Intuitive eating is body trust at the deepest level. The idea of intuitive eating is that humans are born keenly in touch with their hunger and fullness cues, and can thoroughly enjoy eating and optimal health by paying attention to these cues. Think about it. When you were born, eating was your job . Eat. Sleep. Poop. You were so good at it. You’d cry when you were hungry and turn away from food when you were full.

As we grow, our hunger directly corresponds with that growth. Kids typically grow in spurts, so sometimes they feel very hungry, and other times they’re not interested in food. When we reach our adult body size and stop growing, it’s possible to lose touch with our innate hunger and fullness cues. It’s easy to get distracted, busy, dissatisfied, or desire to control or ignore this natural process.

Let’s use Thanksgiving as an example. You wake up. You’re hungry. “Ignore it,” you tell yourself. You want to be really hungry for the feast later that day. But by the time a slice of pie is offered, are you sure you’re still hungry? Let’s stop right there and talk about pie for a minute.

You’re thinking: “If I decide to eat intuitively, I’ll only eat pie!” (or candy, or chips or whatever fun foods you love). If you’ve been restricting fun foods for a long time, this might be true temporarily in the beginning. But here’s the good news: eating only fun foods doesn’t give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. So at some point, your body is going to want more nutrients. You may even crave something like an orange or a salad.

There’s more.

 

When you’re really in tune with your body, you’ll start to notice how certain foods make you feel short- and long-term. Two slices of pie for breakfast tastes delicious, but you’ll probably notice that an hour or so later you’re tired and hungry again. Later that afternoon, you’re even more tired. That same night, you’re famished. A well-balanced breakfast with a scrambled eggs, fruit and toast keeps you fuller longer, without all the crashing. You’ll notice that a balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates helps your body function at its best. So you’ll have the freedom to choose balanced meals that make you feel good. Or eat pie. Whatever you want.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, your hunger and fullness cues might be long gone. This means that intuitive eating can be a long-term goal for you, but first you’ll need to trust your meal plan, your providers, and your support group to help you tune back into your body.

With intuitive eating, all foods fit. You’ll seek out different foods at different times to satisfy different needs. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues and how your body responds to foods is key. It may take some time to get there, but trust that your body knows best. It does.

References:

Resch E, Tribole E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 1995.