1. Reject the Diet Mentality
A diet mentality comes from something called "Diet Culture", a system of beliefs that says thinness equates health, that certain body sizes are more worthy, that certain ways of eating are to be praised and other ways of eating are to be shamed. Diet Culture shames diverse body sizes and promotes that there is only one acceptable and beautiful body size and that restrictive ways of eating are the only way to true health. Diet Culture's influence is everywhere (movies, magazines, kids toys like Barbies, conversations with co-workers, social media posts, even in sermons at church sometimes!) and leads to a deep seeded Diet Mentality, of striving to look a certain way so you'll have worth and be beautiful and accepted, to be elevated by others by how you look and because of certain health habits. It IS possible to remove this Diet Mentality and Intuitive Eating shows you how.
2. Honor Your Hunger
In this stage, you learn to recognize different body cues for hunger (and the different stages of hunger and when to best respond for your individual needs and preferences). You retrain your brain to see hunger as not an evil or annoying thing, but rather simply a biological process your body is performing to try and keep you alive. It's always okay to eat when hungry and sometimes even when you aren't! It's normal and enjoyable in life to eat for simply pleasure from time to time. Earn back your body's trust by giving it the food it is asking for. Your body is on your team, it is just trying to get you to help it make you feel and function best. Sometimes you have to honor your "future hunger" because you have access to food only at a certain time (like on a lunch break etc). There are many different ways to honor your hunger and it's not a hard and fast rule of "you can ONLY eat if you are hungry."
3. Make Peace with Food
In order to heal your relationship with food, you need to get uncomfortable and give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. Yes, even the ones you feel out of control around. This conditions your brain to not feel panicky around once forbidden foods, since it realizes it won't be months until it gets to eat that food again. Now it's a regular occurrence if you so choose. You will feel calm instead of chaotic, all foods becoming normalized in your life. Overeating episodes often are a result from restriction, so remove the restriction and your body gets use to being around those foods. Those once "out of control" foods will soon lose their novelty, just like a toy gets old for a child eventually. This is one of the HARDEST principles and is SO helpful to have guidance and support in this stage because at first it will feel anything BUT intuitive. But this stage does change in appearance and evolves as peace and calm with food comes over time, as you body begins to normalize around food and trusting it will actually be getting enough food from now on. It can't tell the different between famine and a diet and was scared in the past, releasing hormones to get you to eat, eat, eat, fearful if it didn't, you would die. How this stage takes shape at first is not what Intuitive Eating is all about, though some believe this is the entire feel of Intuitive Eating... which is incorrect!
4. Challenge the Food Police
Firing the Food Police in your head is hard but key! The Food Police is that little voice in your head that governs your food choices, making you feel good or bad for certain ways of eating. The Food Police went to "Diet Culture Academy" and tries to guilt and shame you into following diet rules, even when they leave you feeling miserable and deprived. There are some great mental exercises for kicking out the Food Police!
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
When you truly allow yourself to eat all foods, you'll discover which ones you only wanted because they were "off limit" foods. Put everything "on limit" and you soon realize which ones you actually enjoy! It can be surprising! As well, you will discover what amounts of foods and what types of food leave you personally mentally satisfied post meal. Mindful eating practices are part of Intuitive Eating and can be taught to increase satisfaction in meals (and help you easily honor fullness too) and help you discover what YOU actually like. It can be a fascinating process, getting to know yourself and your preferences.
5. Feel Your Fullness
Fullness isn't to be feared. It's the body's way of saying, "thanks, we got enough for now! We'll let you know when our energy stores are low again!" Discover the different types of fullness and how full you prefer to feel at different times of the day. From previously Discovering the Satisfaction Factor, listening most of the time to full cues becomes easier, because you are feeling satiated from what you have eaten. During a meal, pause midway to note how your hunger levels have changed or if the food has diminished in taste, to help you recognize how the food is tasting still or how your tummy is feeling. These observations can help you sense your different full levels.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
It's not bad to cope with emotions with food... it just shouldn't be the only tool in your coping mechanism tool box. Learn to recognize what your body and mind truly needs to help it through specific situations. Identify the emotions you have then identify other coping strategies that provide the current need you have. Bored? Call a friend. Lonely? Plan a girl's night. Emotional or fearful? Journal. Sad? Watch a funny movie or be creative and express your feelings through song or drawing. Need a distraction before you process your emotions? Go for a walk or watch some Youtube or Tik Tok videos.
8. Respect Your Body
Embrace the fact that your body naturally wants to be at a certain size, and that might be a different size then you prefer or that Diet Culture told you is best. When you listen for and then comply with what your body tells you it needs each day, you'll discover your weight naturally stays at a certain spot, without much effort on your part other than to listen and honor what your body told you it desired. Learn to talk to your body like you would the person you respect most in life. Also learn how to treat with love (or think about in a neutral way) a body you might not currently (or never will) love how it looks. Thankfulness is a great place to start with Body Respect, intentionally and often looking for things you appreciate about your body and would miss if you didn't have those body parts or functions.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Hate to run? Dread spin class or doing yin yoga or HIIT? Totally fine! There are many ways to move your body so no need to do forms of movement that you dislike. Focus more on how movement makes you feel, rather than how it makes you look or how many calories you burned. This kind of mindset shift makes exercising even more motivating to do. When we do what we love, with positive motivation, we keep doing it and therefor will keep benefiting from it. Think back to grade school, were you more motivated and happy to keep working on a project for a teacher who was kind and gave you choices for projects or one who was cruel and picked unappealing topics for you? Allowing yourself to do what you want versus what you think you "should" and using positive self talk focused on how that movement makes you feel, goes a long way in being successful with this principle!
10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while also making you feel good. No food, food group, or one meal or day or week of eating will make or break your health or weight. It's the trend overtime that creates health. You are not being unhealthy if you have whipped cream. One choice can't determine your health but rather the average of your choices overtime. Things like counting carbs for health conditions can fall under this category as well. Or eating after a workout, even if you aren't crazy hungry, to help your muscles recover. Or eating enough food when breastfeeding. Or avoiding gluten because you are allergic to it. Hone in on the words HONOR and GENTLE. Ask yourself, how can I honor my body in its current season of life? What does that look like for my personal needs and values in life (the things that I find important to experience)? Maybe purchasing produce from the food market or buying eggs from a farm? Supporting small business? Buying organic foods? Not having much food waste? Not having to go to the grocery store more than once a week? Having some plant based meals? Planning meals that don't require a lot of time in the kitchen?