woman in red dress eating fruit salad

How you learn to listen to your body again

Written by Adriana Krueger

You can eat whatever you want, and you will still maintain your feel-good weight! What sounds like a diet promise that is far too good to be true, summarizes the basic idea of intuitive eating.

What is “intuitive eating”? (Intuitive eating)

Eating intuitively is something we do from birth, but have often forgotten in the course of life. Babies and toddlers eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full. How much they eat changes almost every day. One day they ask for a second and third helping at dinner and the next day they don’t even eat a few bites. As simple as it sounds, it can be so difficult for us adults. The older we get, the more likely we are to stop eating intuitively. During our childhood we learned that if we want dessert, we have to finish our meal or be good. I plead guilty to it.

My children only get their dessert if, in my opinion, they eat "enough" of their dinner. I make this decision on the assumption that if I don't control my children's food intake, they will only eat sweet things.

We also learned that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. The result?

If we eat so-called "good" foods, we are satisfied with ourselves. If, on the other hand, we choose one of the "bad" foods, we are plagued by a guilty conscience. Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that the body intuitively knows what the right amount and the right choice of food are. You can eat anything. If you listen to your body and interpret the hunger signals correctly, you automatically live more healthily. You notice what your body needs right now, because your body does not want to be underweight or overweight, but wants to be healthy.

10 tips for getting started with intuitive eating

Learning to eat intuitively is a process. Try to listen to your gut feeling and ask yourself what your body needs right now. It takes some practice to interpret these signals. At some point you will be able to correctly interpret the desires of your body so that you can enjoy your meals without thinking too much about it. Eating is just eating, nothing more.

It nourishes and keeps you healthy! To get there, the following ten principles of intuitive eating will help.

1. Get rid of the diet mentality

Diets are often doomed to failure in advance and are not a long-term solution if you want to achieve your personal wellness weight. On the contrary: they usually lead to renewed weight gain, food cravings and feelings of guilt for not having made it. The basic principle of many diets - the assumption that one would be rewarded if one ignored the needs of one's body in a disciplined enough manner - is wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. For a healthy eating style it is important to listen carefully again to which foods and, related to that, which nutrients your body craves. Intuitive eating is NOT a diet.

2. Listen to your hunger signals

Hunger is not your enemy. Hunger is a natural protective mechanism of your body and the desire to feed it, because food is essential for life. Eating only salad all day, dreaming of other dishes and then, in the evening, uncontrollably, because completely starved, stuffing yourself with quickly tangible things like chocolate, is neither good for your figure, nor your physical and mental health. Your body needs the confidence that it can have unrestricted access to good food at all times.

These are typical hunger signals:

  • Tummy rumbles
  • Fatigue
  • Tremble
  • Loss of concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings

3. Make peace with your food (Intuitive eating)

Wanting something that you are not allowed to have is a simple psychological phenomenon. The best-known example of this is: "Don't think about pink elephants now! What were you thinking of? Of course, pink elephants!"

The principle works the same way with supposedly "bad" foods: the more you abstain from pizza, chocolate ice cream and soda (or whatever), the more you might think about it. Desires arise and settle which might not even exist without prohibitions. Give it a try! Would you really eat chocolate ice cream all day if you gave yourself permission to do so?

If you eat intuitively, you will eat anything you want. You pay attention to the taste and feel of the meal after eating.

4. Challenge the "Inner Food Critic"

"No more carbohydrates after 6 p.m.!"

"Dressing on the salad makes you fat!"

The "inner food critic" is your thoughts telling you that you should feel good or guilty after eating. Reject these thoughts and stop feeling guilty after eating a packet of ice cream.

5. Discover the enjoyment factor of every meal (Intuitive eating)

Eating is not just about filling you up. Eating should make you satisfied and happy. A meal that you really want, that is celebrated and enjoyed with every bite, will be more satisfying than a meal that you force yourself to eat. So if you eat a salad even though you feel like eating pasta much more, you will hardly be full and satisfied afterwards.

To really enjoy your meal, take your time and eat every meal with all your senses.

6. Feel the saturation signals

Get to know your body's signals when you have eaten enough. If you eat slowly and in peace, you will quickly notice when your body tells you that it is enough now. You haven't finished your plate yet? That doesn’t matter! Just save the rest of the meal for the next day instead of forcing yourself to finish.

These signals tell you that you are full:

  • Pleasant gut feeling
  • Hunger signals decrease
  • Appetite decreases
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue

7. Emotional eating is absolutely out of the question

Eating out of boredom, loneliness, sadness or frustration is not uncommon. In fact, there is even such a thing as "emotional hunger" and there is a reason for it: Sugar, for example, causes dopamine to be released, which makes you happy in the short term. So it's no wonder that we reach into the candy drawer when we're worried. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn't last long. On the contrary: after a short time it leaves you feeling even worse. But if you ask yourself before every grab in the snack box whether you are really hungry, you can prevent this deceptive emotional management and get to the bottom of the cause of your feelings in another way. How about a relaxing walk instead of chocolate, for example?

8. Start liking your body as it is (Intuitive eating)

Diets are often associated with derogatory judgments about our looks. It is not even possible that every person has a model figure, because we are all different, and that's a good thing! Accept your body and learn to love yourself. This is arguably one of the most important principles of intuitive eating.

9. Exercise and feel good doing it

Instead of thinking about which sport burns the most calories, think to yourself: "What activity is fun and makes me feel good?" The most important thing about exercise is that it is fun. It doesn't matter whether these are long walks, a lap on the treadmill parallel to your favourite series, a bike tour or high-intensity workouts in the gym. If you enjoy what you do, you will keep doing it!

If you start slowly and increase at your own pace, you will also feel intensely how good exercise is and how strong instead of exhausted you feel after a round of sport.

10. Appreciate your health

It is certainly a good idea to deal with your diet. Whether you design the menu according to how much weight can be lost or according to which foods are healthy and keep the body functions running every day, is a huge difference. Choose foods that are good for your health, taste good, and help you feel good. Instead of looking at the number of calories, it makes much more sense to look at the nutrient content and balance of foods. This also includes correctly interpreting approaching cravings for certain foods: The desire for meat can, for example, be based on an iron requirement or behind cravings for fatty foods a calcium requirement, which you can satisfy with much healthier foods than with burgers and fries. But you don't always have to eat perfectly to be healthy. No particular food will make you sick overnight. The journey is the reward!

Intuitive eating is not a diet nor is it a nutrition plan. Eating intuitively means:

No guilty conscience and no rules! Everything goes!

Are you ready to listen to the signals from your body?

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