diets

Principle #10: Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition


We’ve made it to the last principle of Intuitive Eating:

Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition. 


Although intuitive eating promotes somewhat of an “eat what you want” mentality, it’s still important to care about good nutrition and make choices that will make you feel best. Intuitive eating creates a mental space and a positive relationship with food that allows you to adopt health-promoting habits rooted in self-care, making it much more sustainable and enjoyable than rigid diet rules. 


The difference between intuitive eating and traditional diet approaches regarding nutrition is that, here, nutrition is the very last principle. It comes last. Healing your relationship with food, your body, and ditching the diet mentality come first so that you’re able to consider nutrition choices from a place of self-care and not restriction. 

This principle does not mean that you will eat a “perfect” diet by any means, nor that perfection is required to be healthy. It’s not. It simply means that intuitive eating should still involve more fruits and vegetables than desserts, but that those desserts can be part of a healthy diet too.

NOTE: Early on in your journey, you might eat more “bad” foods, the things you had previously deemed as “off-limits”, until your body trusts that you’re able to eat those things freely when you want them.


Intuitive eating encourages “gentle nutrition” for you to make choices that are both good for your health and satisfying for your taste buds. It’s not rigid, restrictive, or complicated.

Here are some things for you to consider for a gentler nutrition approach:


1.    Focus on the big picture.

A single food, meal, or day of eating makes very little difference when it comes to health. Think about patterns rather than single situations. Small shifts in your pattern of eating will make a much bigger difference than a single meal or day of eating “good” or “bad” will. And, if you do eat something “unhealthy” one day that might be out of your typical eating pattern, it’s okay. The worst thing you can do is dwell on it and try to compensate. That food will make such a minute difference, if any at all, so just listen to what your body is asking for, honor it, and move on.

 
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2.    Additions, not subtractions.

Rather than trying to determine things you believe you should eliminate from your diet, look for things to add that would help boost your nutrient intake. All foods DO fit, but there’s no denying that some foods are more nutrient-dense than others.

  • Can you include more leafy greens by throwing spinach in your morning smoothie or scrambling some into your eggs?

  • Can you try eating fatty fish more frequently? Experiment with a can of tuna or keep some frozen salmon in the freezer.

  • Can you switch your bread from white to whole grain or try brown rice instead of white rice sometimes?

3.    Include variety.

By eating many different foods, you’re able to get a much wider spectrum of vitamins and nutrients. This goes not just for fruits and vegetables, but other sources of carbohydrates, fat, and protein as well.

4.    Pay attention to how foods make you feel.

Certain foods may help you to feel more energized than others, or some foods may not sit well in your stomach. Maybe a big breakfast helps you to stay focused and energized through the morning, or maybe eating too much in the morning makes you feel a bit icky. Find what works for you, and incorporate those findings into your decisions.

5.    Try cooking at home more often.

Eating out or eating prepared foods is not bad, but eating at home is a great way to incorporate more fresh foods and save money, too. You can experiment with recipes or try meal prepping some different breakfasts or lunches to bring to work. If you don’t like cooking or have no idea where to start, I encourage you to just give it a try! Shoot me a message if you need some ideas! (Contact page is linked here!)

6.    Listen to your hunger and fullness cues.

These cues were discussed greatly in principles #2 and #5. By listening to your body, you can be sure that you’re getting the “right” amount of food. Read the previous principles for more information about this one!

7.    Create an environment that you can easily make health-promoting choices.

Things such as keeping fresh fruit on the counter, having snacks prepared when you’re out and about, or keeping a pair of tennis shoes in your car can make it easier to choose a “healthier” option when you’re up to it.


Nutrition and healthy eating IS a part of health, but it’s only one part. Your mental health, social life, sleep quality, stress levels, and more are also part of it. If doing something to try and improve your nutrition negatively affects one of these other areas, then it’s not actually a healthy choice.


By applying the first nine principles of intuitive eating, this last step should start to come naturally. Stay focused on progress, not perfection, and allow gentle nutrition to help you pursue health in a way that does not make you feel as if your value as a person depends on it. 

Everything in moderation. All foods fit.


