Move over diet culture! You’ve had your time in the sun, and we’re done with you. We’re on to bigger and (much) better things: intuitive eating.
Yup, it’s time to delete those calorie counter apps, ditch those scales, and hit the “unfollow” button on all those accounts that make you feel guilty about eating. After all, food is food. So let’s work towards a healthier relationship with our grub.
What Is Intuitive Eating Anyways?
Rest assured: intuitive eating is much simpler than it may sound. Well, if you’re immersed in diet culture (like all of us), it may actually feel pretty daunting, but the concept is very straightforward.
Intuitive eating is about listening to what your body wants to eat and when it wants to eat it.
Gone are the days of “good” or “bad” foods. Food is just food, and it’s something you need. Intuitive eating doesn’t follow any restrictions or even guidelines: it’s just about being in tune with your body.
You can think of it as the antidote to diet culture. Practicing this lifestyle means rejecting shame when grabbing a third slice of pizza or sipping on an extra sweet hazelnut oat latte. Instead, take as much pride in eating a frosted cupcake as you do in eating a kale salad. Food neutrality for the win!
Why Intuitive Eating Matters
We’ve used the term “diet culture” a few times now, and that’s really why intuitive eating matters. Diet culture is the set of mainstream values that idolizes skinny bodies while it oppresses fat ones. It also equates thinness with health while pinning fat folks’ medical concerns on their weight. Horrible, right? It’s even sneakier than you may think.
Diet culture infiltrates our minds via weight-loss ads, foods that are branded “good” or “bad,” and caloric restrictions, among many others. This attitude often leads to disordered eating, negative body image and self-talk, or the belief that you need to “earn” your food. It’s horrible for our physical and mental health.
That’s where intuitive eating comes in. While this philosophy may not erase the harmful views that have surrounded us our whole lives, it pushes back against them. This non-diet empowers folks to treat all food as neutral, and to listen to their bodies.
How to Eat Intuitively
Without a doubt, it can be harder than it sounds to start listening to your body’s food needs and wants. After all, eating intuitively is also unlearning diet culture beliefs. So yeah, it’s a lot of work. It can even feel paralyzing at times—especially for those who experience disordered eating.
We see you and know this can be a challenge, so here are some tips to bring intuitive eating into your life.
1. Eat Food — Whatever It May Be
If we could sum up our intuitive eating guide in one phrase, this is what it would be. Just eat the food, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t even have to be a “normal meal,” but you need to eat. Eating something is always better than eating nothing. So aim to focus less on what you’re eating and more on if you’re eating.
2. Challenge Standard Meal Etiquette
Not hungry at typical mealtimes? No worries! Eat when you are hungry. Craving leftover pizza at 9 a.m.? All good, make that your breakfast. Portion size, eating times and meal-specific foods can all be barriers to truly eating intuitively, so let’s toss it out the window.
If you lack an appetite when you wake up but feel your tummy gurgling on the commute, pack a portable snack so you can feast when you want to, not just when you’re told you should.
3. Remember Your “Why”
When the going gets hard, think back to why this lifestyle is important to you. What inspired you to start eating intuitively? Is it to heal your relationship with food or unlearn negative body image? Maybe it’s about being able to trust your body again.
Try writing down your “why,” maybe even include a list of affirmations to accompany it, and revisit this whenever you’re struggling.
4. Distance Yourself From Triggers
Facing diet-culture triggers is pretty much inevitable. The question is: how do you respond when you notice them? Certain situations are easier to navigate, like cleansing your Instagram following list, but it’s not always possible.
Check in with that trustworthy body of yours and identify what you need. Sometimes it’s helpful to explain why the comment your mom made about eating patterns is harmful. Other times, you may just need to step away.
5. Follow Your Cravings
Sometimes, cravings can reveal nutrients that our body is low on. Other times, that sushi roll sounds irresistible because it’s simply delicious. Both are real, and both are valid. Please stop trying to trick your body into enjoying oatmeal when you really want a breakfast bagel. Chances are, you’ll end up unsatisfied, so just eat what you’re craving, okay?
6. Check-in With Yourself
Remind yourself to pay attention to what’s happening in your body can be a big help. Ask, “What’s my body telling me right now?” and then listen. Are you full? Craving some sweets? Maybe your body needs movement or rest. Do you need to hydrate or use the washroom? Are you feeling full of social energy, or do you need a quiet retreat?
It doesn’t always have to be food-centric. Remember, it’s all about tuning into your body and honoring your needs. Try setting alarms for yourself every few hours as a reminder to do a self-check-in.
7. Phone a Friend
Once you start noticing the ways diet culture has impacted your world, it’s hard to stop paying attention. This can end up being super overwhelming, and it’s not something you need to tackle alone. Instead, talk it through with an open anti-diet culture pal, chat with a therapist, or visit a friendly Health At Every Size (HAES) medical professional.
8. Be Gentle With Yourself
You’re not going to be perfect, and that’s not a flaw or criticism. It’s a human reality. None of us are perfect!
Keep that in mind when you catch yourself slipping into old patterns and behaviors. It’s not a sign that you’re failing. It’s a sign that you’re growing.
Intuitive eating is the lifestyle to end all diets. It’s not always easy to trust your body and give it what it needs, but it’s always going to be worth it. Nourish yourself with food, energy, rest, love and all the other things your body needs to thrive.