Intuitive Eating: Helping individuals re-establish healthy relationships with food
Reading Time: 4 minutes Intuitive Eating’s principle-based approach has been helping individuals re-establish healthy relationships with food. What are the principles, and how can they be implemented?
On March 29, 2023, UVU’s registered dietician Kayla Jacobson hosted an Intuitive Eating workshop at Center Stage. The purpose was to educate students about Intuitive Eating, “a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought,” according to the words of Evelyn Tribole, a nutrition therapist and founding member of the program.
The bottom line of the Intuitive Eating program is “not putting specific rules around our eating,” Jacobson stated. This goal is achieved through 10 principles that provide specific and actionable guidance for participating individuals. Here is a summary of all 10 principles and examples by which they may be implemented, as explained by Jacobson.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Rejecting the diet mentality is as it sounds: coming to accept the fact that diets don’t work.
According to Jacobson, “We’ve shown a lot of research over the years that as people diet, they are able to lose weight, but that eventually that weight usually comes back … and that losing and then gaining … weight is actually really harmful to the body.” Jacobson recommends starting this process by first recognizing negative thoughts toward food and then getting rid of, or reframing them.
2. Honor your hunger
Honoring your hunger is realizing that hunger, in any form, is an appropriate cause to eat food.
According to Intuitive Eating, there are four different kinds of hunger:
- Physical hunger, when our bodies physically require food.
- Taste hunger, when strong smells or other situational exposures invoke feelings of hunger.
- Practical hunger, eating beforehand to mitigate future hunger.
- Emotional hunger, when emotions such as stress, sadness or happiness drive individuals to eat.
“Let me go ahead and say that all of these hungers are appropriate reasons to eat. Some are not better than others … [and] it’s okay to eat for all these reasons,” Jacobson shared. “The important part is that you’re recognizing what kind of hunger it is.”
3. Make peace with food
Making peace with food means that we do not place restrictions on ourselves for what we can and cannot eat.
“This principle is all about allowing yourself permission to eat all types of food,” Jacobson explained. “We want to first understand that all type of foods fit into a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle …[and that] once we understand that, it helps us normalize different types of foods.” Jacobson recommended practicing this principle by reframing our thinking so that there are no “good or bad” foods.
4. Challenge the food police
Challenging the food police is challenging the voice in your head that makes you feel guilty for eating foods traditionally deemed as “unhealthy.”
“The food police, just simply put, is the voice in your head that … is judging what you’re eating [and] causing you to feel guilty or worried about the things that you are eating, Jacobson explained. “So we want to challenge that voice and work on having more of … [an] intuitive eater voice.”
5. Discover the satisfaction factor
Discovering the satisfaction factor is “focusing on foods that help you feel satisfied,” Jacobson stated.
According to Jacobson, overall satisfaction from food comes from two different sources: taste and satisfaction (i.e. feeling full). This means that discovering the satisfaction factor of food entails identifying and eating “foods that our taste buds like, but … [also] satisfying what foods will help you feel full and satisfied longer.” To do this, Jacobson recommends eating plenty of fiber and protein.
6. Feel your fullness
Feeling your fullness means knowing your body’s cues well enough to stop eating when you have had enough food.
Jacobson explained, “You want to be able to be mindful and paying attention to when you hit that point of a comfortable fullness. … You don’t want to be hungry in 30 minutes or one hour. It would be preferable if our food at least lasted us two(ish) hours.” Jacobson then recommended that students reduce distractions while eating so that they could more easily determine when their bodies were full.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
Coping with your emotions with kindness is seeking to understand the true source of your emotions.
“It is okay to occasionally use food to cope with our emotions,” Jacobson said. However, for those who commonly use food to cope with emotions, Jacobson shared, they should “take a second to pause and … try to discover what it is that [they’re] feeling. Is it stress, is it sadness, is it excitement?” This will help people discover whatever their needs truly are and will address them “rather than just instinctually turning to food.”
8. Respect your body
Respecting your body is understanding its importance and striving to keep it healthy.
Jacobson’s slideshow shared several ways individuals could respect their bodies: “Talk kindly about all bodies, repeat positive affirmations, eat, sleep and exercise regularly, practice self-care, wear comfortable clothes and throw out the scale.”
9. Movement — feel the difference
Feeling the difference of movement is coming to know how you can better respect and benefit your body through physical activity.
“Exercising regularly is a way that we can show our bodies respect,” Jacobson said. “Here the focus is not … to change our bodies or to lose weight, it is only the health benefits and the other types of benefits that you are going to receive from exercising.” To help set motivation for physical activity, Jacobson has recommended focusing on the benefits of exercise, such as better stress management, increased energy level, more empowerment, increased bone strength, decreased blood pressure, improved hunger/fullness cues and increased metabolism.
10. Honor your health — gentle nutrition
Honoring your health is making gentle nutritional changes while maintaining your newfound relationship with food (established through practice of the previous nine principles).
“Once you feel like you’re in a good place with [your relationship with food] … then we can … focus more on the nutrition, like what are the recommendations, and how can you improve your diet, if necessary, while still practicing all of these other principles,” Jacobson explained.
The bottom line of Intuitive Eating is to help individuals develop a healthy relationship with food by removing boundaries, reframing thinking and gradually making healthy lifestyle changes. Although not all food-relationship conditions may be solved with Intuitive Eating, it has been proven to provide many benefits for those who implement its principles in their lives.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Jacobson to learn more about Intuitive Eating, you may reach her at k[email protected]. Additionally, you may send her a message here.