The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury to be thin and healthy, 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 much less food to decide you’ve had “enough.” - Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works

Intuitive eating is the antithesis of diet culture – a philosophy of eating that makes you in charge of when and what you eat, by listening to what your body needs or wants. Instead of guilt-inducing guidelines and restrictions, intuitive eating encourages the development of a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image that diet culture most definitely doesn’t encourage.

The basic principle of intuitive eating is that you only eat when you’re hungry, and you stop eating when full. In contrast, diet culture tells us what to eat, how much, and when. Restriction creates guilt when the rules are broken and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. Intuitive eating can help you mend this relationship and introduce a new way of eating and mentality surrounding food. Whilst it doesn’t focus on weight loss explicitly, it encourages you to follow your instincts on what feels good for you and your body. So, perhaps eating one doughnut is a treat, but eating ten doughnuts is going to make you feel pretty rubbish, and intuitive eating trusts you and your body to feel this before eating those ten doughnuts. By listening to your hunger and fullness cues, you're much less likely to overeat, and the vicious restrict then binge cycle can be dispelled.

Another concept of intuitive eating is that food should not be labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and that part of eating this way is changing our language around food and our attitude towards it. Intuitive eating is about eating to make you feel good and being in touch with the choices you make on the way to feeling good.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

The term, intuitive eating, was first coined in 1995 by dietician Elyse Resch and nutritionist Evelyn Tribole in their book. They promote nourishing and moving the body instead of dieting. By eating an array of healthy foods, and doing exercise you enjoy, your daily routines don’t become a punishment but an opportunity to give your body and mind what it needs.

These ten principles are from Resch and Tribole’s book. They encourage trusting your body and your instincts.

1. Ditch the diet mentality.

2. Recognise hunger.

3. Make peace with food.

4. Challenge the food police.

5. Feel your fullness.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor.

7. Cope with your feelings without using food.

8. Respect your body.

9. Exercise and feel the difference.

10. Honour your health.

All these commandments seem pretty straightforward, but they can be difficult to put into practice, especially at first if the diet mentality is engrained in you. It can be hard to wriggle out of those habits and attitudes instantly. Letting go of this diet messaging and adopting a new way of eating can be tricky. Dr Laura Thomas, nutritionist and author of Just Eat It, gives guidance on this: ‘When you strip back all the noise and the rules and the restrictions, it is much easier to tap into the messages that your body is sending you.’

When first starting intuitive eating, you may worry that your newfound freedom with food will mean you eat more foods that need to be eaten in moderation. However, intuitive eating promotes that your body will know that eating a lot of sugary and salty foods in excess is not going to make you feel good, and by listening to your instincts, you’re not going to choose to eat too many of these foods. This type of eating teaches you to trust your body.

Wholegrains, healthy fats and proteins make up a varied, balanced diet. Intuitive eating sees food as a way to make our bodies function and perform at their best, and not as calories to be counted.

What Intuitive Eating Isn’t

It’s not a quick weight loss fix. Intuitive eating might not be for everyone because there is not one single solution for all. What intuitive eating can offer is helping you to build a healthier relationship with food and your body. Whilst some may be suited to following a set of rules, others may have a positive experience with having no restrictions and enjoy the concept of listening to your body, eating to feel good and not counting calories.

Will you be ditching the diets to try this way of eating?

Written by Jess Burman

Wellbeing Writer

BA (Honours) Writing