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Maybe you’ve heard about the concept of intuitive eating and you are curious to learn if and how it could fit into your lifestyle. The practice of intuitive eating is based on 10 key principles and has actually been around since the 1990s, though it has recently seen a spike in popularity. Intuitive eating is most simply summarized as eating based on internal hunger and fullness cues rather than pre-determined meals and times. However, there is more to it than just acknowledging hunger and fullness.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are five ways you can gradually work some principles of intuitive eating into your life in 2018.
1. Break The Routine
Routines can be a good thing, but a pre-packed and predetermined lunch may not be what you want one day. Are you used to packing a sandwich for lunch every day? Try taking yourself out spur of the moment and order what you really want. It can be freeing (and challenging) to decide what you truly want to eat in the moment.
2. Tune In To How Certain Foods Make You Feel
Maybe you think you want dessert every night–but when you have it, you go to bed feeling extra full and wake up not feeling hungry. Or perhaps you’re hungry for an afternoon snack but you’re too “busy” to pack one or take time to eat one. That afternoon snack may give you that burst of energy you need to finish the day, so ignoring that afternoon hunger cue isn’t doing you any favors. Food has the ability to energize us. Try to eat more of the foods that make you feel good.
3. Trust Yourself
Are you too nervous to include your beloved pizza in your food routine out of fear that you’ll start eating it all the time? Just try adding it in once. If you find yourself craving pizza the following day, have it again. Chances are good that, after a week, you won’t be craving it anymore. Learning to trust yourself and your food choices is part of the process of tuning in to your body.
4. Determine What Satisfaction Feels Like
Eating a lot of vegetables may fill you up, but will they leave you satisfied if the meal you actually wanted was a sandwich? Eating should be both a pleasurable and satisfying experience. When you eat what you truly want in an enjoyable environment, you are more likely to feel full and satisfied. You may even find that it takes less food than you originally thought to reach that satisfaction level.
5. Feel Your Feelings Without Food
In many ways, eating is emotional–so it’s nearly impossible to fully separate your food from your feelings. However, it’s necessary to have other coping strategies for feelings like loneliness, boredom, anxiety and sadness. Realizing that food won’t solve these feelings and finding other ways to distract or nurture yourself will play an important part in your relationship with food–and with yourself.
Intuitive eating isn’t all or nothing. It is something that we are constantly practicing and working toward, because no one is a perfect intuitive eater all the time. Give it a try this year and see what a difference it can make.
Sarah Schlichter is a registered dietitian and marathon runner based in Charlotte, N.C. She works as a nutrition consultant and in private practice, where she writes the blog, Bucket List Tummy, sharing nutrition posts, healthy recipes, running tips and everything on her bucket list.