What is Intuitive Eating? (Part Four)

Hopefully you made it through Part One, Part Two, and Part Three of this series on Intuitive Eating and have now arrived at the last principle:


Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition


Finally, we come to the piece of the puzzle where most diets and healthy lifestyles kick-off: nutrition.


Of course, nutrition and getting the adequate balance of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and even phytonutrients is vital to feeling good and living well. However, honoring and respecting your body through adequate nutrition comes AFTER learning how to feel hunger and fullness and respond to satisfaction and cultivate an awareness for how food actually feels in your body and affects your performance at work or in the gym, or just in existing on a day-to-day basis. Nutritional principles are broad and general, and because nutrition science is still relatively young, it can be difficult to find agreement among all the nutrition gurus.


This is another reason why it’s important to develop an awareness and practice of personal consciousness around dietary choices.


In general, there are a few nutritional principles to be mindful of:


1. Balance – When thinking about a “balanced” diet, most people think in terms of well-balanced meals containing vegetables, meat or protein, and a whole grain or starchy carbohydrate and healthy fat. However, a more realistic and practical way to consider dietary balance is in the context of a whole week.


Giving yourself the flexibility to respond to appetite cues and taking into consideration life circumstances like food availability and convenience and taking into consideration day-to-day happenings that might influence your choices and spreading it out over the course of a week is far more realistic and less anxiety inducing than expecting a perfectly portioned, well-considered meal for every eating opportunity.


2.  Variety – As humans, we have a need for novelty in eating situations. Getting bogged down by a strict dietary regimen or limited food choices leads to pleasure seeking or binge eating, eventually, or may also set you up for a nutrient deficiency if food options are limited to a small group of regular foods.


To combat this, being mindful of including an exciting array of colorful fruits and vegetables, diverse sources of protein – from vegetarian sources likes beans and legumes to animal products like meat and dairy, including a variety of foods can not only satisfy the psychological need for excitement, but also the biological need to cover nutritional bases.


3.  Moderation – In adapting all of the previous principles of intuitive eating, you’ll find you naturally start to consume ALL foods in a more moderate nature. Pleasure foods and less nutrient dense foods will gradually fall in line with your appetite dictated by your own body’s desires. With full permission to eat any and all sources of foods (barring foods that you have an allergy to), while finding other means to deal with emotions beyond emotionally eating food, you’ll naturally start to fall in line with a moderate dietary approach, but it may be a conscious effort at first.


However, it’s important that this not be FORCED or it will become another form of a diet rule.


Moderation should not be used as a way to restrict foods, but rather the outcome of following all of the previous principles. It might take some time to fall into a moderate approach to eating, and that’s okay. In the grand scheme of things, allowing yourself to truly make peace and explore the previous principles will go a long way in laying the ground work for finding a sustainable way to approach moderation in eating.


And, with that, we wrap up the basic tenets of intuitive eating. When overall health and wellness is concerned, especially in the context of our very diet driven and “healthist” culture, it’s important to remember that nobody knows your body, your experiences, your appetites, cravings, and reactions to food better than YOU. Through the process of cultivating an intuitive approach to both diet and exercise, doing what feels good to enhance the quality of your life in a sustainable and enjoyable and satisfying way, you will ultimately find yourself on a path in congruence with your best health and well-being.


Mastering all of these principles takes practice, time, patience, and often support or additional guidance from a certified intuitive eating counselor or coach. If you’re ready to kick dieting to the curb and reclaim the freedom of your life, maybe it’s time to rediscover your own ability to trust and eat intuitively, it can definitely be a life-changer!


Here’s a quick look back for Part One, Part Two, and Part Three in the series.