Intuitive eating, in its origin, was never about weight loss.
Intuitive eating actually is all about eating for longevity, health, and quality of life.
Yet somewhere over the years, intuitive eating became equivalent to eating as little as possible.
It became synonymous to eating less than your body’s caloric energy needs.
It became the token for punishing yourself with exercise as a means to make up for extra calories consumed the day before.
But in reality, that’s NOT what intuitive eating is!
Intuitive eating is actually about the exact opposite. In fact, if you’re “intuitively” trying to lose weight...that’s not intuitive eating at all. Intuitive dieting actually is a completely opposing term...like “freezing boiling water”.
Hopefully in today’s blog, we will teach you exactly what intuitive eating is, how it came about, and why, when used in the right context & in it’s intended way, it’s a highly effective “way” of eating.
10 Pillars Of Intuitive Eating
To begin, let’s talk first about what intuitive eating is and what its original intention was.
The origin of intuitive eating came around the mid to late 1990s as an “anti-diet” to the existing diet culture prevailing the 90s. In fact, there actually is even some notes to intuitive eating being around much earlier in the 70s or 80s, although it didn’t have a name just yet.
The original intention of intuitive eating was to return to a place of listening to one’s body & its signals and cues when it came to food & movement. It proposed removing the rules & regulations related to dieting that we learn, many at a young age. The theory is that as a baby, we are VERY intuitive. If you’ve ever had a child or been friends with someone after birth, that baby tells you when it’s hungry. As a parent, you feed your child, with no rules & restrictions on “limiting” and “minimizing” weight gain. EVEN IF you tried, the wails & screams that come from a hungry child will win every single time. As kids get older, they’re still fairly intuitive with their eating, but with each year, we are socialized to dieting norms.
You could poll 100 people on the street, men and women, on when they started either dieting OR simply becoming aware or conscious of the food getting in their bodies. You will be surprised at how many were UNDER the age of 10. Almost all will likely be under the age of 20. Then poll them how long these rules & regulations prevail & likely most will STILL be following some of those rules.
Intuitive eating set out to remove those stigmas and get people to return to simpler times when we didn’t just eat as little as possible to be as thin as possible.
There are 10 principles that define intuitive eating and its goal. I'll list them here, but they can be found on the main organization's website here:
1. Reject the diet mentality
Reject the constant reminder that you should be losing weight, looking a certain way, doing certain exercises, and living a certain way. Throw out magazines and books. Unfollow accounts that encourage unhealthy ways of living. Quit trying to lose weight.
2. Honor your hunger
You're not meant to be hungry all the time. You also are meant to be hungry every once in a while. Keep your body fed and nourished. Under-eating leads to a slower metabolism and higher desire for cravings and binges. Eat foods that satisfy your hunger.
3. Make peace with food
Stop fighting with food every chance you get.
4. Challenge the food police
Your brain is a constant source of investigation and prosecution, deciding which foods are bad and require burpee punishments, which foods are banned, which foods are allowed, what rules to follow, etc. When you feel those thoughts arise, sit with them and challenge them.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
Enjoy your foods. So many people now a days don't eat meals with flavor [because salt is bad for you, remember???]. This means you’re eating foods that don't fulfill you. Eat foods that will nourish you but also make your taste buds turn on. Eating lackluster foods only creates cravings and desire for more more more. ALSO, flavor can even be healthy for you. Salt tastes good for a reason...because you need the electrolytes. Sugar tastes good because you need glucose. Obviously there’s a limit but if it was “bad” for you, it wouldn’t have a desired taste. Evolutionarily, foods that have evolved as bitter, or we perceive them as bitter, often are foods that are bad for us. Simply because that’s a pure survival tactic.
6. Feel your fullness
Eat foods that are satiating. Take time eating your meals. Chew slowly...actually chew your food. Rest between bites. Pause and ask if you're still hungry.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
Restriction triggers a loss of control. When your emotions are high, this lack of control leads to binges and cravings...leading to more stress, worsened emotions, and more binges. The cycle continues as you feel guilt for indulging & self-punishment worsens or continues. Find ways to cope with your emotions completely outside of food. Address the root causes for your emotions. Are you sad? Lonely? Stressed? What can you do to alleviate that without gravitating towards compensating with food. Food is only a short-term solution.
