The term “haul” is often used on social media and blogs, especially in fashion, to describe an in-depth look at a line of products. In Health Habit Haul, trends in fitness and nutrition are the products. Each article provides a breakdown on a word or phrase often thrown around laxly in the health-sphere.
Eat what you want! Reject diet culture! Intuitive eating is a concept often accompanied by fervent followers – click the wrong hashtag on Instagram and suddenly you’re surrounded by virtual pitchforks. In reality, intuitive eating is simply an eating pattern that honors the human body’s biological mechanisms.
As someone who is recovering from disordered eating, I try to identify as an intuitive eater. This just means that I eat based on what I feel my body needs. If I notice I lack energy, strength, or stamina during my workouts, I probably need more carbohydrates or more calories in general. It’s easy to fall into a caloric deficit without noticing when you typically eat low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods.
Similarly, if I feel sluggish during the day or keep hitting afternoon slumps like a bird hitting a glass door, I step back and evaluate my recent diet. I know from eating intuitively that this probably means I’ve been eating too much added sugar and/or not getting enough micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Both factors lead to decreased overall energy and burnout.
True intuitive eating rests upon 10 scientifically sound principles. They are intended to guide you based on your biology and ultimately lead to a healthy relationship between food, mind and body. Here are the principles:
Dispel the Diet Mentality
This does not mean to adapt the mindset that you can eat whatever you want and still be healthy. This means to be smart, and understand there is no quick and easy way to weight loss and no hack to sustaining weight loss. If you’re always looking for the next quick fix, you’ll never learn to eat based on cues.
Honor Your Hunger.
Hunger is a biological mechanism driven by hormones. It happens for a reason. By ignoring hunger cues, you set yourself up to overeat later. You also risk harming your health in other ways, such as reducing your resting metabolic rate because your body thinks you’re starving. Remember: The body does not know the difference between dieting and starving. It only knows it isn’t getting enough food to maintain its current weight.
Make Peace with Food.
Your relationship with food should not be one at war. Give yourself permission to eat. Telling yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t eat a particular food leads to feelings of deprivation that develop into cravings. This can lead to impulsive bingeing, which is often followed by overwhelming guilt, which is often followed by more severe restriction - you get the point.
Challenge the Food Police.
There is no “right” food and there is no “wrong” food. This is a critical element of intuitive eating, as fabricated “food rules” that govern many people’s food choices. And when rules are broken, people feel bad, again leading to feelings of shame or guilt.
Respect Your Fullness.
Just like hunger, the feeling of satiety is triggered by your physiology. The human body produces and releases hormones specifically to let your brain know that you are no longer hungry. Try to “listen” for this and stop eating when you are full.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor.
Put simply: Eat foods you enjoy. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, bland or “blah.” Actually, healthy food done right should be vibrant, palatable and pleasurable. In our rage to be thin, chiseled or muscular, we confine ourselves to chicken and broccoli day after day. Boredom with our food drives us to overeat when we indulge in “junk” (quotations because remember there are no right or wrong foods).
Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food.
Anyone out there an emotional eater? Stress eater? How about an angry eater? Find ways to nurture or distract yourself that aren’t food-related. People tend to reach for palatable foods when facing unfavorable emotions because food triggers endorphin release, and endorphins make us feel better temporarily. But food won’t fix any problems in the long term.
Respect Your Body.
You’re probably never going to “look like her,” unless you’re related by blood. Everyone has a genetic blueprint – accept and cherish yours! A person who wears a size nine shoe wouldn’t try to fit into a size six. It is equally as fruitless to have unrealistic expectations with body shape and size. It’s impossible to eat intuitively if you are hypercritical of your body.
Exercise for the Feeling.
Unless you are a competitive athlete or bodybuilder, your workouts probably don’t need to mirror those of either. The takeaway here is simple: Do what you like to do so you don’t burn out. If you like running long distance, run long distance. Like CrossFit? Do CrossFit. Enjoy lifting heavy? Then lift heavy! Don’t let people (or the Internet) dictate your workouts. Focus on being active for the sake of being active and healthy, not for the sake of physical change.
Honor Your Health.
Eat things that make you feel good. Like I noted above, I use my moods and energy level to gauge my diet. You will start to notice patterns if you consistently eat intuitively. Food must be good for your physical AND mental health. For me, this means eating generally healthy throughout the week and giving myself more room for indulgent foods on the weekends. I also never cut out entire food groups because I don’t need to. I am not intolerant to gluten or grains, dairy, or really anything else. I handle all foods pretty well and if I intentionally cut them out for no reason other than to change my body, I feel restricted. And we’ve all learned from this article that restriction leads to a cycle of overeating and guilt.
If you’re interested in learning more about intuitive eating, visit the official website.
Do you or have you followed any specific eating patterns or regimes? What’s worked for you? Leave a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
About the F-Word
"Food" is the F-word. And the F-Word blog is all about helping you find your food-life balance. After battling an unhealthy relationship with food and body image for years, I'm dedicated to helping others avoid those misfortunes. Read on for nutrition guidance, lifestyle tips and stories from other bad-ass people who also overcame disordered eating.