When it comes to getting healthy, a lot of us turn toward the latest diet craze but often revert back to old habits. Teaching your body and reprogramming it to want healthy foods and to follow your hunger cues can go a lot further. This is where intuitive eating can come into play.
Intuitive eating isn’t rocket science, but figuring out your own body’s cues can take some work and knowing where to start can be challenging. To answer some of these questions and more, I turned to Lindsay Livingston, RD for her advice.
What is intuitive eating, anyway?
Let’s face it, you’ll never master intuitive eating if you don’t understand what it is. According to Livingston, “intuitive eating means learning to recognize hunger cues, trust your body and eat what you’re craving.”
When it comes to eating, we tend to let our mind control the show. When you listen to your body’s cravings, you can tap into the nutrients it needs and satisfy that need with healthy choices. Intuitive eating isn’t strict, says Livingston. “It’s about forming a strong, positive relationship with food instead of constantly dieting, restricting and labeling.”
Once you learn to recognize your hunger cues, you’ll be able to determine whether you’re truly hungry, or craving food for one of many other reasons.
How does it work?
First, ditch your idea of dieting. Intuitive eating isn’t about a set amount of calories, it’s about following your body’s signs. When you’re hungry you honor that hunger and feed your body. You turn off the “no” factor in your head and go with the flow.
One upside to intuitive eating is that it lets you say goodbye to forbidden foods. If you have a certain craving, you allow yourself to enjoy it — just don’t overindulge. This process is about gaining health over time. One indulgent snack or meal isn’t going to set you back.
As you’re eating, take time to think about the process. Are you still hungry or are you eating just to eat? When you’re comfortably full, stop eating. You’ll find satisfaction in that fullness and begin to develop a positive relationship with food. Over time you may see yourself leaning more toward healthier choices because you feel better when you eat better. Those feelings become more apparent as you pay closer attention to what your body is telling you.
Avoid emotional eating
Beyond honing in to your body’s natural signs of hunger and fullness, it’s important to develop ways to honor your feelings without using food. Anger, sadness and other negative feelings tend to lead to overindulgence. This overrides the natural signs your body is sending and puts an emphasis on food as the cure or source of comfort. Find healthy alternatives for managing your feelings like exercising, reading a book, or treating yourself to a new outfit.
Livingston’s biggest tip for getting started with intuitive eating is to “spend time learning about your body’s hunger cues.” We are all very different individuals and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to intuitive eating. It’s a highly personalized process. “Instead of eating out of habit, wait and listen until your body tells you that it is hungry.”
Don’t give up
This is not an easy process to start. Nothing worth it is ever is, right? Livingston reminds us not to be surprised by a struggle. “Intuitive eating often involves going against things that you’ve been taught in the past in regard to diet. Learning to trust your body and its signals can be a slow process but once you figure it out, you can be successful.”