Intuitive eating might sound like a dietary gimmick, but it’s actually a powerful eating paradigm that prioritises listening to your body's innate intelligence.
Doing this actually tells you everything you need to know about what your body desires and needs when it comes to food, IF you'll just tune in and listen.
By giving your body exactly what it requires each day, you’ll be eating in a much more customised way that deeply nourishes you and your cells and improves your overall health and wellbeing.
In fact, by learning to tune in better to your body’s needs, you’ll become happier and less anxious too.
If your relationship with food is not necessarily a healthy one or if you wish you were better at making consistently healthier choices, it may require some reframing and mindset adjustments to break free of the subconscious "shackles" that have negatively impacted your dietary choices in the past.
When you're consciously connected to what you eat, it's a lot easier to develop a healthy long term relationship with food, which greatly influences both your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Here we reveal exactly what is meant by intuitive eating and explain how it can truly change your life and your relationship with food.
Intuitive Eating: The Anti-Diet
Intuitive eating isn’t a crazy diet or fad.
In fact, intuitive eating can easily be referred to as the “anti-diet”, because of how much it differs from typical short-term, unsustainable eating methods.
Intuitive eating is exactly what it sounds like and nothing more - NO restrictive food lists, NO calorie counting and NO strict rules that weigh you down.
It simply combines the concept of mindful eating with the act of listening to your body when choosing what you eat. It’s about looking at food through a different set of eyes. It's a mindset shift or a philosophy rather than a hard and fast diet.
Eating intuitively is about recognising and respecting that your body knows when it’s hungry and it generally knows what it needs as fuel. Your only job is to listen and to give your body what it needs for nourishment and sustenance.
By building your consciousness around food - by thinking of food as nourishment rather than a way to satisfy cravings or as an emotional response or attachment, you’ll not only develop a much healthier relationship with food, you'll also provide your body with much more customised nutrition for your overall health and wellness.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
The benefits of intuitive eating are both clear and subtle.
For starters, your relationship with food improves because you begin to look at food differently.
Intuitive eating helps curb damaging behaviours like binge eating and overly restrictive dieting and also to avoid unhealthy food cravings for two main reasons:
- You’ll be giving your body more customised nutrition based on what it needs more often
- You’ll be much more satiated or satisfied after you eat, meaning you're far less likely to binge on sugary or fatty snacks in between meals.
This is why intuitive eating can also improve weight management and your overall health metrics, including lowered blood pressure, less bad cholesterol and improved pH or alkalinity - which are all added bonuses!
You might also begin to notice that exercise becomes more enjoyable too because of the way your body starts to feel. When your focus is on nourishment and feeling good, the food choices you make will have a positive spin-off effect on other key wellness aspects such as movement. This happens when you're no longer exercising because you "have to" but because you "want to".
Additional benefits associated with eating more intuitively include boosting your self-esteem, improving your gut health, having less anxiety and stress and noticing an increase in your overall happiness and zest for life!
Learn more in our blog 7 Ways to Have a Healthier Relationship With Food.
How to Eat Intuitively
You’ve probably listened to your intuition before, knowing instinctively when something is right or wrong. Well, intuitive eating is a similar sense to that which you can quickly develop.
By listening and tuning in to the signals and signs your body gives you, it can help guide you in your eating choices. When you do this, there's no need to overthink things or to challenge yourself or to feel deprived.
By simply choosing to eat what you and your body needs, that in itself can make you feel empowered and be a big reliever of anxiety and stress.
Intuitive eating starts with being conscious about the foods you buy and your general daily habits around food. It's not about restrictions or depravation, but more about making the right choices that help you to look and feel your best over the long term - whatever those choices individually mean for you.
5 simple steps to eat more intuitively:
1. Learn to distinguish the difference between true hunger and your body's need for nourishment, from the emotional triggers that cause you to eat or make unhealthy food choices.
This is purely about awareness in the first instance so that you can simply begin to notice some of the subtle triggers around food.
2. Plan your meals in advance whenever you can. Meal planning will help you avoid reaching for the nearest, most convenient food option when you're short on time or on-the-go, which will usually be a lot less nutritious than meals or snacks that you plan and prepare for yourself.
Additionally, even a general or broad plan around your weekly meals will really help to connect you to the foods you eat and expand your horizons so that you get more variety, nutrients and enjoyment in your diet and from your food.
People who suffer from diet related health challenges generally have a 'live to eat' rather than a 'eat to live' mentality around food. And this is often tied purely to convenience and acquired taste. When you have a planned approach to eating, you'll begin to drastically improve your relationship with food and feel better within your body and your emotional self.
