Intuitive Eating Review

Nutrition is fascinating to me. I’ve been learning so much and feel like I know so little. I just finished reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both Registered Dietitians. The book has definitely challenged my thinking, which I love.

The authors also have a website, which outline the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating (listed below as well). These are my key takeaways and personal responses, but I highly recommend reading the book to anyone interested.

Intuitive eating is all about your relationship with food. When I first read this, I thought it seemed kind of silly to think about your relationship with food. The more I read, though, the more it makes complete sense and is so true. It also teaches you to listen to your body and your biological hunger. This seems simple, but it’s not because not many people actually do this (including me!).

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Reject the diet mentality. This is what it says. No more dieting! For some time I haven’t liked diets and cringe when I hear about someone counting calories or doing a shake diet. What I didn’t realize was that I had a diet mentality by thinking of certain foods as good or bad.
  2. Honor your hunger. Eat when you’re hungry. Seems simple, right? Well it takes time and practice to learn to listen to your body to know when you are biologically hungry. When we get to a “starving” feeling, we will often overeat and no longer be aware of what and how much we’re eating. This happened to me yesterday. I had to fast before going to the doctor for my annual physical, and even though I brought extra food with me, it wasn’t enough. By the time I got home from work I was so hungry and ate half a box of Triscuits.
  3. Make peace with food. This is scary. It means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any food without guilt. When we deprive ourselves from a certain food, it leads to cravings and ultimately binge eating (followed by guilt of course). This is especially hard for me because in the past my dieting has been to control my migraines. What I realized, though, is that I became scared to eat certain foods. By changing my diet, I drastically reduced my headaches, but I don’t know what the cause was. I do see the need to make peace with food, though, because there have definitely been times where I’ve “gone off the grid” and eaten all things that I “wasn’t allowed to.” The result for me was headaches, which was reinforcement to be obedient to my diet. Over the past few months I have gradually added things back in and now I am even more, in a controlled way, and paying attention to how I’m feeling from eating these foods.
  4. Challenge the food police. This is the voice in your head telling you what is good and bad,that you are doing well for obeying or you’re bad for caving in. In order to have a healthy relationship with food, this voice must be quieted. I am much more aware not only of my thoughts but thoughts of others that they share out loud. It’s striking how much the food police comes up in conversation; I can’t imagine what all is going through other people’s heads. Everyone has slightly different rules too. If I analyzed ten different sets of rules that people follow, there wouldn’t be anything left to eat! This is also hard because I want to “set a good example.” But what’s a good example? Being human and showing that you can eat anything and still achieve your health goals!
  5. Respect your fullness. Just as we must eat when we’re biologically hungry, we should stop eating when we’re full. Common sense? Not exactly. What’s full, and how can you tell? We know that the “I feel sick” is too much, but can you take a break from eating to listen to your body? It’s pretty tough. I practiced this the other night out to dinner. We got two apps and split a small pizza. I definitely could have finished my half of the pizza, but I stopped for a minute and then decided to take it home. And I was so excited to have it as a snack the next day!
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor. This is getting pleasure from eating. I love it. Too often I eat in front of the TV or standing in the kitchen while unloading the dishwasher or at my desk at work. Distractions. Even if I’m on the couch or at my desk I’ve found that I can pay attention more closely as I’m eating to really enjoy it, and it’s fun. Man I love food. I’m also finding that there’s some food I’ve been eating that I don’t love so much. I would take an apple pretty much everyday. I like apples a lot, but I got sick of them. So I’d eat my apple and then look for another snack because I wasn’t satisfied. Now I’m just bringing one afternoon snack that I know will satisfy me.
  7. Honor your feelings without using food. Why is it that eating has become a response to coping with emotions? I don’t know why, but it certainly has. I definitely eat at times from boredom, or if I’m in a bad mood I want to eat something that tastes good. I distinctly remember a few years back going to the doctor and having to get stitches, and then afterward I rewarded myself with Chick-fil-A to “feel better.” Feelings and our responses to them are different for everyone, but food definitely won’t solve whatever is causing our emotions.
  8. Respect your body. Everyone has a different body type and shape, and we have to come to terms with that. We must have realistic expectations and be happy with who we are! I think everyone at times can be critical of ourselves and our bodies. There are days where I feel bigger or things about myself that I don’t like, but I focus on the stuff I do like and have come to terms with what I don’t.
  9. Exercise – feel the difference. I love this one (and not just because I love exercising). The focus here is to pay attention to how you feel when you exercise. Too many times I’ve exercised because I know I should, or I don’t exercise because I don’t have enough time and “it’s not worth it.” But when you focus on the energy you get, how you’re sleeping, and other benefits, that’s much more motivating. It’s been hard for me being inactive right now because of my hip and knee pain, but I can be walking and still experience the benefits from that. We can also incorporate activity into our daily lives. One striking example from the book was that if we opt for the stairs at work and it take 5 minutes twice a day, that’s 43 hours of activity that we otherwise wouldn’t be getting in a year.
  10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition. This is about making food choices that honor your health while still honoring what tastes good to you. There’s a reason this is last, and it’s so you can become an intuitive eater without feeling the need to be “healthy.” For me I already had some healthy eating habits, so I felt ready for this, although I’m still learning so much about nutrition and what’s best for me. They talk about how one snack, meal, or even one day of eating will not make a big impact on your overall health. What matters is what you eat over time. They also use the 90/10 as guidance (I’ve also heard of people following 80/20) of health food versus play food.

Overall I am far more aware than I ever have been before. I’m not sure if or when I can call myself an intuitive eater, but I’m definitely on the path!