Intuitive Eating already provides an excellent summary as appendix to the book and very worthwhile details including the science behind intuitive eating. However, as per usual, I’ve taken notes for my own reference and, of course, I’d like to share. Note many sentences are word-for-word, I’ve simply condensed it to the main parts.
Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
The problem is that dieting thoughts usually translate into diet-like behaviours, which becomes pseudo-dieting or unconscious dieting. Examples include meticulously counting calories or carbs; eating only “safe” foods; eating only at certain times of the day; paying penance for eating “bad” foods; cutting back on food, especially when feeling fat or a when a special event comes up; pacifying hunger by drinking coffee; putting on a “false food face” in public; competing with someone else who is dieting … feeling obligated to be equally virtuous; second guessing or judging what you deserve to eat; or restricting any food for the purpose of losing weight.
One food, one meal, or one day will not make or break your health or your weight.
It can feel scary because it’s been the only tool you have known to lose weight (albeit temporarily). Let go of the false hope and disappointments from dieting.
You’re bound to defy external factors and authority figures. Only you can know your internal wisdom and be empowered.
Paradigm Shift Steps
1) Recognize and acknowledge the damage that dieting causes
– undereating leads to overeating
2) Be aware of diet mentality trains and thinking
– Forget about willpower, being obedient, and failing. Discipline only works when it aligns with deep beliefs. Rebellion to rules is a normal act of self-preservation – protecting your space, or personal boundaries. When a diet doctor or a diet plan invades your boundaries, it’s normal to feel powerless. But, instead of feeling strong from rebellion, you actually feel out of control and miserable. You can’t fail at Intuitive Eating – it’s a learning process at every point along the way.
3) Get rid of the dieter’s tools: the meal plans and the scales
Principle 2: Honour Your Hunger
Keep your body fed adequately to avoid a primal drive to overeat. Learning to honour the first biological signal sets the stage rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a chemical produced by the brain that triggers our drive to eat carbs, the body’s primary and preferred source of energy. Food deprivation drives NPY into action making it easy to turn to a high-carb binge. It is naturally the highest in the morning or when under stress or when carbs are burned as fuel.
Only about half the brain’s cells can use ketosis for energy so low carbs can lead to loss of lean tissue.
Consistently denying hunger also desensitizes hunger signals so you can only “hear” hunger in extreme, ravenous states. This further conditions you to believe you can’t be trusted with food, because ravenous hunger often triggers overeating. Biological cues of satiety are also pushed to the extremes.
Your body needs to know consistently that it will have access to food – that dieting and deprivation have halted, once and for all.
Hunger sensations ranging from gentle to ravenous include: gurgling, gnawing, growling, light-headedness, difficulty concentrating, uncomfortable stomach pain, irritability, feeling faint, headache.
Take care not to get overly hungry. A general guideline is to go no longer than 5 waking hours without eating. Fuelling up your carb tank in the liver runs out every 3-6 hours.
Monitor hunger levels each time you eat, before and after. Is there any relationship between how much you eat and the length of time between eating?
If your eating style leans toward grazing, you may just find you are hungry more often, such as every 2-4 hours. Nibbling studies have shown the release of insulin is lower to larger traditional meals of identical calories. The more insulin released, the easier it is for the body to make fat.
The body may do some of its energy fine tuning over a period of days, rather than from hour to hour. This means you may feel full on diet types of foods, but the lack of energy catches up with you; the body wants to compensate.
It’s not bad to follow taste hunger, practical hunger (planning ahead flexibly), and emotional hunger. Ironically, many are often amazed that what they assumed to be emotional eating, was in many instances primal hunger eating. But the out of control feeling of eating is nearly identical, whether it was triggered emotionally or biologically.
Principle 3: Make Peace with Food
If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and often, bingeing. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This means throwing out the preconceived notion that certain foods are good and others are bad. No one food has the power to make you fat or help you to become slim. Eat what you really want. Eat without obligatory penance – personal food deals are not unconditional. When you truly free your food choices, without any hidden agenda of restricting them in the future, you eliminate the urgency to overeat.
The most effective way to instill the belief you can eat whatever you want is to experience eating the very foods you forbid. It becomes self-evident proof you can handle these foods, they have no magic hold on you or your willpower. With permission, you take the time to taste and may even find it’s not so desirable after all. It may take a few weeks for the desire to taper off. Removing deprivation diminishes the alluring quality, and instead, put food in a reasonable, rational perspective. Legalizing food is critical.
Proceed at a comfortable pace. It takes time to build up trust in yourself. Before you proceed, please be sure that you are consistently honouring your hunger. A ravenous person os bound to overeat regardless of his or her intention.
