What is Intuitive Eating?  | Escape Haven - Health Retreat in Bali

What is Intuitive Eating? 

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How to Reconnect With Yourself & Ditch the Diet Mentality

Intuitive eating is a new trending term and movement in the wellness world. Yet, what does it mean exactly? Don’t we always eat intuitively? As human beings, are we not intuitive creatures? Well, one may like to think so, but unfortunately, the modern world, coupled with advertising, social media and the diet industry, has made us lose touch with our own innate ability to eat mindfully and monitor our diet. ’Intuitive eating’ has come about as a backlash to dieting and encourages us to reconnect with our real sense of hunger and our innate ability to nourish ourselves.

While diets are often disempowering and can leave you on a helpless seesaw of highs and lows, intuitive eating aims to empower people to take the back the reigns and feel in control. Intuitive eating involves looking at the food rules you may have applied over the years to your eating habits, and working to undo them where beneficial. Intuitive eating helps to move away from dieting mentality and feelings of guilt or stress around food, so that you can have a more peaceful and healthy relationship with food and your body.

The good news is that essentially, we are the same as other animals: we innately know how to nourish ourselves. We have hunger and fullness signals, as well as cravings for a reason, but many of us forgo those signals to focus on the advice or influence of others.

Intuitive eating is about relearning the basic survival and satisfaction instincts we are all born with. Children easily know when to stop eating when they are full, and what they like and don’t like. Children rely on hormones that tell them when they’re full or hungry. Often, it is parenting that forces children to finish food even if they’re genuinely full. As we move through childhood and adolescence, we continue to lose touch with our own body’s cues, and these internalised messages can follow us through life. As we get older, we tend to eat from boredom, pain, joy, habit and so many reasons other than being truly hungry.

Intuitive eating is really coupled with self-care and positive self-esteem. It is about looking within rather than looking through a lens of social media or advertising that tells us what to eat, when to eat and how to eat. Intuitive eating aims to throw the guidebooks and rules out the window, and reconnect and trust our own internal voice. This doesn’t mean encouraging a ‘free for all’ mentality when it comes to meal times! In fact, the release of rules is intended to inspire a natural form of self-regulation where you deem what is ideal for your own personal wellbeing.

The concept of intuitive eating really comes down to finding balance. By removing the labels of “good foods” and “bad foods,” you are encouraged to look at food as nourishment and fuel. You come to understand that you are your own expert and don’t need to reply upon the trends and ideas of others. While this may sound wonderful, it can be easier said than done, especially if you have been cycling through various diet trends for many years – which so many women have.

Experts suggest that the first step is to say goodbye to this diet mentality. This may involve allowing yourself to eat carbs, or sweets, or eliminating “cheat days.” No counting calories, no saving ‘special foods’ for certain times, no negotiations with yourself or trade offs. It may feel a little scary to let go of these rules and a lot of the work initially can be unlearning those rules and challenging them.

Intuitive eating opens up a pathway to liberation, simplicity and wholeness, yet is is also an ongoing process. The overall aim is to help you feel healthier and happier all around. Research shows intuitive eating is associated with better mental health, better metabolic-health outcomes, and lower risk for both eating disorders and obesity.

Part of the intuitive eating philosophy revolves around re-examining your assumptions around what you should eat and what you should look like and really redefining what healthy looks and feels like for you. Intuitive eating isn’t about weight loss. It is about finding your own ideal body balance which arises when we are truly in touch with what our body needs.

Intuitive eating is a very self-empowering model: you’re in charge. It’s about asking how does my body feel? What does hunger feel like? What is satisfaction? There’s a focus on mindfulness and that means eating slowly, putting down the fork periodically, checking in to see if you’re still hungry and not continuing to eat just because there’s still food on your plate. These days we eat on the run, we eat at our computers or while driving. This constant distraction makes it very difficult to eat mindfully and intuitively.

After some time and practice with intuitive eating, you may realise you don’t need as much food as you thought you did, or maybe you need a little more than you’ve been allowing yourself. The allure that certain foods once held over you may start to diminish. The longer you follow these lifestyle changes, the easier it becomes to hone in on and respect your own body’s signals.

There is no such thing as failure; there’s just learning. Keep in mind we are ALL born intuitive eaters! Its just breaking down the conditioning we have built up against our own instincts.

 

Here are some gentle guidelines to help you on your way with intuitive eating.

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

    Let go of the dieting rules that you have accumulated and start to exchange weight loss goals for healthy body goals. Increasingly, studies show us that dieting is harmful and dangerous and doesn’t necessarily equal healthier eating or habits. Restrictive and cyclic dieting is associated with higher rates of disordered eating, lower body satisfaction and weight gain. By moving away from diets and tuning into your internal cues, intuitive eating allows for greater holistic health, positive body image, greater body appreciation and self-esteem.

  2. Ditch the Labels

    When you label a food as ‘bad’ you normally only let yourself have it on special occasions or ‘cheat days’. This sets you up for feeling out of control around the food when you do have it and then feeling guilt or shame after. When you ditch the labels and restrictions around foods, you can choose the ones you actually want, when you want them and enjoy them too! Moderation helps us to feel balanced and in control.

  3. Honour Your Hunger

    Start to truly notice your hunger patterns and not be ruled by the clock or your emotions. Eat when you are genuinely hungry not just out of habits.

  4. Practice Mindful Eating

    Before you eat, take a few deep breaths to relax and ground yourself. This shifts your nervous system into a resting state — the parasympathetic nervous system — where your body can digest and receive the maximum nutrition from your meal. Notice the appearance, taste, smell, texture and make note of your hunger, fullness and satisfaction before, during and after the meal. Try to also prepare your meals in a mindful way without clutter and distraction.

  5. Feel Your Fullness

    Take a pause for a few minutes and check in with your body to gauge your fullness level. If it is helpful to you, rate your fullness (0 = empty, 10 = overstuffed). Aim for around a seven on the fullness level, leaving at least a 20-30% feeling of empty.

  6. Take Control of Emotional Eating

    Learn additional ways to deal with emotions and practice self-compassion rather than turning to food to disguise emotions. One tip is to find something to do instead of reaching for food when your emotions are at play. Try going for a walk, phoning a friend or doing a meditation practice. Our habits can be powerful, yet we are also very able to create change when we are willing and committed to. Soon you will learn that, while food may provide a temporary comfort, finding ways to deal with the real issue at play, and finding ways to soothe yourself on a deeper level, is far more beneficial.

  7. Respect & Trust Your Body

    You are innately intelligent and have the power and means to truly care for and nourish your body. Treat and talk to your body with respect, and honour its power to guide you. Letting go of rules and control can be hard, but essentially, over time, it allows for greater sustainable freedom and wellbeing.

Inspired to try intuitive eating? Give it a go! If you’re feeling like you would prefer a supportive, inspiring and uplifting environment to help you let go of old habits, reconnect to your inner voice and leap forwards into a new chapter with confidence and strength, join us on a Bali retreat! Contact us here to decide which retreat package is perfect for you.

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