There are books, podcasts and countless online groups dedicated to the  ten principles  of intuitive eating. In a nutshell, intuitive eating means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re satisfied.  

One of the top questions I get asked about intuitive eating is this: Can you eat healthfully and still be an intuitive eater? If you allow yourself to eat what you want, will your body get the nutrition it needs?  

When almost all nutrition messages suggest that without food rules we lose control, a fear of loosening the nutrition reigns makes total sense. For example, some people worry that eating after a certain time of night will cause weight gain. With hobbies, activities or shiftwork in the evening, fueling your body with food later in the day can be a supportive choice.  

The great thing about intuitive eating is it puts YOU in the driver’s seat. You are in charge. Not me. Not food rules.  

What do you mean I can eat what I want?  

The authors of the intuitive eating philosophy grant unconditional permission to eat what you’d like. No food rules. No guilt.  

This type of food freedom can be overwhelming. Most people feel that they cannot be trusted around food.  

Common concerns include comments such as these:  

“How can eating pizza all day possibly be good for my health?” 

“If I eat chips, I will never stop!” 

“If I eat what I want, my weight will balloon up!” 

Here’s the thing. Just because you can eat pizza every single day doesn’t mean you have to or even that you will want to. True, in the beginning you might eat a little bit more, but this evens out with time.   

We often crave the foods we deny ourselves. Many people are shocked to find the foods they spent a lot of time thinking about, don’t taste half as good as they remembered.  

With unconditional permission, foods tend to lose their appeal. For me, this happened with pizza pockets. Because they were expensive, my family rarely bought them. Later on, when I could afford to buy my own pizza pockets, I found them to be a total disappointment! They were still in my freezer when I moved years later. As we neutralize foods as being “good” or “bad,” our body gravitates to what it needs to feel nourished.  

Butis it healthy?  

Media messages convince us we need to eat perfectly in order to be healthy. What counts as “perfect” keeps changing with new science and food trends – there is no such thing as a perfect when it comes to food and eating! 

Being  healthy is defined as enjoying physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. When you consider these three domains of wellness, eating foods you enjoy in amounts that make you feel your best is healthy. Intuitive eating doesn’t ask that you abandon the notion of nutrition; it’s about taking a step back from dogmatic food rules.  

You can make food choices that honour your health and taste buds by implementing balance, moderation and  attunement. For example, when I’ve been traveling and eating out more often, I tend to crave a fresh salad with my favourite dressing when I get home. On the other hand, if I get stuck in a salad rut, my body leans towards comfort foods such as grilled cheese and soup with a cookie (or cookies). Perhaps you’ve noticed something similar.  

What does the research say?  

In the long term, intuitive eaters do not eat higher amounts of calories, sugar or fat on a daily basis. People who feel good about eating, eat a variety of vegetables and fruit, not because theyhaveto but because theywantto. They enjoy it. Nourishing your body is enjoyable when the foods you eat taste good and make you feel good.  

Perhaps this is why  research  has found that intuitive eaters tend to have fewer problematic eating habits and lower, more stable weights. Intuitive eaters also have higher levels of  body satisfaction, self-compassion and  metabolic fitness 

The final word 

Without a doubt, intuitive eating supports positive physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. This means you can honour your health while making peace with food. What a powerful gift! Only you can give it.  

Like what you read and want to learn more?

  • Learn more about why and how to give yourself permission to eat foods you enjoy.
  • Work through the intuitive eating workbook.
  • For extra support,  find a dietitian  with experience in intuitive eating

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 Are you looking for practical nutrition tools for your clients? Log in to the AFLCA Members section of the website and order free resources today!

 


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Lindsay Buchanan, RD

Registered Dietitian

Lindsay (BSc, RD, MEd) is an Edmonton-based registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive®. She compassionately supports clients cultivate trust with food and their body. Her work emphasizes a positive and flexible approach to food, meals and movement.

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