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What is Intuitive Eating?

Every time a dietitian hands a client or athlete a beautifully written meal plan it is guaranteed to work. The science is there, the person handing it is well qualified and the steps are all laid out, so clearly it works every time and that’s why nutrition is so simple and everyone always succeeds when they sign up with a dietitian or health coach.

If the above was true this article would be a lot shorter. Unfortunately, that’s only a small part. The science is sound and counting calories and/or macronutrients absolutely works with some people. We implement it with some of our athletes here at PP. The reason we don’t use it with every client/athlete is the idea of scarcity and dieting often lead to poor compliance and a bad rebound after following the plan to reach a specific goal.

Great examples include bodybuilders or strength athletes dieting to look a certain way or compete in a certain weight class. Afterwards, instead of reverse dieting slowly, they gain a lot of weight and body fat. They keep this weight for a while and then continue to yo-yo diet for the foreseeable future until they stop competing or decide it is finally time for a better approach.

What’s the better option if I don’t want to count calories and/or macronutrients? Intuitive eating. The basic tenants behind it are that there are; no “good” or “bad” foods, you learn to listen to your body, hunger cues and relearn your relationship with food.

The authors breakdown how it works in two key ways:

1) Allowing you to listen to your body while sensing/feeling your hunger cues and

2) eliminating the outside obstacles of our preconceived notions towards food rules / beliefs and previous teaching we’ve experienced

How does it work?

Intuitive eating is a holistic approach to diet and wellness. It is rooted in self-care and works to help the person to create a better relationship with food by building awareness of and noting all aspects of their health. It was first started with research in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The following 10 specific principles listed below break down further what it is:

Reject the Diet Mentality – this is something we talk about a lot with our clients at PP and it’s the idea that the “lose 10# in 10 Days” mentality is broken and leads to bigger long-term problems. Step one to intuitive eating is to understand it is a process and a lifestyle. You are NOT A FAILURE if you can’t stick to keto, intermittent fasting or other diets, you are human and there are other options out there to help you reach your goal.

Honor Your Hunger – stop the overeating by preventing it. Learning how to accept hunger cues and know when you are hungry through mindfulness will allow you to eat the right amount of food which will help curb the desire to overeat. Then knowing your triggers for overeating will expedite the process to help you be healthy and reach your fitness goals.

Make Peace with Food – this is a reminder that there is no “good” or “bad” foods and when you do have foods that are not conducive to your goals it’s OK! The next step is to simply pick better foods in the next meal, not lament and beat yourself up or feel bad, but to move forward and understand that constant deprivation is often what leads to binge eating and spiraling into unhealthy habits.

Challenge the Food Police – this is often overcoming the inner monologue more than other people who give feedback about each food you choose. The internal monologue that accompanies each food choice and leads to guilt or long term negativity needs to be confronted and resolved. If this never becomes something you deal with it will constantly keep you from accepting and being successful with this eating.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor – one of the main things we teach our PP athletes and clients is to stop when you feel 80% full and also to eat slowly. The reason for this is that if you eat until you are completely full you usually have already over eaten. These two cues have helped lots of our members to better feel full and not have the same cravings and overeating they previously experienced.

Respect Your Fullness – enjoy your food and make sure that you are doing it slowly, this will allow for you to truly be mindful and present while eating. When people are mindfull they are more likely to receive the signals that your body is full

Honor Your Feelings without Using Food – naming and recognizing your triggers is step one, the next step is to find more productive ways to deal with them. When you feel that trigger coming on or recognize the cues that lead to this specific action it is important to pick actions and activities that do not involve food. This will help to lessen emotional eating and lead to better long term results.

Respect Your Body – not everyone is born to be a specific type of athlete, but we are all born with great gifts. Coming to terms with what your gifts are and how to best utilize them is an integral step on this journey. Knowing what you want to accomplish and respecting where you are staring from are great steps towards acceptance and success.

Movement & Exercise - Feel the Difference – enjoying the way you feel after accomplishing activities and not a specific number of calories burned allows motivation to grow from small victories and also makes people feel better internally with self-confidence and increased energy levels

Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition – Eating perfectly every meal is not required to be healthy. Nutrient deficiencies, diseases and other nutritional issues do not happen overnight or from one meal, they happen from long term poor life decisions. This means that we are looking for progress, not perfection.

For a person wanting to be a better version of themself, learn more about nutrition and how to eat better to reach their fitness goals, this is perfect. High level athletes looking to for a short-term fix with very specific measurable goals will often do better with meal plans. We at PP love this approach and think most people should use it to reach their goals. Ease of use, increased education and ability to use anywhere and any situation makes it an incredibly useful tool for reaching your health and lifestyle goals.

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