If you've ever wondered why the word "diet" instantly makes you hungry or why you can't knock cravings no matter how much willpower you have, intuitive eating might be your answer.
Start tuning in to your body's natural cues intuitive eating by following the 10 principles of intuitive eating below.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality1 of 11
Look back on all the diets, cleanses and restrictive plans that you've devoted yourself to in the past. How did you feel while on those diets? Did you end up keeping off the weight? Did they bring long-term success?
Probably not—but don't worry, you're not alone. Overwhelming research points to the fact that diets simply do not work. It's time to give them up.
Rejecting the diet mentality is one of the first and most important steps to truly accepting a gentler approach to nutrition.
2. Honor Your Hunger2 of 11
The second principle of intuitive eating is all about rebuilding trust with yourself and food. You may think you cannot possibly trust your body's hunger signals without counting the calories or asking yourself first if it's "bad" or "good" food, but think back to your childhood. Most children simply eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full without much thought. It's time to return to that.
Listen to that first biological hunger signal and honor it by eating what sounds good to you.
3. Make Peace with Food3 of 11
Give yourself absolute permission to eat, instead of overthinking what you should and shouldn't be eating. Often, when you don't give yourself permission to eat, that sends the body into an uncontrollable urge to overeat, and the foods that are "off-limits" become overwhelmingly enticing. If you've ever given up sweets only to find yourself knee-deep in brownie batter a week later, then you know what I'm talking about.
This type of behavior around food is exactly what you don't want. The guilty feelings around eating are what lead to eating far too much, so it's time to drop all your food rules. There is nothing to feel guilty about anymore.
4. Challenge the Food Police4 of 11
The food police are everywhere—at home, in advertising, at work and, worst of all, in your head! Challenge the thoughts that certain foods are good while others are bad.
Think about foods society has demonized in the past, such as eggs or avocados. Now they're deemed healthy fats and great for your body. The food police change the rules all the time, but you don't have to follow them. Honor your body's natural cravings and trust that they're there for a reason.
5. Respect Your Fullness5 of 11
Tune into how your body is feeling during meals. Behaviors that help with this principle are stopping between bites to ask yourself how the food tastes and assessing your fullness level.
You may have heard that it takes about 20 minutes to start feel full, so be sure to slow down and enjoy your meals. Studies show that Americans eat the fastest, given that the average American scarfs down a meal within 10 minutes, while Europeans will spend 35 minutes or more at the table.
Instead of restrictive dieting, simply slow down, and you'll naturally eat less.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor6 of 11
Take the time to truly enjoy your food. Enjoying food can make a big impact on satisfaction with a meal.
When you're enjoying your food in every aspect, including lighting, atmosphere, taste and aroma, you'll find that you need less food to feel satisfied.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food7 of 11
Some people may turn to emotional eating for comfort and to avoid unpleasant feelings, such as anxiety, boredom, anger or even just a bad day at work. By becoming aware of what you're feeling, you can start to identify other coping skills besides eating.
Consider therapy, a good friend's ear, yoga, exercise or journaling to handle these feelings. If you're hungry, then eat, but slow down to make sure you're enjoying the meal, instead of covering up feelings.
8. Respect Your Body8 of 11
Stop the body shaming and criticism. It's difficult to treat your body well if you do not respect and love the one you have. Instead of wishing you were a certain size or looked a certain way, respect how hard your body works to help you every day.
Appreciating the little things, like how your body functions and focusing on what your body can do instead of how it looks, will go a long way in helping you make healthier choices to support your body, instead of punish it.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference9 of 11
It's time to start looking at exercise in a different way. Moving your body should not be solely about losing weight—it should be about how you feel! Instead of obsessively attempting to reach a calorie-burning goal or beat your coworker on Fitbit, focus on simply moving your body and noting how the exercise makes you feel.
Find activities you actually enjoy (even if it's just walking!), and you will stick with it.
10. Honor Your Health10 of 11
At the end of the day, it's all about balance. You do not have to eat "clean" every single day and you do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy. Enjoy your food, focus on how it makes you feel and move your body for the pure joy of it.
And don't be surprised when you start naturally making healthy changes that outlast any of your past diets.