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When Selene Milano heard her therapist’s’ advice, she thought Dr. Conason must be nuts.
Selene was working with her therapist to address long-standing issues with overeating. Dr. Conason’s instructions were for Selene to keep her kitchen stocked with a full supply of sweets and “forbidden” foods, and never to let her supply run low.
“When we believe that our food will be restricted, we have a ‘now or never’ mentality, thinking this is our one opportunity to eat this food, so we should eat as much as we can in this moment because we’ll never allow ourselves to have it again,” says Dr. Conason.
The logic made sense to Selene, but she didn’t trust herself in the least to keep boxes of brownies and cartons of ice cream in the house and not eat them all at a sitting.
But what she discovered surprised her. After a few months, the freedom to eat what she wanted, when she wanted, liberated her from the cycle of deprivation and binge eating that had kept her overweight for so long.
The ‘anti-diet’ that’s better for your body
Intuitive eating is a term coined in the 1990s by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two Registered Dietitians.
Intuitive eating is an eating plan, not a diet. It involves breaking free from the dieting roller coaster and learning to eat mindfully and without guilt.
There’s no calorie counting or food restrictions involved, but there are ten core principles that make up the philosophy behind this type of eating.
When you read these principles, you’ll see that this approach embraces being able to eat, enjoy food, and make the best choices for your body without guilt.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating
- Reject the diet mentality. Dieting isn’t sustainable. As soon as someone goes off a diet, they start eating “forbidden” foods again, feel guilty, and deprive themselves harshly.
With intuitive eating there are no diet cookbooks, no fad diets, and nothing that tells you how much you can or cannot eat.
- Honor your hunger. For people who feel out of control with their eating, feeding the body when it’s hungry is the first step in re-establishing trust that you can care for yourself with the right foods. Eating a sufficient amount of carbs, fats and proteins is the only way to satisfy hunger.
Traditional diets restrict these, and you end up signaling your body that it can expect to go hungry.
- Make peace with food. Traditional diets create a vicious cycle. Certain foods are ‘forbidden,’ making them even more tempting. When you do eat them, you feel guilty, so you deprive yourself, and the cycle begins again.
On the other hand, when you give yourself permission to eat chocolate donuts for breakfast, for example, you also give yourself the ability to ask, “Do I really want these now? How will I feel after I eat it?” It puts you in control, not the donuts.
- Challenge the food police. The ones in your head, that is. You know, the voices that say it’s bad to eat chocolate cake or to have butter on your potato. Not only is it bad, you are bad for indulging.
These voices can be real people, too. Either way, silencing them is crucial to returning to an intuitive way of eating.
- Respect your fullness. Pause mid-meal to ask yourself if you are full. Be aware of your body’s signals that it’s had enough food, or that it needs more. With intuitive eating, this is your guide, not number of calories or servings.
- Discover the satisfaction factor. Evelyn Tribole calls this “the hub of intuitive eating.” It means paying attention to the flavor and texture of food, as well as to your surroundings while you eat.
“When you can bring the pleasure and joy back to eating, you can truly feel satisfied after a meal and move on and enjoy the rest of your life, rather than continue to eat for other reasons.”
- Honor your feelings without using food. People often overeat to mask anxiety, boredom and other negative emotions. Finding ways to comfort, entertain and calm yourself without using food is crucial to the intuitive eating plan.
- Respect your body. Part of intuitive eating is accepting your body as it is, not as you wish it were. If you wouldn’t try to fit your size 10 foot into a size 6 shoe, don’t strive for the body of a stick-thin woman if your genetics have given you plentiful curves.
- Exercise: feel the difference. Focus on how it feels to move your body, in a way that feels good to you, rather than worrying about how many calories you’re burning. A goal of “feeling more relaxed” after a workout is much more motivating than a goal of burning 100 calories.
- Honor your health. Make food choices that keep a balance between honoring your taste buds and honoring your health. You don’t need to eat a perfect diet to be healthy, but you do need to eat a balanced diet. Of course, when you embrace the first nine principles of intuitive eating, this last one follows naturally.
Bonus: Ten quick weight-loss tips that fit well with the spirit of intuitive eating.
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- What Is Intuitive Eating? A Nutritionist Weighs In On This Popular Anti-Diet — health.com
- The Mindful Eating Hack That Helped Me Stop Obsessing About Food — health.com
- 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating — IntuitiveEating.org