8. Respect your body
Your body is your body. Your genetics do dictate a lot that goes on with how you look and even how you perceive your body. I'm a size 7.5 shoe...I wear size 7.5 shoes. I don't try to wear size 10 shoes. I respect that about my feet. Same goes for your body type. Respect your body where it is NOW. It does a lot of good for you. There are theories of “body weight set point”. While I think you’re not “fixed” to a certain weight, I DO think there’s a range your body likes to comfortably sit. Take myself, with the musculature I have & have had in the past, it’s beyond unrealistic to expect a sub-140lb body to ever exist without taking some drastic measures. I respect my body for the muscles & curves I have and accept the weight that my body feels best at...155-160lbs.
Get active and feel the difference. Don't focus on the calorie burn or running yourself into the ground. Feel how good you feel when you get out and move without restriction, punishment, or a hidden calorie agenda.
10. Honor your health
Food nourishes you. It fuels you. It supports your health. It promotes muscle growth. It boosts your immune system. Be gentle with yourself. Choose foods that will keep you healthy but will satisfy cravings and make your taste buds happy.
All in all, intuitive eating is just eating for your health.
It’s finding nourishing foods that will keep you healthy and improve the quality of your life.
It isn’t a diet.
If you’ve been around for a while, intuitive eating is really just “maintenance”...where you eat to not lose or gain weight.
Maintenance phases are SO essential to all body comp progress because it’s where health is restored, amongst other things.
Now, let’s get into what intuitive eating is NOT.
What Intuitive Eating Is Not
Intuitive eating is NOT a diet. We’ve said that a million times & will continue to.
It’s also not a sentence to being stagnant. In fact, you’ll find a LOT of people’s progress is made when they stop forcing their bodies to do the unnatural. Just because you’re not ACTIVELY in a calorie deficit, miserably starving, or in a surplus doesn’t mean you’re not trying. We live in a go go go world...there’s time for some rest...in fact, we have a WHOLE nervous system set up for JUST that. If resting wasn’t important, I don’t think our bodies would have evolved to have an entire network set up to handle stress accordingly.
If your goal is weight loss, yet you’re striving for “intuitive style of eating”, that’s like saying you’re going to drive to England on your bike on the ocean. They just don’t go together. This doesn’t mean you must track your food & log diligently and obsessively if you want to lose weight. It just means that intuitive eating does not equal or lead directly to weight loss. They’re completely different things, both fine in their own way! It’s okay to lose weight in a more “habits based approach”, BUT it’s not intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is not “clean eating”, although that’s what it’s become. Intuitive eating includes treats and sweets. It’s not a restrictive, whole foods-based diet. That’s a diet, based on restriction AND weight loss.
How To Incorporate Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a learned skill & habit that comes after months...even years of learning several key skills.
How many calories your body needs
How to listen to your body & all its cues
How to fuel it properly
What types of foods & portions feed it best
How your hunger & cravings manifest
How to respond to stress & adversity
How to relax & eat without stress of “weight gain”
And so much more
It’s not something you can just announce one day, “I am no longer dieting after ______ years and I now pronounce myself an ‘intuitive eater.’”
Likely it’s going to take some time learning how to ACTUALLY fuel your body.
If you stress over 7 days of a vacation & ruining all your progress & want to keep it “reigned in”, you’re likely not ready to intuitive eat without some practice.
If you go to the gym after 4-5 hours of sleep & make yourself miserable just to “earn” food that day or because you “need the gym”, you’ll need some mindset practice first.
If you restrict & binge on a regular cycle...either around the weekends, around stress, around your cycle...then we’re going to need to practice eating more & being more flexible.
If you constantly weigh yourself ESPECIALLY in times like after a workout, after being sick, or after a long weekend of fun, we’re in the mindset game.
To be very honest, your best bet is working with a Clar-e-ty Coach for a few months to learn all of these skills...and then to have someone hold you accountable to doing them.
Because eating more & eating consistently isn’t always easy.
Reversing old stigmas is HARD stuff. If you’ve constantly been told protein will make you “bulky” or damage your kidneys, it’s going to be hard to intuitively do those things initially. Only when it becomes integrated with your habits & lifestyle will you be on the right track.
But the benefit that does come with it is freedom and that alone is markedly worth it.
Have you been an intuitive eater in your life? Is intuitive eating, in how it was intended to be, something you want to achieve in your nutrition & fitness? Then apply to work with a Clar-e-ty nutrition coach today!
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.