For anyone looking to improve their relationship with food, intuitive eating establishes 10 principles as a guide for you to rediscover what it means to be a normal eater and relearn how to eat like you were born to.
We’ll be doing a deep dive into each principle of intuitive eating, which are all meant to work together as a tool, empowering you to free yourself from the chains of diet culture and focusing on weight.
Whether you’re in eating disorder recovery or you’re just sick and tired of dieting, intuitive eating is for you! With patience and practice you’ll be able to restore your connection with your body to enjoy all foods while still honoring and taking care of it.
Before we expand on the first principle of intuitive eating, what exactly is intuitive eating?
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a mind-body health approach developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Described as an anti-diet and weight-inclusive model, intuitive eating is aligned with the Health at Every Size movement and strongly derived from the evidence that dieting does not work, and only produces negative side effects.
Intuitive eating is an eating framework that combines instinct, emotion, and rational thought into all of your daily choices, thought processes, and behaviors regarding both food and body.
It’s a personal lifelong journey of listening and responding to the signals, messages, and cues your body gives you.
The 10 principles will help you learn to become more in tune with your body so that both your biological and psychological needs are met. The 10 principles will also help you recognize any disruptors or obstacles, such as rules, beliefs, and thoughts that sabotage your body attunement.
Intuitive eating means listening to your body, being flexible, honoring your health, eating what you enjoy, and developing an easy and peaceful relationship with food.
Intuitive eating is not...
Used for the purpose of weight loss
About counting calories, macros, portions, etc
Disregarding nutrition or giving up on health
A “quick fix”
Out of control eating or eating “unhealthy” foods nonstop
Strictly based on hunger and fullness cues
Reject the Diet Mentality - Intuitive Eating Principle 1
What is the diet mentality? The diet mentality is the belief that weight loss and thinness will make you happier and healthier.
Dieting can be used as a way to cope, to fill your time, or to exert control over your life. It offers hope and excitement because you’re led to believe that dieting will fix everything… your appearance, how you feel, and your entire life.
Rejecting the diet mentality means saying goodbye to all of the diet books, magazine articles, and social media health influencers promoting the false hope that weight loss is achievable through dieting quickly, easily, and permanently.
It can be difficult to let go of your ingrained beliefs about dieting because diet culture’s messaging persuades you that you were the one that failed. The truth is that diets are biologically and psychologically set up to fail.
Dieting does not work, and never will.
Allowing even the smallest hope or possibility that a new and better diet will solve your problems will only hold you back from truly rediscovering your natural ability to be a competent intuitive eater.
How to Reject the Diet Mentality
To reject the diet mentality, it takes actionable steps and retraining your mind to detach from old ways of thinking and hold a new frame of reference. Here are four steps to help you begin.
Step 1: Recognize and acknowledge the damage that dieting causes
The research exploring the harmful effects of dieting is substantial. Here are just a few of the side effects people experience from dieting:
Increase in chaotic eating such as bingeing and intense cravings
Weight cycling (repeatedly going up and down in weight)
Regaining more weight in the long run
Increased risk for premature death and heart disease
Disconnection from your hunger and fullness cues
Linked to eating disorders
Stress, anxiety, and social withdrawal
Lowered self-esteem and confidence
Higher body dissatisfaction
Think about your own experiences. Has dieting worked for you in the long run? What has dieting cost you?
Step 2: Be aware of diet mentality traits and thinking
The diet mentality can show up in different forms, often seeping into your thoughts and behaviors around food even if you don’t realize it. Common characteristics of the diet mentality tend to be about willpower, obedience, and failure.
Dieters try to exert willpower by resisting their natural desires. They’ll say “no” to the cake they wanted, but eventually end up caving and eating the cake plus more. Ignoring your body’s natural needs and desires will always backfire.
Obedience is about doing what you’re told and following external diet rules like when, what, and how much to eat. This usually ends up in rebellion, quickly followed by guilt and shame.
Many feel ashamed that they “failed” to successfully follow a diet or lose weight long-term. This isn’t how we were meant to live!
Forget about willpower, obedience, and failure. Embrace your own experience and continually learn from trial and error.
Step 3: Get rid of the dieter’s tools
External forces are used by dieters to control their eating, stick to a plan, and validate progress.
Calorie counting or restricted meal plans
The bathroom scale
Food tracking apps
Measuring utensils and food scales
Dieting tools interfere with your body attunement. No diet or meal plan can truly know what your body needs and wants. Don’t let an outside force determine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about food and your body. Only YOU are the expert of your body!
Step 4: Be compassionate toward yourself
When society is constantly preaching about dieting and you’re hearing of others losing weight (short-term!) from the latest diet craze, it’s understandable that you can get pulled in by the euphoria of it all.
The pursuit of dieting can feel like it gives you a false sense of purpose with a mythical reward to strive for, constantly focusing on dieting and thinness, rules to live by, a moral code to follow, and a bond with other dieters.
Considering this, it takes time to reject the diet mentality, to retrain your thoughts around dieting, and to let go of the desire. If you find yourself slipping into fantasies about dieting, even if you know that dieting is pointless, have compassion and remind yourself that this is a process.
By rejecting the diet mentality, you’ll be on your way towards becoming an intuitive eater!
Are You Feeling Stuck in the Diet Mentality? Work with an Intuitive Eating Registered Dietitian
As an intuitive eating registered dietitian skilled in eating disorders and disordered eating I can walk alongside you in rediscovering your ability to eat intuitively. You have it in you, I know that you do! Send me a message and we can get your journey to healing started.