What is intuitive eating, explains health coach

Many of us grew up with strange and perhaps not-so-healthy relationships with food.

Whether we’ve been yo-yo dieting for years or are dealing with more serious eating disorders, the thought of ditching the diet mentality and trying something new has probably crossed your mind.

Enter, intuitive eating.

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Health coach at Juniper, Eleanor Thackrey, says that “intuitive eating promotes a healthy relationship with food.” (iStock)

Redefining the way we perceive power supplyIntuitive eating allows us to tune into our body’s hunger signals to make food choices that support overall health and well-being. It’s not just a trend, but an instinctive approach to eating that promotes respect for your body.

Does this sound like something you’d like to try? Here’s everything you need to know about intuitive eating.

What is intuitive eating?

“Intuitive eating promotes a healthy relationship with food, emphasizing self-care and body appreciation over weight loss. It is a dynamic integration of instinct, emotion and rational thinking, encouraging you to respect your health by listening to your body’s signals listen and meet your needs,” explains Eleanor Thackrey, health coach at Juniper.

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Beautiful young woman measuring her waist with a measuring tape in the living room.
Intuitive eating takes the focus away from weight loss and prioritizes holistic health and self-care. (iStock)

‘Research shows that dieting, with its rigid rules and focus on restrictions, is unsustainable and often counterproductive, leading to problems such as body and food preoccupation, reduced self-esteem and disordered eating.

“Intuitive eating, on the other hand, advocates a flexible, internal-cue-based approach that promotes physical and emotional well-being,” she tells 9Coach.

The science behind the benefits of intuitive eating

“More than 125 studies have been conducted worldwide on intuitive eating, which have revealed significant benefits such as improved well-being, reduced risk of eating disorders and better biomarkers such as blood sugar and cholesterol. Intuitive eating promotes a balanced diet and greater variety in food choices and increased body awareness,” explains Eleanor.

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Mother sharing healthy vegan dessert snacks with toddler child.  Concept healthy sweets for children.  Protein Granola Bars, Homemade Raw Energy Balls, Cashew Butter, Toasted Coconut Chips, Fruit Bowl
Thackrey explains that “intuitive eating promotes a balanced diet.” (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the best parts of intuitive eating is that its benefits are both physical and psychological – and it can be especially helpful for those struggling with food guilt.

“Psychologically, it is linked to less eating disorder behavior, improved body image and stronger emotional regulation, helping to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.

Intuitive eating reduces food-related anxiety and guilt, promoting a more enjoyable relationship with food.”

“Unlike diet culture, it encourages eating without restrictions while prioritizing healthy choices, often leading to more consistent weight maintenance and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

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Friends enjoy lunch
It may seem counterintuitive, but letting go of a diet mentality can result in increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. (Getty)

The principle of intuitive eating

“The ten principles of intuitive eating guide you toward body alignment—recognizing and responding to physical sensations such as hunger and fullness—and removing mental barriers to this alignment, such as harmful food rules and struggling with body image,” says Eleanor.

These principles include:

1. Reject the diet mentality: Forget diet books. Embrace the concept of letting go of weight loss and strict food rules.

2. Honor your hunger: Listen to your body’s signals about physical hunger.

3. Make peace with food: Enjoy all foods without guilt or judgment, and enjoy your favorite foods without labeling them as “good” or “bad.”

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4. Challenge the Food Police: Silence the inner critic that associates food choices and body image with negativity.

5. Discover the satisfaction factor: Understand what food tastes like, its texture and the satisfaction it brings, and choose meals that are as nutritious as they are enjoyable.

6. Know when you’re full: Recognize when you’re comfortably full and stop eating at that point.

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Intuitive eating encourages enjoying food without guilt and learning to listen to your body and hunger signals. (iStock)

7. Dealing with emotions without using food: Find alternative coping strategies to deal with emotional situations.

8. Respect your body: Appreciate and respect your body for what it is, rather than striving for unrealistic or unhealthy ideals.

9. Exercise for pleasure and well-being: Engage in physical activity for pleasure and health benefits, rather than as a punishment.

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A couple prepares a delicious vegetable meal, everything is so green, healthy and freshly harvested from the garden
Intuitive eating encourages prioritizing nutrition rather than focusing on calories. (Getty)

10. Honor your health with gentle eating: While all foods can be enjoyed, intuitive eating also emphasizes the importance of making food choices that support overall health and well-being.

Apply these principles to every meal you eat, and you’ll likely experience the benefits Eleanor mentioned earlier.

Also remember that you can always get the help of a dietitian, nutritionist or health coach to achieve your health goals and change your eating habits for good.

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Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues can contact: Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or support@butterfly.org.au; Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23.

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