Updated: Aug 27
The Intuitive Eating Principles are something I began to utilize in my practice, when I started noticing the struggles my clients face when it comes to their relationship to food and their body. The diet mentality had really affected how they viewed and pursued health, and I knew I need to do more to help them, then to ignore the issue.
Although many of my clients came to me to address health conditions and create better habits, it became apparent to me that their food and body image issues went deeper than any health recommendations I had given them. They felt ashamed for not being able to follow recommendations, or even ghosted me of they felt they could not "be perfect" on their plan. Many were still stuck in "diet mentality" and any perceived "veer off course" led to a full blown binge.
This made me realize that the standard approach is just not working. I dove head first into the research from Dr. Lindo Bacon with Health at Every Size, I studied Intuitive Eating and even went to work on my own journey to healing my relationship with food. I became Licensed to facilitate a body image support group, and since then, I have seen a complete 180 degree change in how my clients pursue health and heal their relationship with food. This implementation of Intuitive Eating Principles has become absolutely essential for the long-term success of my clients.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, based on 10 principles below. It was created in 1995 by two dieticians, Evelyn Tribbole and Elyse Resch as a weight inclusive, evidence based model that incorporates a more holistic approach to health and eating. The practice of intuitive eating is letting your body guide you in choosing what, when, and how much to eat. Eating intuitively means sensing the signals from your body to tell you what you need, and trusting yourself to make decisions that will nourish your unique body. Unlike dieting where one relies on external messages or rigid rules to tell you what foods are “good” or “bad,” you take time to become mindful about what foods your body wants, and what feels good to you.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at diet culture that promotes weight loss and 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 or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
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 rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
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 foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.
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 diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
Feel Your Fullness. In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. 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 eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, 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, 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 just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had “enough.”
Cope with Emotions without Using Food. First, recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and 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. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.
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 futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about 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 of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.
Movement-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.
Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, 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.
If you would like to learn more about healing your relationship with food, ditching dieting for good, and pursuing TRUE health, apply to work 1-on-1 with me, today.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.
She is now booking new clients of 2022. Apply here.