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Intuitive eating was first defined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their seminal work, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.” Intuitive eating is NOT a weight loss plan. In fact, the first principle of intuitive eating is to ditch the diet mentality and get rid of the notion of intentional weight loss. Improving your mindfulness when eating will help you along your intuitive eating journey. This is not enough information to truly embark on an intuitive eating journey, but if your curiosity is piqued, I would be delighted to talk with you about it more.

Before we dive in, we should define mindfulness. While mindfulness has come to mean a lot of different things, it is, very simply, bringing your attention to the current moment without judgment of what that current moment holds. We can apply this kind of intentional attention paying to eating in several ways that support an intuitive eating journey.

Photo of a loaf of bread, grape jelly, and an open jar of peanut butter with a knife on a counter.
Can you mindfully enjoy a PBJ?

1. Take a pause to tune in to what you really want.

Sometimes, a person will start eating without pausing to decide what they really want and will end up eating a bunch of different things and feeling unsatisfied. I have been working with a client recently who was struggling with feeling like she was snacking mindlessly. We worked to apply this principle, and to tune in a bit to what she really wanted, and then eat that thing mindfully until she was satisfied. This only works if you have given yourself permission to eat what you want and do not have any off-limits foods. My client found that she was able to apply this skill and eat what she really wanted without feeling bad about it and without making herself overstuffed from what I have come to call eating around the food you really want.

2. Be attentive to your hunger and satiety cues.

Your body will let you know when it needs food and when it has had enough! Notice it. Part of this principle for me involves eating mindfully, without distractions, and slowly if possible. If I eat while I’m working or doing something else, I am less likely to notice my body’s satiety signals and will instead just clear my plate. Also be attentive to how your body lets you know it is time to eat. There are many ways your body may signal hunger, and it might not always be a growling belly.

3. Use mindfulness to find the satisfaction factor.

I alluded to this in talking about my client who was struggling with mindlessly raiding the pantry. Enjoy what you eat! Eat good food that tastes good, from a plate while seated, and preferably with company you enjoy. Maybe dinner music helps you enjoy your meals. Tuning in to what you really want and then eating it with enjoyment helps you find satisfaction.

4. Cope with your emotions without using food.

Look, some emotional eating is normal. We eat for joy as much as we eat for sadness, anger, or anxiety. However, I like to see folks have a number of different options for coping with emotions. I recently came home after a particularly tough day at work and was about to hit up the snack drawer. Instead, I ate my dinner, and thought about what would really help me cope with my emotions. I used my mindfulness skills to tune in to what was going on inside myself in the moment. I realized snacking wasn’t really going to make me feel better, but would just distract me for a bit. Instead, I talked to a friend and did some yoga and felt much better. If you often cope with your emotions using food, you may find that it is difficult to find satisfaction. That is because the food won’t fix the feelings, so you just go unsatisfied. I’m not suggesting you NEVER emotionally eat, just be sure you’re tuned in when you do it.

Intuitive eating is a radical change if you’ve been dieting and struggling with your weight for a lot of your life, but you can rediscover yourself as an intuitive eater, learn to respect your body, and find food freedom! Applying mindfulness to the principles of intuitive eating is a powerful way to connect in the moment and be able to effectively apply the principles.

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