The main principles of intuitive eating are rejecting dieting mentality and giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat. I remember when I first encountered this concept — the notion that I could liberate myself from the constraints of dieting, size-based culture, and punishing exercise regimes was mind-blowing.

I’ve spent my entire life focused on how to outsmart my hunger so that I could reclaim my teenage body. That’s crazy: I am a grown-ass woman about to enter her forties and have spent the best part of my life trying to be the size of a child. Of course it’s not us that are crazy — we’re conditioned by advertisers and dieting companies to always pursue smaller.

It’s pretty sad that we live in a world where we’re told that giving in to hunger is a sign of weakness. And that bigger is definitely not better.

That’s what I love about Bold & Badass Fitness — I’ve never been told that I need to shrink myself. Instead, the coaches have encouraged me to embrace all that I am. I now know that choosing strong over skinny is how I’ll be the best version of myself. It was this perspective that primed me to the idea of intuitive eating.

It’s important to note that intuitive eating is not a tool for weight loss, or about eating everything in sight. It’s about honoring your body so that you make choices about food that feel good, without judgement or influence from dieting culture. It’s kind of a peace movement!

The key principles of intuitive eating are:

  1. Reject the diet mentality. That means throwing out dieting books and not buying “health” magazines with false promises of dropping 10-pounds after the holidays. You’re also allowed to feel angry about the lies you’ve been told that you are the source of a failed diet — not the unsustainable crazy diet itself.
  2. Honor your hunger. Feed yourself an adequate amount of food, that includes all food groups (so long as you don’t have an allergy to any specific foods). Tune in to your body’s biological signs that you are hungry, and honor them.
  3. Make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Do not restrict any food groups, especially if you’ve been labelling them as good or bad. Depriving yourself will only lead to overeating and then feelings of guilt and remorse — this is an endless cycle which often precedes another ridiculous diet.
  4. Challenge the inner food critic. Shutdown thoughts that arise about restriction, or the desire to punish yourself for eating that slice of cake. Observe any unreasonable thoughts and challenge them by asking if the statements or criticisms are true. Are you really bad for eating a bacon sandwich? Why? What makes that bad? What you may find is that the dieting culture and our parents dysfunctional relationship with food are often the cause of these intrusive thoughts — we don’t need to perpetuate them. Break free!
  5. Respect your fullness. When you’re eating, why not take a moment or two to observe your level of fullness. Are you eating to fullness or until your plate is finished regardless of your satiety?
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor. When you eat do you enjoy the food? Or do you wolf-down the meal without even registering its flavor and texture? Why not take a moment to observe the whole eating experience: the preparation, the eating environment, company, and dinnerware. Was it an enjoyable experience? What other ways could you make it more inviting? Perhaps  you could play music while cooking, eat at the table, invite friends over, or light a few candles.
  7. Honor your feelings without using food. Life can be stressful. Emotions can run riot and we’ve been taught to run from our feelings by chugging down a glass of wine, or checking out with the latest TV series. I’m not saying don’t enjoy whatever you find de-stressing — I’m saying why not find other nurturing activities that don’t involve food or alcohol, like therapy, yoga, a workout, meditation?
  8. Respect your body. You don’t try to change your shoe size, so why would you expect to fit a tall body with large bone structure into a size 2? It is simply the dieting culture and advertising strategies that condition our thoughts that we’re too big. Respect who you are and your shape. You are exactly who you are supposed to be.
  9. Exercise. Focusing on movement for strength and health rather than as a tool of weight loss is what intuitive eating is about. Do what energizes you rather than what depletes your energy — even if that’s a walk around the block, or stretching your body for a few minutes during the working day.
  10. Honor your health. By honoring wellness over size, you gain respect for your body and what you feed it. When you give up restricted eating and instead focus on eating for health and enjoyment, you’ll find that you make better food choices. Those decisions build up to a healthier lifestyle and happier body.

Want to learn more about intuitive eating? Register here for our upcoming intuitive eating workshop so you can start making peace with your body and your relationship with food!

Olivia Pennelle

Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and publications across the web, including Ravishly, The Fix, Recovery.org, Workit Health, and STAT News. Liv was recently featured in VICE.

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