So you’re here because intuitive eating sounds intriguing, but you just have no idea where to start. It’s ok - we’ve been there too! We’ve rounded up 5 actionable steps to start intuitive eating. Try 1-2 a week and call it your jump start month, or take allll the time you need. If you think about it, reading this article is already kinda the first step - so you’re killing it already!
You may still be on the fence about this whole ~intuitive eating~ thing - that’s okay! The best way to get clear about what you want is to learn the facts. Unfortunately, folks are told over and over by medical professionals (including dietitians) that losing weight is necessary, when there actually isn't robust or causal research behind those recommendations. What we do know is that 95% of people who lose weight intentionally, end up gaining all or more back within 2-5 years. People end up fixating on weight and trying endlessly to figure out how to lose weight and then maintain that weight loss. This often results in more weight gain and metabolic damage over time, as well as disordered eating. We also know that health conditions/goals can be successfully managed with anti-diet and intuitive eating methods. Still need to deep dive into the research? No problem, we’ve created a list of excellent articles to explore.
Yes, really. Anything that you have previously restricted, felt guilt or shame around, labeled “bad” or “unhealthy” goes on this list. Now, you don’t have to jump in all at once, you could do one fear food per week. But the main point is, start keeping all foods in your home, even if it’s scary and even if they cause you to feel a little out of control. This is where the food habituation phase can begin. What’s food habituation? Great question! This is the term for the initial phase of intuitive eating where you can start to neutralize all foods to revolutionize your relationship with food overall. Read more about it here!
Our awareness of our internal cues influences how well we can respond to, manage, and regulate our body’s physical needs. Under-awareness to hunger and fullness cues (which come from all the different body systems, not just your stomach) can lead to both restriction and overeating. When awareness is low, you may not even notice early hunger signals (increased saliva production, decreased focus, thoughts of food) and then suddenly feel consumed by late hunger cues (gnawing pain in stomach, dramatic mood shift, fatigue, difficulty concentrating). On day one of the intuitive eating journey, you may not know what hunger cues you experience or what foods you actually like. Over time, by intentionally checking in with your body and paying attention to the sensory experience of a food, you can begin to recognize fullness and make a decision of whether or not to keep eating. Little pieces of information and seemingly small experiences, gather over time and coalesce into a deeper awareness of your body’s cues.
Pleasure can feel like a four letter word … Allowing and enjoying pleasure in your eating experience goes against everything diet culture stands for, like self-control, denial of pleasure, and avoidance of "bad" foods. But the intuitive eating principles describe pleasure in food as one of the most basic and important factors in feeling satisfied with food. Creating permission for foods that have been labeled as “bad” is an important step in healing your relationship with food, and will foster more peace, confidence, and freedom around food. One way to start this today? When you make a meal or snack, see if there is anything you could add/do to make it even 10% more enjoyable. Sometimes, heating up a brownie, throwing some goat cheese on a salad, or adding more milk to thin out a bowl of oatmeal can take an eating experience from “meh” to “yeah!”.
Take small, meaningful steps to actively improve your support systems or environment to be more aligned with your values and goals. Seek a support group around a specific issue, tailor your social media consumption to show you more supportive content, reach out to supportive friends and family, join a new activity or class, and/or find professional support (like a therapist or dietitian). Whether online or in the “real world”, start to foster your connections, or build your chosen family, who can offer a degree of positive reinforcement when you need it.
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