a few months ago

A Quick Guide To The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating Using Images, Quotes and Analogies

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating can be confusing.

When compared to simple diet plans like “Just Don’t Eat Red Meat” the Intuitive Eating approach can seem baffling.

As a certified intuitive eating counselor, I have been explaining Intuitive Eating to people for a few years now and I feel there is a need for an intuitive post about intuitive eating.

This post below will use images, quotes and analogies to describe the 10 Principles Of Intuitive Eating.

Underneath each principle I’ve provided a few sentences to help expand upon the analogy and give greater context.

As they say … a picture is worth a thousand words. In this spirit I came up with the following:

1 – Reject the diet mentality.

It’s human nature to crave simplicity. A natural part of us craves simple rules. That’s why we are attracted to diets. We get a few nice rules and a part of us loves the rules.

However, dieting rules can pave the way for a rigid lifestyle of restriction and deprivation. Ultimately we get cut off from our body’s wisdom and may develop an absolutely horrible, vicious relationship with food. 

We must be able to tolerate the unknown. We must be willing to wade through the difficult emotions. We must be willing to be patient and to realize that life is complex.

Any ‘diet solution’ that fails to speak about emotions, complexity and your body’s wisdom must be recognized as a Magic Bullet and resisted.

This is the first of 10 principles of intuitive eating! Let’s go on …

2 – Honor Your Hunger

John templeton

Your hunger is just like your brain or your muscles. You must actively connect with your hunger, or risk losing the ability to feel your hunger at all.

Somehow, you may have innocently stopped paying attention to your hunger. Perhaps you started a diet in middle school and learned that your hunger cravings had to be ignored or controlled.

Maybe your relationship with hunger developed earlier as a child when you learned that food could be eaten to make you feel better even if you were not hungry.

Over time you may have lost connection to your own body. Now, it’s just a simple matter of practice. Just like you can strengthen your muscles, you can strengthen the connection to your own body.

As you connect with your body, you’ll learn how to keep your body full with enough energy and carbohydrates.

Otherwise you can trigger an unstoppable urge to overeat. Once you reach the moment of ‘starvation’ all your willpower and motivation to eat moderately will fly out the door.

If you strengthen your hunger-body-connection you can learn to honor this first biological signal and avoid binge eating.

This is the second of 10 principles of intuitive eating! Let’s go on …

3 – Make peace with food.

unconditional permission to eat means ...

At first glance this principle might appear to be unhealthy. You might think if all foods were equal, why not eat donuts 24/7? But the fact is, eating donuts all day doesn’t feel good.

Normally people guilt trip themselves when they eat unhealthy foods. They are ‘good’ for awhile and then something happens. The willpower and motivation dries up. Then an unhealthy food sneaks in and then the person is ‘bad’.

All of these are moral judgments.

Stop basing your self worth and judging yourself based on what foods you eat! Instead of all this guilt, redirect this energy into noticing how the foods make you feel. Give up the idea of morally right or wrong foods!

4 – Challenge the food police.

food police

The Food Police symbolize our internal and cultural standards towards food. Oftentimes our inner voice demands perfection!

If we have even one cookie then we are a failure. In this principle you learn to identify and hear the different voices in your head.

You learn to stand up to the food police for their rigid thinking and arbitrary rules.

As you learn to stand up to your inner Food Police, you also start to learn how to access your Inner Nurturing voice.

This voice empowers you to calm down and meet your emotional needs.

5 – Respect your fullness.

Veronica Quote

If you are missing your emotional needs then will feel the hole in your heart with food.

Also, if you are not connected to your body then you will keeping eating because you don’t know when to stop eating.

The result is like when you pour too much water in a glass. You get messy. What can and ideally should be a normal experience of just eating food becomes splattered all over. You become bloated. Filled with guilt and shame.

It doesn’t need to be this way. In order to feel your fullness you’ll need to learn to connect. If you learn to connect, then you will be able to meet your emotional needs and to stop eating before you get too full and food spills over.

