Ever heard of intuitive eating? It's been around since the mid-1990s but has gained more mainstream attention over the past few years as a sustainable alternative to dieting. Intuitive eating is defined as a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs. There's numerous documented health benefits including improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and mood. Additionally, it is associated with a lower BMI even though it is not designed to promote weight loss.
Intuitive eating focuses on 10 fundamental principles to cue into your body and food preferences in order to guide your overall intake. The most fundamental component is hyperconsciousness when eating. This involves:
- Evaluating hunger cues and your emotional state before eating a meal or snack: This helps determine why you are eating. For example, is it solely based on hunger or are you eating as a way to cope with boredom, stress, or some other emotion(s)? This will help you establish a consistent meal routine. In turn, you will avoid extreme hunger which makes it easier to choose nourishing foods and to avoid overeating. Additionally, you will begin to notice how emotions influence your food choices and overall intake, and whether these are serving you in a positive way. If not, you can find meaningful alternatives to cope with your emotions.
- Cueing into the food's aroma, temperature, texture, and taste throughout the eating process: By minimizing outside distractions, taking small bites, and chewing slowly, you will notice details that would otherwise go undetected during the eating experience.
- Paying attention to arising fullness signals throughout the meal (or snack): Were you taught to clean your plate? Letting go of this belief can be challenging but so rewarding. By eating slowly and cueing into fullness signals, you will find that it feels more satisfying when you stop eating once you feel slightly full versus when you are overly full. The latter is characterized by bloating, stomach aches, and general discomfort.