1. Pay attention to the foods that are appealing to you and make a list of them.
2. Put a check by the foods you actually do eat, then circle remaining foods that you’ve been restricting.
3. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food from your list, then go to the market and buy this food, or order it at a restaurant.
4. Check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you imagined. If you find that you really like it, continue to give yourself permission.
5. Make sure that you keep enough of the food in your kitchen so you know it will be there if you want it. Or if that seems too scary, go to a restaurant and order that particular food as often as you like.
Once you’ve made peace with one food, continue on with your list until all the foods are tried, evaluated, and freed. Note you don’t have to experience each and every item- what’s important is to continue the process until you truly know you can eat what you want.
Eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might also cause physical discomfort. Attunement with your body’s satiety cues is an important part of this process.
Principle 4: Challenge the food police
Just because someone makes an inappropriate comment does not make it true.
Destructive dieting voices: food police, diet rebel, and nutrition informant. The informant colludes with the police under the guise of health, though it’s promoting an unconscious diet, but it becomes an ally when the Food Police are exiled. It is then interested in healthy eating and satisfaction with no hidden agenda – note it’s often the last to appear. The distinguishing factor is how you feel when you respond: acquiescent or guilty means you’re dealing with the informant. The diet rebel voice often resides in your head because you’re too scared to confront your “space invaders.”
Powerful ally voices: nutrition ally, nurturer, rebel ally, food anthropologist. The Rebel Ally helps protect boundaries – use your mouth for words instead of food in a direct but polite way. Ask your family to stay out of your food choices or amounts. Tell them they may not make comments about your body. The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer without judgment. Keeping an intuitive eating journal gives it the data. The Nurturer reassures you you’re ok in a gentle voice, never scolding or pressuring. It can be the vehicle for most of the positive self-talk in your head.
You were born an Intuitive Eater. Gradually, the Intuitive Eater will prevail over the dieter but there will be time when you’ll need to evoke one or all of the positive eating voices to help you get centred and in touch with your Intuitive Eater once again. There are no rigid rules in this process. It is fluid and adapts to the many changes in your life. The integrated Intuitive Eater is a team player that honours gut reactions, whether they are biological, satisfaction-based, or self-protective.
Am I having repetitive and intense feelings? What am I thinking that’s leading me to feel this way? what is true or correct about this belief? What is false? Examine and confront the distorted beliefs that support this thinking. Replace them with thoughts and beliefs that are more rational and reasonable.
With dichotomous (B&W) thinking, go for the grey where unrestrictive eating supports your choices. With absolutist “if then” thinking, replace “should” with permissive statements like can, is okay, may. With catastrophic thinking, treat yourself to hopeful coping statements that confirm your current and future happiness. With pessimistic thinking, make the cup half full. With linear thinking, switch to process thinking, which focuses on continual change and learning rather than just the end result.
Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness
Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is. Respecting fullness hinges on unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry.
Comfortable satiety generally feels subtle, neither hungry nor full, content, but it feels different to each individual.
To break autopilot, it helps to be hyperconscious of your eating experience. The initial step is conscious eating, a phase where you neutrally observe eating as if under a microscope. First, take a mini-time out from eating to regroup and assess where you’re at in your eating. This is not a commitment to stop eating but to be in check with your body, satiety, and taste buds. Are you continuing to eat just because it’s there? Do you feel unsatisfied? Is your hunger going away? Be patient, it takes time to get to know your satiety levels.
When you finish eating, check your fullness level. This will help you identify your last-bite threshold, your endpoint. Don’t feel obligated to leave food on your plate – that is a remnant of the diet mentality. The commitment is instead to get to know your satiety level and your taste buds. It’s perfectly normal to opt to overeat and that’s ok. You may be testing the unconditional permission. When the newness wears off and the deprivation feelings subside, you’ll find it’s easy to leave food on your plate.
Even when it comes to eating without distraction, Intuitive Eating is not another diet with rules to be broken. You are the one who has the internal wisdom about what works for you. You also know what doesn’t work. Be honest with yourself about whether you are able to get the most satisfaction in your eating while engaging in an activity, or whether you’re being distracted by it.
Reinforce your conscious decision to stop. When YOU decide to stop eating, because you’ve reached the last bite threshold, it’s helpful to DO something tho make it a conscious act, such as gently nudging the plate forward or putting the utensils on the plate.
Beware of air food: food that fills up the stomach but offers little sustenance like rice cakes or celery. A balanced meal has more staying power. Simply shoving some food in your mouth like a pacifier to ease hunger pangs may backfire, and the comforting effect will not be long lasting.
Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.