6 – Discover the satisfaction factor.

Evelyn Tribole Quote

You have two choices when you eat food, and you alone are the only person who can decide.

What are you deciding between? The choice is simple – do you like this food? Do you like how it makes you feel physically? Are you satisfied while eating the food? Basically, does the food satisfy you?

To make this decision you’ll have to be present and in-the-moment and slow down. You’ll have to taste the food.

Remember, foods are available. You no longer have to scarf down the brownies at the social event after work because you never have brownies and this is your one and only chance.

Now you finally have a chance to make a decision about brownies based upon how brownies make you feel. Instead of being driven by scarcity and dieting rules, you stand at a fork in the path.

You can like brownies. Seriously, you can.

You can also not like brownies if they don’t make you feel good.

The freedom can be terrifying.

But at the end of the day, if you’ve been following the other principles and are not guilt tripping yourself, then you’ll start to able to claim back the joy of eating and start to be normal with food again.

7 – Honor your feelings without using food.

Your feelings can be scary like the universe. They can seem overwhelming like the number of stars. They can seem confusing like the dark matter mysteries in the universe.

And you may feel uncertain about your place in the universe. Yet the universe can also be a place of wonder, God’s creation perhaps. Your emotions are your soul.

As messy and as chaotic as they may seem, you can learn to soothe your emotions and to make peace with your emotions and your place in the universe.

But it starts by being willing. Willing to feel. Willing to learn skills to manage emotions. Willing to take care of yourself. Willing to embrace the mess. Willing to journal to sort through the mess. Being willing.

8 – Respect your body.

Give up the damn scale.

Yes you can lose weight but forget about losing weight. This is not to say you won’t lose weight. If the weight does come off, let the weight loss be a natural by product.

Don’t focus on losing weight. Instead focus on sleeping more, doing self-care, living in accordance with your values, sitting with difficult emotions, learning from difficult emotions, and exploring foods to see what feels good to you.

You must realize that you are more than your body. Your life is more than your body. There are many, many aspects to life. If you wait until you are skinny to live your life then you might be waiting forever.

Besides, you actually have much more chance to lose weight is you stop focusing on weight!

If you just focus on learning skills that support your happiness (like the list I just mentioned above) then paradoxically by NOT focusing on weight loss you might actually find the very thing you were searching for!

This idea of slowing down and focusing on the process was actually a piece of advice given to me directly by Evelyn Tribole! Click here to read about our interaction.

9 – Exercise and feel the difference.

Stop taking exercise so seriously! There’s more to health and fitness than working out crazy hard and hating yourself because your not strong yet.

Remember when you were a kid and could play outdoors for hours because you simply liked it? What can you do for hours? Hiking? Walking? Maybe just an hour of yoga? What do you like to do for fun?

Stop thinking about ‘earning’ food by exercising hard. That mentality is going to kill your motivation. What types of exercise do you actually like?

Again, you will be at a crossroads here, just like with food. But stop taking yourself so seriously! Just laugh and try to have fun. Experiment with different forms of movement.

We’re almost done … the last of 10 principles of Intuitive Eating is coming up!

10 – Honor your health.

Quit the rat race! Stop thinking that work work work work work will make you happy. In fact, the more you take care of yourself, take time to self-care and meal prep, the happier you will be.

In fact, the happier you will be, the more you will actually get done at work. It’s the same thing with sleep. You have to draw boundaries for the most important things in life. You will actually be more productive if you sleep more, even though you have less time.

The same thing is true with gently meal prepping your food and taking the time to make some simple but healthy meals.

You really have to identify your values, your life directions, how you want to show up in the world, and choose to really honor those values by meal prepping and taking time to cook for yourself.

You really have to identify your values, your life directions, how you want to show up in the world, and choose to really honor those values by meal prepping and taking time to cook for yourself.

Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a ‘perfect’ diet to be healthy.

This is the last of 10 principles of intuitive eating 🙂