I really hope you enjoyed this series, and if you missed any of the principles, please go back and read them!

If you’re ready to start your intuitive eating journey, or maybe you’ve already started and are feeling a bit lost, I’m here to help. I want to help you. Message me HERE or fill out THIS INQUIRY and we’ll be in touch soon!


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.

 
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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. 

 
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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

 
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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.

 
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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!


Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor


Principle #6 of Intuitive Eating sort of goes along with the last principle of Feel Your Fullness.

This one is:

Discover the Satisfaction Factor.

But… fullness and satisfaction are not necessarily the same thing. 


You can be physically full, but if you’re not satisfied, you’ll still be thinking about food. You’ll still need something to fulfill the craving or desire you have.

This can happen for a number of reasons.

In short, your body isn’t dumb. If you try to fulfill a craving for ice cream with frozen fruit, you’ll keep going back for more in an attempt to fill that unsatisfied void. If your meal is missing a macronutrient (carbs, protein, or fat), you’ll likely not be satisfied until you finish that missing component.


The entire eating experience—eating the food that you want, appreciating the taste and texture, and being in a pleasing environment—should bring pleasure. Understanding what feels good and what doesn’t is the key to feeling satisfied and being able to move on after a meal.


To regain satisfaction in eating, here’s a few things to do:



Step 1:

Ask yourself what you REALLY want to eat.

And then, give yourself unconditional permission to eat it.

Be willing to try new things, and don’t allow yourself to have any foods that are “off-limits”.

Step 2:

Pay attention to the sensual qualities of food.

Taste, texture, aroma, appearance, temperature, and volume or filling capacity are all things that can contribute to satisfaction. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What food aroma might appeal to me?

  • How will the food taste and feel in my mouth?

  • Do I want something sweet, salty, sour, or bitter?

  • Do I want something crunchy, smooth, creamy, soft, fluid, etc.?

  • Do I want something hot, cold, or moderate?

  • Do I want something light, airy, heavy, filling, or in-between?

Step 3:

Make your eating experience more enjoyable.

In this step, it’s helpful to practice the three “S’s” of satisfying eating described in the Intuitive Eating book:

  • eat slowly

  • eat sensually

  • savor every bite

Also, eat in a calm environment without distractions. Distracted eating makes it more difficult to be in tune with your body and find pleasure in eating. Sit down and enjoy your meal, with another person if you can, rather than standing in front of the fridge or scarfing down some food.

Step 4:

Don’t settle.

You’re not obligated to finish food you started eating.

As it’s put in Intuitive Eating, “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it.” However, that does not mean to just not eat. Find something else, order a different dish… be sure that you still feel satisfied when you’re finished.

 
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Step 5:

Check-in throughout the meal to see if the food still tastes good.

The closer you get to reaching fullness and satisfaction, the less appealing food will be.


I mentioned that fullness and satisfaction are not the same thing, so let me explain a little bit. Satisfaction makes it much easier for you to stop eating when you reach comfortable fullness. They both play a role in regulating when you decide you’ve had enough to eat, but you can feel full without feeling satisfied, and you’ll continue looking for food to eat.

Think of fullness as being a physical sensation, while satisfaction is more of a mental feeling. Satisfaction is actually a better indicator for deciding when your body is ready to stop eating; it’s a very powerful regulator. When we deny ourselves what our body really wants, we end up eating more and enjoying it less.


Let me try to give you an example:

You’re craving ice cream. Real, dairy ice cream. Instead of honoring that craving, you tell yourself that ice cream is “bad”, “off-limits”, and there’s no way you’re going to eat it. To try and trick yourself, you decide to make some “nice cream” (AKA frozen bananas blended up). You eat it, but guess what. You’re still not satisfied. Your body knows you didn’t eat ice cream.

You had that craving for a reason. Your body needs a certain nutrient, and since you tried to fulfill it with a substitute, you’re still thinking about food. Ice cream, specifically, whether you want to be or not. You go for another “healthier” substitute… maybe some popcorn.

You’re still not satisfied, and you won’t be until you eat what your body is asking for. If you would have had a scoop or two of ice cream first, you most likely would have ended up eating far less food yet feeling much more satisfied.   


