Fad diets come and go, but a mindful approach to eating that withstands the ebbs and flows of diet culture? Sign us up!
By now, you may have heard a bit about intuitive eating. This non-diet approach to eating emphasizes internal cues over external diet rules. Non-diet means the focus isn’t on the scale, but instead on promoting healthy behaviors and habits, better body image and a healthier relationship with food. Intuitive eaters let go of the misconception that certain foods are good or bad, and they eat what they want without feeling guilt or shame. They eat based on internal signals like hunger, fullness and satisfaction. This may sound simple, but after years or even decades of being inundated with diet talk, diet culture, media messages and food rules, it can be hard to just, well, eat! Here are six simple tips to help you get started on the path of intuitive eating.
1 Honor your hunger. Learn to recognize mild sensations of hunger that emerge even while you are busy doing something else, and feed them before you become ravenous or feel tempted to make unhealthy eating choices.
2 Challenge your inner food police. The guard tower deep in your psyche loves to blast negative, guilt-provoking thoughts every time you get a craving. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to intuitive eating. Give yourself permission to eat whenever you feel hungry, and let go of internal feelings of guilt or rigid rules that say that you can’t eat more than a certain number of calories, or enjoy a brownie.
3 After eating a meal, take some time to be mindful of your inner feelings. Did your meal or snack make you feel sluggish, energized, anxious or calm? Take stock of your physical, mental and emotional responses, and decide whether the meal and foods are worth eating again.
4 Honor your feelings without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom and anger are emotions we all experience. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. If you find yourself overeating to treat a mood or an emotion instead of to satisfy physiological hunger, search for the emotional root of the problem and then soothe or stimulate yourself by doing yoga, taking a long walk or talking with a friend.
5 Exercise for enjoyment. 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 during and after a workout, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.
6 Keep caveats in mind. Many integrative or holistic health experts point out that the foods we most often crave are sometimes those to which we are allergic or intolerant. If you suffer from this sort of food addiction, be aware that feeding it may make your cravings worse.