How Intuitive Eating Can Change Your Life
Guest Post by: Meghan O'Hara
Creating a healthy relationship with our bodies and food is a radical concept in a culture that benefits from us hating ourselves. Women have been sold the idea that our bodies should look small, neat and pretty. And if our bodies differ in any way, we believe there is something that needs to be fixed. This programing is so deeply embedded in our consciousness that in 2019, the diet industry market reached a record $78 billion in sales.
Meanwhile, there has been a powerful movement in the last 30 years (currently gaining more popularity) known as “health at every size” that takes the emphasis off the size and shape of our bodies and onto creating healthy habits. One of the most powerful tools in these efforts is a way of thinking about and engaging with food known as “Intuitive Eating.”
All of these tenets are based on the foundation of one being able to tap into and feel/hear their own intuition. The following ten tenets were developed by Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Take full ownership of your mental space by letting go of all notions that there will be a diet or food plan to transform your body to one that will make you feel confident and at home in your skin. The way that we feel about our bodies is not tied to what they look like.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Learn to notice the intricate ways your body communicates to you. Your hunger cues will be
subtle at first, and if we miss them, they can start to scream. If we ignore our hunger for long
enough, you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Honoring your hunger is essential to build
trust in yourself and in food.
3. Make Peace with Food
Give yourself full permission to eat. If shame or guilt is involved in eating decisions, this can
lead to restriction then eventually binging.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Notice when you’re engaging in a “right” and “wrong” approach to eating. The food police carry constant judgement about what you “should” be eating. Learning to recognize this voice gives you the freedom to choose another approach to making food decisions.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Giving ourselves permission to eat in a way that nourishes and satisfies us is a deeply healing path. This includes eating what you really want and in an environment that is enjoyable to give yourself an experience of pleasure.
6. Feel Your Fullness
This is a skill that we often need to re-learn. It can be challenging to be in touch with our fullness cues if our nervous systems are feeling overwhelmed (we’re stressed) or when we’re in an environment where we don’t feel fully comfortable (loud spaces, being around triggering family members, etc). Feeling our fullness is a skill that we practice to re-establish a loving and kind relationship with our bodies.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Build your “comfort” tool belt to include many different tools. This is also a practice that takes time to learn how to be with difficult emotions (anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, etc). Food can be an incredibly quick and easy way to add pleasure into our experience, but food won’t fix any of these feelings. It’s not wrong or bad to engage in emotional eating, but it’s important to distinguish when we’re craving a food because our emotions need comforting and when we’re experiencing hunger.
8. Respect Your Body
We all have a genetic blueprint, and most of us don’t’ have one that matches up with the
societal expectations of having a tiny body size. Learning to honor our bodies and the space they occupy is an important part of this healing journey.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Instead of forcing yourself to move because you need to burn calories, shift your focus to how it feels to move your body. When you are respecting your body and energy levels, you can move from a place of honoring your needs instead of forcing some other agenda to get to a certain shape or size.
10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Give yourself permission to make food choices that honor your health, including your taste
buds, while making yourself feel good. Carrying food rules that deny your desires and needs don’t serve. And there is a distinction between eating in a way that helps you feel good and eating according to food rules.
What I love about this “Intuitive Eating” approach is that each individual is being put back in the driver’s seat, empowered to make decisions about their health habits. So often we’re given nutrition advice from some authority – whether your doctor, nutritionist, dietitian or influencer –and we believe it *should* apply to us. But what is left out of that process is asking, how does that really feel inside of you?
Intuitive eating is based on the ability to get in touch with and listen to your own intuition.
And as a dietitian and health coach for the past 15 years, I have seen so much trauma around body and eating habits that can actually block us from being able to get in touch with our own intuitive knowing. So it is imperative that when we start down this healing journey, we have the support and space to release these past traumas and beliefs that are no longer serving.
I have witnessed hundreds of women struggle (and succeed!) in their health goals, with one
specific defining factor. Their success wasn’t dependent on “following food rules” or “being
good” but on truly establishing a loving relationship with their body and food. One that feels
good. A relationship where ALL internal parts are welcomed – where all emotions, needs and desires are seen as sacred and worthy of time and attention. Where food is seen as both deeply nourishing medicine and also a symbol for so much more of our heart’s desires.
Clara*, one of my previous clients, perfectly illustrates the health that is possible when we can learn to truly nourish ourselves on every level. Clara is a mother of 3 children and felt a deep sense of shame that she was carrying more weight than before she had kids. She had tried MANY diets and could lose weight temporarily but ultimately would always gain it back. She believed her body size meant she was lacking self-control and felt like a failure for not “caring for herself better.”
During our work together, Clara’s expectations and beliefs about what a mother should look like and act like were revealed. She got to see how she was holding her own body to unrealistic standards. She freed herself of those expectations and learned to tap into her own needs (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual + social). She got in touch with her intuition and felt confident knowing she was meeting her own needs. Her inner critic was no longer running her self-talk and she felt empowered and excited to create a routine that felt good to move her body and eat in a way that felt good to her body. She did lose weight, but it wasn’t as a result of punishing herself. This shift happened because she learned to listen to her own intuition and meet her own needs.
Clara is typical of SO many amazing women that I work with - she had been comparing herself to what she thought she "should" be instead of tuning in and listening to what her body actually needed. When she leaned into the support to free herself of past traumas, limiting beliefs and get in touch with her own intuition, she thrived. She didn’t need someone to tell her what to eat, she needed to trust herself once again. There is so much beauty and health that opens up when we allow ourselves to connect to our own inner authority to know what, when and how much (food, exercise, etc.) is right for our bodies.
If you are someone who is ready for a transformation in your relationship with food and your
body, I would be honored to be on this path with you. I have a 4 month “Befriend Your Body”
program that has guided women (and some men) through this revolutionary journey to health.
You are welcome to explore this possible fit by hopping on a free 45-minute exploratory call
Meghan O’Hara is a Registered Dietitian and Holistic Health Coach who is best known for guiding women to achieve a healthy relationship with their body and food. She has worked with over 1,000 individuals over the past 15 years and is committed to deeply caring for all parts of our being -body, mind and spirit.
Thank you Meghan O'Hara for sharing your magic and for being a guest on our blog! Intuitive eating changed everything for me and put me on my own spiritual journey! It's such a powerful practice that I couldn't wait to share this with you!
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