogen stores on your body to get you from New York to Florida on foot without having to eat. If you miss a meal, it is okay. Don’t panic! It’s actually good for you and will lessen your hunger hormones and signaling over time.  It is not imperative that you eat breakfast, or 3 meals a day. Eat when you need to and don’t if you don’t need to. It’s that simple.
  3. Make peace with your food. Give yourself permission to eat. I don’t advocate marking any foods as “off limits.” I think this is just a set-up. When you indulge, enjoy it. When you over-indulge, balance it with lighter meals, vegetarian meals, and/or fasting. There is no need to panic and there is no need to swear off your favorite treats for life. Likewise, give yourself permission to not eat as well.
  4. Challenge the food police. Dieting has created some monsterous rules and problems. All these thoughts we have about what foods are good and bad and what we should feel guilty over and what we should shove down our throats even if we hate it…it’s all too much! We’ve got all the laws in our heads and none of the order. Shut it down. Skip the 2 cups of kale, have the small piece cake. You’ll be fine.
  5. Respect your fullness. If you have over served yourself, don’t feel pressured to clean your plate. If you start to feel full, it is time to stop eating. Your body takes about 20 minutes to signal you to stop eating. So take your time, chew your bites, and feel your fullness. Then stop. You can always eat the leftovers later and save money on food costs.
  6. Seek satisfaction and pleasure when you eat. Eat what you really want! If you like broccoli, eat it. If you hate broccoli, eat green beans instead. Life is too short to punish yourself by eating foods you don’t like. Also, eat in an environment where you are comfortable and happy. Studies show this small detail will actually help you to eat less.
  7. Honor your feelings without needing and using food. We all experience negative emotions. Find ways to nurture and comfort yourself without food. If you “eat your feelings” you will still have to deal with the problem and you will also have to deal with the overeating. Don’t compound the issues! Take a walk, sing loud, have a bath. Likewise, start finding ways to celebrate and connect with people in other ways besides eating. We do this to our kids also. Any time they have a good day or a bad day, we reward or soothe them with food. We have to stop this craziness!
  8. Respect your body. You have a genetic blueprint. It is true that we can always better ourselves, but it is counter-productive to make ourselves sick in the process. Embrace your body shape. It’s uniquely YOU!
  9. Engage in joyful movement – not punishing exercise. It is a difficult switch, but practice telling yourself that you get to exercise, you don’t have to exercise. Everything you tell yourself, you hear. That’s twice around the ol’ brain. Start paying attention to your thoughts and self-talk, and make small positive word changes.
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition. You don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. Making healthy choices, one at a time, will compound over time and you will get healthier. If weight comes off in the process, great!

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