Principle #9: Exercise

As a certified personal trainer, I really love this next Intuitive Eating principle…

Exercise – Feel the Difference.

Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but the focus needs to be on the difference you feel in your body rather than the calorie burning effect.

When exercise is something you HAVE to do, you’re much less likely to WANT to do it. However, moving your body in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable will allow you to experience the benefits that will keep your coming back.

Benefits such as:

  • increased bone strength

  • increased stress tolerance

  • decreased blood pressure

  • reduced risk for many types of chronic diseases

  • increased heart and lung strength

  • increased metabolism

  • better appetite regulation

  • improved mood

  • improved memory

  • better sleep at night

  • more energy

  • and more!

When exercise is decoupled from weight loss and not seen as a “chore”, it becomes joyful. It’s actually a form of respecting your body, because our bodies like to move. Just get active and feel the difference. Mindful exercise can help you to feel more confident in your body, too.

Is your attitude “i have to” or “i get to”?

However, intuitive eating does not mean you need to go to the gym every day or even workout every day. You still need to listen to your body when you really don’t feel like moving—that’s allowed. You don’t have to earn rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your health is to sleep or sit on the couch. Your body knows what it needs, so listen.

Don’t fall into the “it’s not worth it” trap either. You don’t have to sweat to have a “good” workout or be in the gym for an hour for your workout to “count”. Little activities add up!

Simply MOVING for 30 minutes most days of the week (and it can be split up—such as moving for 10 minutes 3 times) reduces your risk of heart disease by half! 

Focus on how you feel and tune into the things you and your body enjoy. See below for a list of some different ways to get active, and if you don’t like something, try something else!

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 4.30.27 PM.png

Always remember to replenish your glycogen stores too, AKA eat your carbs! In the Intuitive Eating book, we’re shown that proper carbohydrate replenishment after a 2-mile run is the equivalent of 3 slices of bread. For a 6-mile run, 10-11 pieces of bread!

We can’t move joyfully, or much at all, if we don’t have proper amounts of fuel and energy, and our bodies can’t repair themselves after intense movement without enough nourishment. 

Stay tuned for the final principle!

Principle #8: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating principle #8:

Respect Your Body

I don’t mean in the same way as I’ve discussed in the previous principles—such as eating when you’re hungry or stopping when you’re full. This principle goes a little deeper than that.

Feeling good in the body you were genetically meant to have is required to be able to reject the diet mentality and honor your needs. We’re not all meant to have the same body, and yours is worthy of respect just as it is, in this very moment.

Body respect isn’t the same thing as “body love”  or “self love” either. You don’t have to love every single part of your body in order to start respecting it, but if you don’t believe that your body is worthy of respect now, it doesn’t matter how much you try to (successfully or unsuccessfully) change it… you never will.

Respecting your body means treating it with dignity and meeting its needs. It’s difficult to respect your body when you’re constantly bashing yourself or your looks with unrealistic ideals or expectations. Instead of thoughts that bring you down, stop and replace them with positive or respectful statements.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 7.35.42 PM.png

You can respect your body by:

  • Appreciating what it does for you each and every day

  • Realizing that you deserve to eat and you NEED to eat

  • Wearing clothes that fit you comfortably

  • Moving in a way that you enjoy and that makes you feel good

Accept what you’ve been given and feel confident about who you are.

Research has proven that we each have a certain “set point” weight at which is our body is genetically programmed to fall. Trying to force yourself into a smaller or bigger body than you’re meant to have is like trying to squeeze into a pair of shoes that’s three sizes too small; it’s uncomfortable and ineffective.

When you are truly listening to your hunger and fullness cues and eating the foods that you crave, your body will find its set point all by itself… really! It wants to be at that weight no matter what you’re doing. 

diet cycle-15.png

Respect your body, and you will feel better about who you are. Your body is unique, but your personality, relationships, and values are so much more important than your physical appearance.

Stay tuned for principle 9!

Principle #7: Cope with your Emotions without Using Food

Now that we’ve discussed honoring our hunger and fullness cues, it’s time to talk about honoring our feelings. Principle #7 is:

Cope with your emotions without using food.

Food will not fix feelings of anxiety, stress, boredom, or other negative emotions. Instead of eating as way to numb, distract or comfort, we must find ways to resolve these issues without food using healthy coping mechanisms.

Food is a very common go-to for feelings such as:

  • Anxiety - to calm yourself

  • Boredom or procrastination - as something to do

  • Bribery or reward - to get yourself to finish something

  • Emptiness - to fill the void

  • Excitement or celebration - as something fun

  • Loneliness - as a friend

  • Frustration or anger - as a release

  • Perfectionism - as an outlet

  • Mild depression or hardship - for comfort

  • Stress - for relief

  • Rebellion - as a reaction to something


The food might provide short-term comfort, distraction, or numbing, but it won’t solve any problems. Also, people often overeat as a way of distracting themselves from these kinds of feelings, and instead of now just dealing with the source of the emotion, the individual must deal with the discomfort of overeating as well.

Being more mindful– of both food and emotions– can help you to identify triggers and find healthy ways to cope when negative feelings arise. You can do this by learning to sit with your feelings… which is much easier said than done.

Start by asking yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”

Learning to pause and take the time to identify your emotional triggers can help you to connect your eating with hunger and satisfaction rather than your feelings. Even if you ultimately decide to eat even though you’re not really hungry, taking a minute to think about this question still makes it a more mindful eating experience.

After 5-10 minutes, ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?”

Is eating going to satisfy you? It may, you might be hungry. Then you should eat. But conversely, are you turning to food to fill a different need? Are you just bored, frustrated, stressed, anxious, depressed, looking to fit in, or using it as a means of control?

Once you’ve identified what you truly need in that moment, ask, “How can I fulfill this need and this feeling without turning to food?”

If you need nurturance, you might take a bath or do yoga. If you need to distract yourself for a little bit, you might watch a movie or read a book. Maybe you just need to cry. See below for a list of coping strategies.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 10.36.11 AM.png

One thing I want you to remember though: 

Eating for emotional reasons CAN be totally normal and okay. Food is often used to celebrate or soothe or connect, and there is nothing wrong with having some emotional attachment to it. It becomes a problem when food is your only way of coping with emotions and drives you to behaviors that may have negative consequences—things like binging and feeling guilty or avoiding certain feelings and situations.

Having ways to cope with feelings that don’t involve food keeps food from becoming the most important thing in your life, as well as keeping it from being something you stress about, feel guilty about, or feel the need to control. 

If you do choose to eat when food is not what you’re really needing in that moment, that’s okay. Allow yourself to do so without judgment, and move on. If you’re taking that time to pause and ask yourself what you’re feeling, you’re still making progress. As you practice, you’ll be able to sit with your feelings longer, and your need to turn to food at unnecessary times will diminish. Be gentle. Have patience. 

Stay tuned for the next principle!