I wanted to share my take on the 10 principles of intutitve eating. These are covered in detail (like a chapter for each concept) in the books Intutitve Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
I canceled all of my women's magazine and fitness magazine subscriptions. I deactivated my Facebook account and left Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. All of that was a hotbed of diet mentality, body comparison, food comparison, fat shaming, fit shaming, and general negativity, even after heavily moderating my feeds. I quit reading diet books for entertainment. I quit watching Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, The Biggest Loser, Revenge Body, and all other reality television crap that promotes a better life through starvation and overtraining. I got mad about how many times I'd been duped into using and promoting meal plans and diet schemes. I quit eating foul tasting "weight loss" foods like protein bars, low-carb tortillas, or sugar-free anything.
2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
As I was saying in the last post, when I get hungry, I eat. I don't second guess it, or wait, or hope it goes away. I don't let my last meal determine this meal's food choices. I respond to early, subtle signs of hunger instead of waiting for a growl loud enough to scare bystanders. I head into all of my meals with some gentle hunger, but relaxed and comfortable. I'm looking forward to the food, but not desperate for it like when I would allow myself to get way too hungry.
3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
I had so many foods that I considered "bad," dangerous, or off limits. I wasted enormous energy trying to avoid them, or not think about them, or create substitutions for them. I would inevitably eat more overall than if I'd just eaten what I wanted when I thought of it. "Good" foods were trouble too. I would overeat those because they were allowed or safe. The whole food morality thing had to go. It is never the case that certain foods are inherently good or bad, fattening or slimming. Deprivation only ensured that I would lose all control around certain foods. That's biology of food restriction, not a personal failing.
4. Challenge the Food Police Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
Oh, shutting off that diet chatter has been a process. My brain will still spit out "helpful" observations, but like I said in another post, I don't give them attention or emotion anymore. Diet thoughts have gone from an upsetting, overwhelming loud speaker to a little "tink, tink, tink" sound that's easy to ignore. The thoughts still come, but it's your reaction to them that matters. I realize that they're automatic, looping nonsense, not truths.
5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
Slowing down and eating with fewer distractions (at times, not as a rule) has helped so much with this. The subtleties of fullness were always there but I didn't notice them because I was busy shoveling food while staring at a screen. That pause is so important. Take a breath. How do I feel right now? Will I feel better or worse if I eat more? I wasn't even taking the time to think about it. I'd eat whatever was on the plate and stop when it was gone. Or I'd eat what I always eat without ever checking in on whether that was the right amount today.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
When she mentioned the Japanese, you thought she was going to talk about the "80% full" thing didn't you? I did. LOL Thankfully, no. She's just talking about taking genuine pleasure in the food you eat and the environment you eat in. This was new to me. When dieting, I only experienced genuine pleasure when I binged or went off the diet. See the problem there? I didn't necessarily like what I ate. I was eating it for other reasons: macros, fiber, calorie count, antioxidants, it's on the meal plan, it's time. Eating food that I actually enjoy, to total satisfaction, every time I eat, has been life altering. It's killed any desire to binge.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
Eatertainment. That's Georgie's word and it's a good one. I would frequently eat to distract, comfort, numb, or entertain myself. I didn't know what to do with my emotions. I wanted to shut them off for a few minutes. A big container of ice cream and a spoon could certainly do that! The problem is afterward when you're uncomfortably full and you still have the worry or stress you were trying to escape from. I found that questioning my thoughts Byron Katie style (Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it's true? How do I feel or what happens when I believe that thought? Who would I be without that thought? Could the opposite also be true?) shut down my need to relax and escape with food. That and being well fed in general. Escaping with food is really appealing when you're dealing with chronic hunger.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
When I was into bodybuilding, I was the spider monkey who wanted to be a gorilla. I worked SO HARD to gain muscle on a tall, skinny, long-limbed frame and look like those fitness models. Then when I finally had plenty of muscle (and fat) from overtraining + binge eating, I decided it was all wrong and I wanted to look like an actress - thin with no obvious muscles. I'm sure my body was like, "You have GOT to be kidding me." It was stuck with me every time I changed my mind and tried to torture it into looking a certain way. What fixed all this was eating and moving to feel good. Just that. No size, weight, or appearance goals. When I feel good mentally and physically, I'm happy with the way I look. When I feel awful (as I do when dieting), I turn into a desperate, insecure mess who wants to change everything.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
Exercise is play time for me now. Everything I do is fun and feels good. There is no dread anymore. It's not about weight or appearance. This was a MASSIVE mindset shift. The results have been incredible. When exercise is fun, you're very consistent with it. I never have to motivate myself to workout, or push myself through something I don't want to do. I pay attention to how I'm feeling that day and choose movement to suit it. I love the huge variety of ZGYM workouts. I love walking outside with the dog. I love that I haven't followed a program or set foot in a gym in years, and that I'm healthier for it!
10.Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
Even though I can eat candy and potato chips whenever I want, it turns out that I don't want them every day or at every meal. Who knew?! If you're eating to feel good, a steady diet of sweets and processed food actually doesn't feel so hot, so it's self-regulating. At least once you're feeding yourself consistently it is. When I was overly hungry and my brain was full of restrictive thoughts, my sweet regulator seemed broken. It's not. It just needed to be calmed down with satisfying meals on a predictable schedule for weeks and months. If you eat satisfying meals on a predictable schedule for three days, that doesn't fix it. The effect of the restriction is cumulative. It takes time for the threat level to drop enough that you're not driven to eat all the cookies/chocolate/brownies while you have the chance.
It also helped me to acquire that big picture instead of fretting over every meal and trying to balance every day. One meal or one day of eating isn't going to make you fat, give you a deficiency, or cause diabetes, just like one meal isn't going to solve your weight struggle or make you immortal. Calm down! LOL I needed to anyway...
Even though I eat intuitively, I still care about nutrition. I care about feeling my best and living a long healthy life. I just don't enforce nutrition out of fear like I used to. I'm interested in what tastes good, what satisfies, and what makes me feel good physically.