3. Eat when you're hungry, not just because the clock says it's time to eat.
Most people eat three times per day only out of habit, not because they're hungry. This is why diet and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are so prevalent in today's society - once again, people 'live to eat' rather than 'eat to live' and this is a big problem.
When you know for sure that you’re actually hungry, eat mindfully, slowly until you’re full and satisfied, but don't over eat.
Remember, it can take up to 20 minutes for your body to recognise what you’ve eaten, so eat slowly and allow the food to make it's way into your stomach. Chew and enjoy each bite completely before swallowing, to give your digestive enzymes in your mouth a chance to activate. These simple steps will not only help you to savour your food but also ensure that you won't over eat and end up in a 'food coma'.
4. Know Your Food Source
These days it's quite easy to find out where your food comes from and how it is raised and grown if you choose to be a conscious shopper.
However, knowing your food source can be difficult when you shop at big chain supermarkets, so when it comes to fresh food, it's best to source from local farmer's markets and providores that deal direct with growers who avoid chemicals and who use more traditional and sustainable farming practices.
Foods that are grown and raised free of pesticides and hormones are a lot healthier and more nourishing for you than mass-produced and factory-farmed varieties, but it starts with making a conscious choice to shop for these foods.
The more high quality and nutrient-dense foods you eat, the more nourished and satisfied you and your cells will be, and the less inclined you'll be to gravitate towards unhealthy foods.
5. Be Present When You Eat
In today's busy world, too many people constantly eat on-the-go and this in itself is a big obstacle when it comes to intuitive eating.
Even though you may not always be able to dedicate time to every meal that you eat, the more you can make meal a time a ritual where you're connected to what you're eating the healthier and happier you will be over the long run.
Eating is such a big part of our lives, it tends to be something we take for granted and this is not healthy. At dinner time, minimise the distractions, be present and connect with your food and with those who you're sharing your meal with.
Even if you're able to do this once per day, being present when you eat will greatly raise your consciousness around food, which in turn make you more intuitive in terms of the things you choose to eat because more of your senses are involved - not just taste and smell.
Learn more in our blog Mindful Eating: 7 Ways to Be More Conscious With Food & Nutrition.
How To Make The Mental Shift
It’s almost impossible to make the switch to intuitive eating overnight if you've become disconnected to the food you eat over a long period of time.
Eating more intuitively for you and your body requires a gradual mental shift from all of your current learned or subconscious behaviours around food.
First, it's important not to see intuitive eating as a chore or as a weight on your shoulders that stops you from enjoying the process of eating. This means you may need to shift your perspective from "taste" to "nourishment" and learn to notice the cues that have caused you to make poor food choices in the past that don't serve you and your health.
Your goal should be to view food as a source of nourishment for your body and soul. And this perspective alone can be a drastic shift from how you've considered food in the past.
Try to stop thinking negatively or positively about certain foods and approach eating from a non-judgmental place.
In other words, there aren’t “bad” foods anymore, just foods that are less nutrient-dense and that won’t nourish you as much.
By noticing the emotional triggers also, you may also develop healthier ways to deal with your emotions rather than habitually treating them with food. Some ways to break this pattern may be:
- Taking a walk to distract yourself when you feel the need to soothe with food
- Doing a form of rigorous exercise when you are engulfed with feelings of anxiety or stress
- Calling or meeting with a friend for a beach walk or conversation over coffee
- Meditation or deep breathing
- Taking a hot salt bath.
This mental shift requires practice but it can and will happen. You’ll feel so much more free and in control, no longer governed by your emotions and your previous eating habits.
Learn more about emotional eating in our blog, What is Emotional Eating and How to Stop It.
The Main Take Away
Eating intuitively is important because it raises your vibration around food, which in turn helps you to make better food choices, ultimately making you feel healthier and happier.
Intuitive eating doesn’t have to be complicated and it’s certainly not about going without. It's also not a fad that is designed to help you shed 10 kilos quickly.
It’s really a lifestyle and mindset shift that is simply about raising your consciousness around the foods you eat, which is one of the big secrets to healing a bad relationship with food.
When you eat more intuitively, you'll begin to see food through a different set of eyes. You'll notice the variety and abundance of colour that nature's table offers, you'll support more sustainable farming practices, you'll take your taste buds on a new journey, and you'll do wonders for your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Intuitive eating is a fundamental self care principle that will serve you well when you keep things simple, when you eat for nourishment not just taste, and when get consciously closer to the source of your food.
Tolman Self Care.