1. Ask yourself what you really want to eat. You don’t need to eat a healthy dinner before eating the dessert you’re really craving.
2. Discover the pleasure of the palate in the here and now.
3. Make your eating experience more enjoyable by giving yourself a distinct time (15 min), sitting down at the table, taking several breaths before eating, eating slowly, sensually, savour each bite, put the fork down, and feel your fullness.
4. Don’t settle. One of the biggest assets is the ability to toss aside food that isn’t to your liking.
5. Check in: Does it still taste good?
There will be times when you don’t have the option to get exactly what you want. Remember the concept of thinking in the grey because this is not a process that seeks perfection, but one that offers guidelines to a comfortable relationship with food. After all, it’s only one meal – you will survive! It’s how you jump back into taking care of yourself afterward that makes the difference. Sometimes honouring your hunger is the best you can do.
Principle 7: Cope with your emotions without using food
There is a continuum of emotional eating from mild, almost universal sensory eat to comfort, distraction, sedation, and ultimately punishment with numbing, often anesthetizing eating.
If food is the first and only thing that comes to mind when feeling bad, it can become a destructive coping mechanism. Food can also be used to distract from feelings which in turn blocks your ability to detect your intuitive signals or discovering the source of the feelings and taking care of your true needs. There is nothing wrong with sometimes distraction but food is not the appropriate distractor for temporary relief.
First rule out basic needs: sleep, self-expression, sensual pleasure, intellectual stimulation, comfort, and being heard, understood, and accepted.
- sauna or jacuzzi
- soothing music
- play cards
- play with dog
- buy yourself little presents
- spend time gardening
- get a manicure, facial, haircut
- buy a teddy bear and hug it
- Call friend
- Pound a pillow
- Confront person
- Sit with feelings
- Talk with therapist
- absorbing book
- clean closet
- stroll around the block
You may need to go through a grieving period for the loss of food as comforter and companion. You may also find you’re experiencing your feelings in a deeper way since you’re no longer covering them up.
Overeating is simply a sign that stressors in your life at that moment surpass the coping mechanisms that you have developed. It can also occur when your lifestyle becomes unbalanced with too many responsibilities and obligations, with too little time for pleasure and relaxation. It’s just an early warning system.
Principle 8: Respect Your Body
Body vigilance begets body worry, which begets food worry, which fuels the cycle of dieting. As long as you are at war with your body, it will be hard to be at peace with yourself. Take care of your body. The emphasis is on healthy living and behaviours. Treat your body with respect, dignity, and meeting its basic needs. Rather than demeaning the results of your coping mechanism, respect yourself for surviving.
My body deserves to be fed. It deserves to be treated with dignity. To be dressed comfortably and in the manner to which I am accustomed. Touched affectionately and with respect. And my body deserves to move comfortably.
Beware of substituting a tight pair of jeans as a pseudo-scale or body-assessment tool. This can undermine how you feel about yourself. It can convey you haven’t made enough progress. Even a slender person will feel uncomfortable in a pair of paints that feel too tight.
If you have a weight number in mind that comes from a time when you were dieting, this sheds information on how low your body weight was able to go under duress – which is not realistic. The more extreme the method, the less likely you were at a healthy weight as a result of that diet. Remember that research shows the actual process of dieting is probably more harmful than the actual body weight itself.
Principle 9: Exercise – Feel the Difference
Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, such as energized.
Principle 10: Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
We define healthy eating as having a healthy balance of foods and having a healthy relationship with food. Eating selection is not a reflection of your character. Achieve authentic health with dynamic integration between inner attunement and external health values. It’s about variety, moderation, and balance. You don’t need to eat perfectly to be healthy.
Protein rich food includes beans, seafood, chicken, turkey, nuts, and lean meats, eggs, and dairy. Nutrient dense foods include whole grains, avocado, nuts, and calcium-fortified soymilk. These quality foods are goals over time, which means even if you eat a candy bar, it will eventually average out. Play food is important for pleasure and freedom. Listen to your body to eat what feels good – all chocolate and only chocolate does not feel good.
As BED patients so often have ignored hunger and fullness and are eating for many other reasons, asking them to listen for signals can be frustrating. The vision of a future free of obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours is very powerful.
When others ask:
Dieting leads to deprivation, deprivation leads to craving, and craving can lead to out of control behaviour. I eat whatever I want when I’m hungry and find that I’m more easily able to stop when I’m full. When I feel satisfied with what I eat, I eat less. I’m learning to cope with my emotions without using food.
Final note: Weight loss must be put on the back burner as you go through the Intuitive Eating process. Focusing on losing weight will affect decisions about eating and sabotage the process. As you heal from the diet mentality, it is likely your weight will normalize.