self-care

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!