When you let yourself eat what you want, the pleasure that you feel helps you to decide that you’ve had “enough” much sooner than if you had chosen to eat something you though was “good” or that you’re “supposed” to eat. 

Eating should bring pleasure and satisfaction. Think about how the food is making you feel, not how you are feeling about the food. When we eat what we truly want and eat enough to be full, our bodies can trust us and we can trust them to lead us to the right foods and the right amounts.


Especially if you’ve been a chronic dieter or have struggled with disordered eating habits, it may be difficult to find what foods are most satisfying to you. As with the whole intuitive eating journey, be gentle with yourself, keep practicing, and have grace. It will get easier the more you honor your body, and you’ll begin to feel more confident in yourself and your choices.

And with that, stay tuned for the next principle!


Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality

Now that you’ve got an idea of what Intuitive Eating encompasses (this post!), it’s time to delve into the 10 principles that set its foundation. This first principle is a BIG one. It’s essential. It’s fundamental. It’s hard.

REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY

What is the diet mentality? Well, it’s not only the extreme diets and “easy solutions” we constantly hear about in the media. It’s that little nagging voice of “small, sustainable changes that should help me lose weight” too. Because when something goes wrong (i.e., somebody doesn’t lose weight like they had been hoping to), the message or idea that this person is doing something wrong or not trying hard enough is more detrimental than the fact that they didn’t lose weight.

Think about it: If you’ve ever tried to diet, how did it make you feel? Were you tired? Did you have cravings? What has a focus on weight loss done to your body and mind? Dieting is a setup for failure. It is the problem, not the solution. Denying the signals your body sends you naturally on a daily basis causes unreliable hunger and fullness cues and breaks the trust between your mind and your body.

Dieting erodes confidence and self-trust. It teaches your body to retain more fat once you do begin eating normally again and slows your metabolism down for the next time it’s forced into “starvation mode”. It increases cravings and often leads to food binges, and dieting is highly associated with eating disorders. Ultimately, dieting leads to weight GAIN; only 2-5% of dieters sustain weight loss for greater than five years.

Dieting is a constant cycle of restriction, deprivation, cravings, giving in, feeling guilty, and starting again. Health does not equal thinness, but the diet culture in our society is obsessed with this idea. Our value is not placed on being a certain size, weight, or shape, and it’s time we start valuing the things that MATTER.

 
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So, what can you do to reject the diet mentality?

1.    Acknowledge the negative effects that dieting or a diet mentality can have and the fact that dieting is dangerous.

Aside from the effects I mentioned above, dieting can increase the risk of premature death and heart disease. 

2.    Observe how you think about food.

Is it constantly on your mind? Do you have “good” and “bad” foods or see yourself as “good” or “bad” based on what you’ve eaten? Do you have rules about when, what, or how much you “should” eat? 

3.    Forget the ideas of willpower, obedience, and failure when it comes to eating.

You can’t fail at intuitive eating; it’s a learning process and it comes with trial and error. Dieting, however, is going completely against your body’s natural instincts—instinct that keep you alive—and you’ll feel like a failure when you can no longer deny them (AKA: begin to honor your body again… which is a principle of its own! Stay tuned.)

4.    Get rid of body scales, food scales, calorie counters, food trackers, and fitness apps.

Anything that reduces your value down to a number—you do not need it to be healthy or feel good about yourself.

5.    Throw out any diet books or magazine articles that promote weight loss techniques.

Unfollow social media accounts that don’t make you feel good about yourself. Scrap any “meal plans” that attempt to dictate exactly what and how you should eat. Stop looking for a “new” diet so that you can rediscover intuitive eating and take a gentle approach to nutrition and your body.

6.    Have grace.

Your intuitive eating journey might be long, it might be hard, and it will probably be frustrating at times, but it will be worth it. This is a journey of constant progress and being kinder to yourself. A single food, meal, or even entire day is not going to make or break your health.

at the end of the day…

Rejecting the diet mentality is rejecting the idea that weight or fat is something that you need to get rid of. It means recognizing that there isn’t one way of eating that’s “right” or “best”. Care for your body as it is right now, in this moment. Stay tuned for principle #2