In order to define Intuitive Eating, we should first define what it is not. It is not a diet. It is not a detox or fancy cleanse. It’s not a lose-30-pounds-in-30-days program.
Intuitive Eating, sometimes referred to as Mindful Eating is more of a concept with some loose framework rather than a strict diet regimen. It is, are you ready for this, eating intuitively or mindfully. Plain and simple – eating the way we were designed to eat before all the influences of weight, fad diets, internal voices, off-handed comments, peer input, and stress influenced our eating habits
Intuition is defined as the ability to understand something immediately; a thing that one knows likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. To eat intuitively means to eat instinctively rather than sorting through a list of rules or old habits or current diet hype to determine your food choices or amounts
Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater and swear off kale forever, there are some guidelines that help to comprise healthy intuitive eating. First and foremost, eating intuitively is not a license to indulge in all the discounted post-Valentine Day candy your heart desires. It’s not a free-for-all.
Intuitive eating may look a little different for each of us since we all have different schedules and lifestyles and goals. However, these three points apply to us all.
Pay attention to your intake. When you drive, hopefully you are paying attention to your driving – your speed, the road conditions, and other drivers. The same should be said of your eating.
Are you sitting down to give you attention to your meal? Lose the magazine, phone, computer, and wheel (yes, some people eat and drive! To which is the focus given?). Notice the meal before you – the aroma, the color, and the different textures. Participate in the act of eating. Savor the bites – tease out different flavors. Turn your attention to your satiety – are you still hungry? Paying attention to your eating allows you to experience the meal, feel your hunger leave and not overeat
As you bring your focus to the task at hand, eating, your mind and your stomach have a chance to connect and feel fullness. For many of us, eating has become a side activity to another task that has most of our attention. We eat while we’re working or driving the kids to school or watching television or scrolling through Facebook. While I know you are brilliant, your mind can’t possibly give its full attention to multiple tasks at one time. Often, it’s the eating that becomes passive.
Eating mindfully puts the meal or snack front and center. When you are paying attention to the act of eating, you tend to eat less and eat higher quality meals. The stale office donuts and greasy fast-food burger don’t seem to fit the bill since you aren’t scarfing them down without a care.
Eat feel-good foods. Ditch the good food/bad food association. You know by now which foods you should be taking in and which ones you should be moderating. The old adage – eat your veggies – was not a punishment sentence; rather it’s a stellar piece of advice. Plants (fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes) provide lots of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. We should be eating those more often than empty-calorie foods such as burgers, fries, chips, and pastries because they provide little more than sugar, salt, and fat.
If you are paying attention to your body, you will notice that you feel better (improved digestion, better immunity, increased energy, etc.) when you eat plants compared to when you eat junk food. The more often you make the choice to choose healthy foods, the more you will reap these benefits.
Move your body. Often. What does exercise have to do with intuitive eating? You need to move your body. Can you imagine a dog or cat that didn’t run and jump every day? We would assume there was something off with an animal that didn’t have the desire to move every day. And so it is true with humans. In order to utilize the fuel we intuitively take in, we must exercise regularly.
We were a species designed to move. Physiologically, our bodies perform better when we move them often. The body better utilizes the food we eat when we exercise on a regular basis.
When we are eating intuitively, we start to balance our energy intake (food) with our energy output (exercise and activities of daily living). You may feel hungrier the day after a longer workout. Conversely, you may not eat as much during a day with little physical activity as your energy requirements for the day will be lower.
These are components of intuitive eating. You eat according to your needs, and your intuition. This allows you to meet your needs without overeating. And, you remove the unnecessary filters of fad diets, diet plans, and excessive exercise regimens that can negatively impact food choices.
Before I send you on your merry way to enjoy your next meal with intuition, keep in mind that eating this way is a new habit to develop. It takes time to create and sustain new healthy habits – they don’t just appear overnight. Don’t worry! You’ll have several chances to practice mindful eating; every meal is an opportunity to develop this new habit.