Can Intuitive Eating Work For Me?

Throughout the intuitive eating series, we’ve talked about why anti-diet is not anti-health, and how intuitive eating can help reduce stress when it comes to making food choices. In this edition, we dive into some practical ways you can implement intuitive eating into your day-to-day life. Let’s begin.

1. Learn to say no

What does it mean to reject the diet mentality? It could mean removing yourself from conversations that involve people talking about how ‘dangerous’ certain foods are or how they’ve just started a new cleanse. Sometimes out of sight really is out of mind. When I can’t think of anything else to say, I simply say no. No, that diet won’t work for me. No, that diet isn’t worth the mental energy required to succeed on it. You can say no without a justification.

2. Consider what you actually want to eat

If you’ve been dieting for a long time, you may not even know what foods you want to eat because you’ve been relying on external cues for so long. One of the principles of intuitive eating is called ‘Make Peace with Food.’ We talked with Heather Caplan, RD about what that means: “This principle is really about the process of learning to trust yourself around all foods and calling a truce between the battle of you vs. food.” It’s important not to view food as the enemy. According to Heather, “Making peace with food is a process of identifying fear foods, restrictive behaviors, and even times when we feel we have to earn something before we can eat it, and then work through undoing those rules and beliefs.”

3. Use the hunger scale and respect your fullness

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to eat, check in with a hunger scale before, during and after meals, and learn to honor your hunger and respect your fullness. Intuitive eating doesn't mean eating dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner or stuffing yourself until you’re uncomfortably full. Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, EPC explains that intuitive eaters pay attention to their level of hunger and fullness, and aren’t likely to choose an amount of food that would lead to physical discomfort. Still, there can be times when we overeat because we’re at our favorite restaurant or we’re distracted by watching tv. It happens -- we’re not perfect.

4. Practice and be ok with failing

Intuitive eating can be challenging at times because it requires us to be mindful of our food choices and body signals. There is no perfect way to eat intuitively. Heather Caplan further explains, “People with tendencies to restrict are very fearful of feeling too full or eating before they feel the perfect level of hunger.” A lot of ex-dieters are used to aiming for perfection at eating, so it makes sense to want to be ‘perfect’ at intuitive eating, too. However, it’s important to establish new parameters of success, such as successfully listening to hunger cues or trying a new food that you were previously afraid to eat.

As we’ve seen, there are many nuances to intuitive eating, but hopefully, these tips can help you get started. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these resources.

This blog post includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD.