I came up with these intuitive eating principles because I faced challenge.
I needed to find a way to explain Intuitive Eating to a group with absolutely no-clue about Intuitive Eating
So here’s another 10 revolutionary Intuitive Eating principles. I’m just unpacking my groceries and sort of rambling, but if you want more in depth info on these principles you can read below.
These principles are simply my opinion, although I am certified in Intuitive Eating.
I am totally fine if you disagree or find the original 10 principles more useful.
The 10 principles are:
- Cavemen Didn’t Diet
- Bring Emotions Into The Equation
- Practice Is Enlightenment
- It’s Like Learning To Ride A Bike
- Basic Nutrition Structure
- Personal Pleasure Matters
- How To Handle Failure
- Expansive Health Definition
- It’s Gotta Be Spiritual
- Create Your Own Diet
This speech was given at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California where I studied for my counseling master’s degree and currently live.
Below you can view a video of me unpacking my groceries and talking about these principles:
Cavemen Didn’t Diet
Imagine a caveman walking into a cave 10,000 years ago.
He is wearing no clothes, has a big club, and sets his club down. Then he gets on scale which is unexplainably somehow in the back of the cave.
The caveman steps on the scale and says “SHIT”
So if we are going to talk about intuition and intuitive eating, we need to talk about dieting.
We need to talk about how we were designed and evolved to eat.
Because cavemen didn’t diet.
There were no scales, there were no apps to track, there were no units of calories. There weren’t challenges, competitions or shows. There weren’t fitbits, app trackers or anything else!
Yet somehow we lived. Somehow we made it thousands and millions of years. Without any meal planning. Without any diets.
How’d we do this?
Maybe it has something to do with intuitive eating principles …
Bring Emotions Back Into The Equation
It’s not that science is wrong.
It’s not that calories don’t exist. They do. And while this is overly simplified to a tremendous degree, calories in do equal calories out.
Tracking your food is useful. Learning to eat healthier is useful. Learning about caloric measurements can be useful. Stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office and having the doctor tell you you’re going to die if you don’t lose weight is life-saving.
So it’s not that science is wrong. No.
Intuitive Eating is not against science. I know oftentimes Intuition and Science seem opposed to each other. For example some people instinctively think that heart and brain have two separate languages.
No, Intuitive Eating and science go together.
Yet for all of recent history, we western people have totally, unabashedly, ignorantly slashed away all emotions from food.
Ever hear about emotional eating in a diet program?
Yeah, you hear about emotional eating, sure.
But pretty much to the extent of “Just Don’t Do It!”
Occasionally you might talk about emotions in a weight loss program. But really, the only advice you’re given is to recognize you’re upset and calm down by taking a hot shower (or some other basic extremely obvious advice).
Or what about sleep and stress management?
What about guilt-eating or what-the-hell-I-fucked-up-already eating?
Nope. Nada. None. Zilch.
We as westerns simply have very little clue about how emotions and food go together synergistically.
So intuitive eating brings emotions back into the equation. Again, science is valuable. Science is right. But science is NOT always useful!
Hell, think about. Have you ever felt confused by the science of nutrition?
There’s so much science out there you already know what’s what!
Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs. Eggs have too much cholesterol. It’s the good type of cholesterol. But only cage-free eggs. No, organic eggs are best. But only in the morning. No that’s nonsense you can have eggs whenever you want. But only a few eggs, no more than 3. If you go over three then you’re at risk for a heart-attack.
Uhg. Makes me sick just thinking and writing about it.
So yes – there is such a thing as science overload!
And in fact, some scientists theorize that gut feelings like intuition are ways we evolved to make sense of tons of data very quickly.
In fact, this very reason is why intuition is so important. There’s so much data out there you need a way to make quick decisions. Intuition and emotions are powerful signals you can learn to listen to…
Hint – “learn” to listen to. It’s not automatic.
I can’t JUST give you a plan to follow. I can’t JUST give you a to-do list. Sure, when I work with clients we create a structure and some guidelines to follow (which I’ll talk about below in point #5).
Yet you – YOU – at the end of the day – YOU – need to take responsibility for meeting your emotional needs.
Because yes, deep down, this is about meeting emotional needs. More on that later, stay tuned for my next blog post.
But where was? Oh, yes. “Learning” intuition.
Practice Is Enlightenment
It’s a common myth that you get ‘enlightened’ in a flash of blinding light.
Where I lived for 13 months living as a Zen Monk we believed something different.
And strangely enough I learned a lot of these intuitive eating principles while living as a zen monk! Coindidence? I think not!
We believed that enlightenment was cultivated gradually over time. That enlightenment appeared like moonless night over time, turning into a sliver of light, growing the light to half moon, and then finally to full-moon.
The same thing is with intuition. The same thing is emotions.
You don’t just sort through all your emotions right away. No.
What we’re talking about here is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the key to LIFE. It’s the key to making more money, having great relationships, and yes, a great body.
But do good things come quickly? No!
Do good things come automatically? No!
Do good things come because you followed a ‘to-do- list? No!
So this is all about practice.
Practice is the path. Stop worrying about the future. Live one day at a time. Practice is enlightenment.
By practicing eating, by seeing how eating can be practiced, and loving the process – you will become enlightened in regards to food.
Your practice will make you lighter. Your practice will change your perception.
Think like yoga.
Yoga we say we practice yoga to live a better life. So to practice yoga we yoga. We hold poses. We sweat, we adjust our form. In the beginning we are sloppy and stiff. By practice, we become strong and graceful.
But how do you practice ‘food yoga’? Now if you are thinking ‘mindful eating’ that’s a good answer. Sure, mindful eating. Part of practicing food yoga is mindful eating, yes.
But mindful eating is not the whole point.
Food is more than what you put in your mouth. Food is also hunger, fullness, taste, and meeting your emotional needs so you don’t fill that gaping hole in your heart with food.
So we must learn skills to make our food yoga practice a means to enlightenment.
When we learn skills we bring to life these intuitive eating principles.
Here a few skills I’ll name off the top of my head:
- Listening more accurately to hunger and fullness
- Listening and understanding more accurately emotional cues
- Being able to foresee trigger situations where you are vulnerable to stress eating
- Better managing stress
- Better setting boundaries at work
- Developing a cohesive vision
- Learning from failure instead of judging yourself for failing
- Cultivating a self-compassionate voice
- Questioning a negative internal voice
- Testing and exploring different foods
And I’m just getting started. It’s complex. Life is complex. Yoga is complex. But with one step at a time, practice is enlightenment, you can get there.
And remember, it’s the journey that counts.
Learn To Ride A Bike
You gotta have skillz.
It’s not about a meal plan or a diet to follow, it’s about learning skills.
Like dribbing a ball. Like becoming a great painter. Or, like learning to ride a bike.
When you first start to ride a bike what is that like? You are trapped. You can’t go anywhere.
You’re afraid of falling down and getting hurt. You are out of balance. You are unconfident in your balancing abilities.
Yet somehow you learned to balance. Somehow you learned to stay upright, and to move forward.
Somehow you did this. Eating is no different.
But this mindset is extremely important! More on mindsets in point 6 too …
If you are thinking that you have to follow a plan then guess what? You stop learning.
Instead you strive for perfect adherence to “The Plan”.
And the plan works. Yay! Until it doesn’t.
The plan is logical. Logic is fine, remember, but what? We need to bring emotions back into the equation.
So we have to think about eating like we are just learning how to ride a bike.
It’s going to take some time. We are going to fall down. And we are going to pick ourselves back up, and get started again.
But don’t get worried. Skills, mastery, learning to ride a bike, it all might sound intimidating.
Hell, many people have even told me the word ‘intuitive’ sounds repelling. I can’t even imagine for those people what ‘intuitive eating principles’ sound like to them!
(although I have heard many other people say they love the word ‘intuitive’ too)
So anyways, don’t worry.
Because when we ride a bike we start off with training wheels …
Basic Nutritional Encouragements
Eat every 3-5 hours or about 3-5x per day.
Each unprocessed foods.
When you do eat, eat for variety.
- Telling you to stop eating sugar
- Telling you to track your calories
- Or telling you to eat precise amount
- Telling you to track your weight
No. I’m not telling you to do anything.
I’m encouraging you to stick to the very basics of healthy eating. This is about as simple as it gets.
We start off with the basics. Anyone can do this. It’s affordable. It’s good.
Yes, you do need to meal prep.
Yes, you need to take some more personal time during work to eat a solid lunch.
Yes, you do need to spend a few extra minutes perhaps packing a snack.
Yes, you need to focus on what you eat.
Make it easy though.
This is about a simple as it gets.
Don’t worry about perfection.
These are encouragements.
And at the end of the day …
Your Personal Pleasure Matters
I can’t tell you how important it is you feel good.
If you feel good, you’re doing this correctly.
If you don’t’ feel good, then you need to think about how you fell off your bike and how you can get on again.
Remember that thing about emotional needs?
Well … deep down … pain is caused when emotional needs aren’t met.
And it feels good in a joyful, contentful, right way when you get your needs met.
This is as opposed to a diet mentality.
A diet mentality is all about willpower.
Just do it!
Tired? Just do it!
But when you place your personal pleasure about food first, then you can have a sustainable journey.
That’s what these intuitive eating principles are all about. Learning how to have food satisfaction!
How To Handle Failure
Let’s talk and expect failure to occur.
How are you going to handle it?
Normally you’re told to just try harder.
Missed a day of working out? Stop being lazy!
But with Intuitive Eating you get a set of psychological tools to learn from failure.
As wise people for thousands of years have said, “Failure is the best teacher.”
You will fail, and just like learning to ride a bike, you will pick yourself back up again.
And every time you pick yourself back up again, you will become wiser.
How do you become wiser?
You must journal. You must journal your experiences.
After you fail – like let’s say you binge eat – then you must reflect.
What lead up to this binge?
Did I miss a meal?
Maybe I missed a hunger cue?
Did I get triggered?
Perhaps I did not eat enough ‘good’ foods?
Did I not get enough sleep?
Did I have a negative train of thought that I didn’t stand up to?
Was I berating myself for a mistake when I could have forgiven myself instead?
So all these questions are extremely important.
Because you learn from failure by asking questions about your experience.
This is called a Growth Mindset.
It’s realizing that failures do hurt, yes, but you can learn from the pain.
See how these intuitive eating principles go together? From learning to ride a bike to now at Growth Mindset …
See, the reason we can think big like this and connect all these dots from emotions to food to thinking to nutrition is because of …
An Expansive Health Definition
Now a week or two or three into intuitive eating I doubt you will lose any weight.
Maybe you will, maybe you won’t.
And that’s ok.
What?! Some people say “What?!”
Not losing weight is ok?
That’s nonsense? Losing weight is how I know I am succeeding!
But intuitive eating we expand our definition of health.
We include stress, energy, emotional health, mental health, and physical health.
It’s not all about weight loss.
When you focus 100% on weight loss you get tunnel vision.
And tunnel vision isn’t sustainable. You’re going to crash one day.
Instead we focus on the whole person. We focus on become a happier, wiser person who is taking care of themselves and learning food yoga skills.
This person who de-prioritizes weight loss is actually in the best position to lose weight too!
It’s a weird paradox.
You have to forget about weight loss in order to put yourself in a position to love life.
And perhaps if you really start to love life, love yourself, follow your dreams, live inspired …
Then perhaps the weight comes off as a natural byproduct.
Because if you are taking actions to better yourself as a human being …
Just because your weight stayed the same does not mean you failed.
Weight loss is not the definition of health.
We take an expanded definition of health.
With an expanded definition of health we can set a holistic goal.
We can say that we want not only to eat healthier, but to think and feel healthier. We want to become more courageous and stop letting other people’s opinions and comments hold us back.
It’s Gotta Be Spiritual
By spiritual I mean something bigger than your small “you”.
You have to be connected to something bigger than you.
Perhaps the purpose of becoming a better version of yourself is what this means.
But basically we are prioritizing Quality over Quantity.
We are taking a stand for Quality.
A quality life.
No, I’m not just talking about mindfulness. Everyone always thinks intuitive eating is mindful eating! But there’s a big difference.
Mindful eating is specifically about eating.
But intuitive eating goes deeper. It’s about tapping into the Quality life requires some sort of connection to something within you.
This something within you can be called intuition, or guidance, or god or whatever.
I don’t care about the names.
But we are trying to develop a trust with life.
We are walking the path of food yoga, so to speak. And in yoga, we are also pursing the Divine Right Now.
To transform we need to become vulnerable to our inner emotions and to contact these emotions.
When you can become vulnerable and heal – this is spiritual. This will get you in touch with some powerful energy that I call spiritual.
We all need healing.
And the powers, the energies that heal, these are spiritual in my book.
So let’s harness them.
Create Your Own Diet
And lastly, you create your own food rules.
Hell, maybe rules isn’t the right word.
Rules imply right and wrong, black and white.
But the point is you are free.
You don’t have to follow someone else’s diet.
You make your own.
You eat what you want to eat.
Yes, you discipline yourself how you want to be disciplined.
And yes, this is terrifying for many people who for years have been to follow the rules.
It can seem crazy, impossibly frightening that you have freedom.
But as you learn skills, you become more talented.
You get to know YOUR body.
Who else can know your body as well as you?
So you are the master.
You are the one who has responsibility.
You are the one who has to discipline yourself in a kind, compassionate manner.