Principles of intuitive eating | healthy UNH

Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating

Have you ever tried to go on a diet? You succeeded? Unfortunately, the answer to that question for many is no. Traditional diets tend not to work for many people and can lead to feelings of defeat. Intuitive eating was designed to be the exact opposite.

Intuitive eating places no restrictions on what you can and cannot eat. Instead, the concept is simple: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. This method is designed to make you an expert on your body and learn the signals when you are hungry.

To trust your body, you must be able to distinguish between the different types of hunger:

  • physical hunger: The biological drive to replenish nutrients. It has signs like stomach growling, fatigue, and irritability, and it gets full when you eat.

  • emotional hunger: Driven by emotional needs. Feelings can create food cravings such as sadness, loneliness, and boredom. Eating can cause feelings of guilt and self-hatred.

There are a few key principles that will help guide you on your intuitive eating journey:

  • Honor your hunger: Once your body begins to show signs of hunger, it’s time to eat. If you allow yourself to get overly hungry, you are more likely to overeat.

  • Make peace with food. Stop the food fight and give yourself permission to eat. If you restrict yourself from certain foods, you may have feelings of deprivation and are more likely to binge.

  • Challenge your thoughts. It is not “good” to eat a minimum of calories or “bad” to eat a piece of cake. Many people have unreasonable thoughts like these due to diet culture that need to be forgotten.

  • Feel your fullness. Watch for signs from the body that it is full. Try to eat more slowly, pause in the middle of your meal and assess how full you feel.

  • Move for fun. Forget how many calories you’re burning and move to feel good. Focus on how you feel when you exercise, like being energized and happy. This will help motivate you.

  • Cope with your emotions. Find ways to comfort and nurture yourself, as well as how to solve your problems. Dealing with food can make you feel better in the moment, but it’s not a long-term solution. Emotional eating will make you feel worse in the long run.

  • Honor your health. Choose foods that taste good and make you feel good at the same time. A snack or dessert will not make you go back, it is about being constant and finding a habit of eating that is sustainable.

One of the main benefits of intuitive eating is better psychological health. The main point behind intuitive eating is progress, not perfection. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. UNH Dining also has registered dietitians who can help you start your journey!

Have you ever tried intuitive eating? Let us know by emailing healthy.unh@unh.edu!

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