What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating

During a recent workshop, Mirepoix Studio sub and Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist Lauren Grosskopf led students through a gentle Yin flow and then spoke about Intuitive Eating. Due to the demand of the workshop, we decided to catch up with Grosskopf and share her insights on the blog so everyone can benefit from learning about how Intuitive Eating can enhance their relationship with food.

First things first, what is Intuitive Eating? Intuitive Eating was created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 as a way to break the cycle of chronic dieting. The concept focuses on improving your relationship with food by tapping into your body’s signals to determine when hunger arises, what to eat and how much to eat. It focuses on trusting your internal cues to eat free of guilt and restrictions.

According to Grosskopf, “Intuitive Eating is basically yoga for eating. It’s listening to your mind and body and making food decisions based on how you're feeling.”

For many of us, this means reframing how we think about food. As Grosskopf put it, “Life is really busy. There are other things to worry about. We get wrapped up in our food choices and sticking to a certain plan. Food doesn’t have to be complicated. This approach can give you the proper nutrition that you need as well as allow you to enjoy food.”

Intuitive Eating focuses on 10 core principles that can be seen as steps to take in order to adopt this methodology into your daily routine. Grosskopf even put together a worksheet for students to follow along and take notes so they can determine how Intuitive Eating can change their perception of food and diet culture. Follow along on the worksheet and take notes as we break down these 10 core principles of Intuitive Eating.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Accept that the cycle doesn’t work and understand you’re not a failure -- diet culture wasn’t meant to work. On your worksheet, write yourself a letter or a mantra outlining why you’re breaking up with dieting such as “I deserve better”.

2. Honor Your Hunger. Focus on getting enough adequate calories and carbs to keep yourself full. Learn to identify when you’re hungry (around a 3-4 on the hunger scale on page two of your worksheet). You want to make sure you’re eating regularly and consistently.

3. Make Peace with Food. Remove the concept of ‘forbidden food’ from your mind. Write down three forbidden foods and note why you tell yourself you can’t have them. Then, reintroduce these foods into your diet to put yourself back in control. When we put restrictions on ourselves, larger cravings begin to surface. The process of introducing these foods into your diet helps break the cycle of restriction.

4. Challenge the Food Police. This is where you begin to challenge yourself and your thoughts. This means moving away from “good food” vs. “bad food”. On your worksheet, identify one or two “this vs. that” thoughts you have and flip them into something rational. Example: I can’t have pizza because it’s bad for me. Instead think, I can have pizza because it tastes delicious.

5. Feel Your Fullness. This principle invites you to use the hunger scale (below). You should always eat to a 6-7 on the hunger scale. To do so mindfully, remove distractions from your environment when you’re eating and focus on your food. People who do this feel satisfied faster and end up eating less. On your worksheet, list two to three ways you can remove distractions while you eat (i.e. moving away from your desk at work or turning off the T.V. when you eat).

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Everything you’re doing should be driven by satisfaction or pleasure. Identify what you want, eat it, savor it, and identify when you’ve had enough. Remind yourself that you don’t have to eat all of it and you don’t have to leave food on your plate because what society is telling you.

7. Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food. Recognize when you’re feeling a certain way. Comfort food is a big thing in our society. Recognize that foods like mac and cheese are delicious but an issue arises when food becomes your crutch when you feel anxious. Notice how you’re feeling and identify ways to cope with those feelings without using food. On your sheet list three ways you can cope with these emotions instead of using food (i.e. go for a walk).

8. Respect Your Body. Recognize that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. You may never be your “ideal” weight or pants size and that is okay. Accept your body type and the features that make you special. It’s important to be aware of your thoughts and flip negative thoughts into positive or respectful thoughts. On your sheet, write down three things you can celebrate about your body.

9. Exercise – Feel The Difference. Move your body in an intuitive way that’s bringing you joy or pleasure. Forget about exercising to burn calories, focus on choosing exercises that energize you. List out three exercises that physically feel good in you body.

10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition. All of this information is just a guideline. Listen to your tastebuds and how food feels within your body. List on your worksheet three foods that you eat that make you feel really good inside.

Next, Grosskopf prompted students to list their long-term and short term health and wellness goals. Under the Make It Easy section, list out ways you can reduce friction between your long-term and short-term goals.

Example: If your long-term goal is to cook more, your short-term goal is to meal prep, then maybe you “Make It Easy” by getting your food delivered to your home to make your goal more attainable.

On your worksheet, you will also see a list of seasonal produce which can help inspire you to create different recipes in the kitchen, while staying within budget.

As you get started with Intuitive Eating, it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as failure. Grosskopf shared, “The biggest struggle is an all-or-nothing mentality. Sometimes people feel like they’re a failure if they’ve fallen off a path. Intuitive Eating isn’t a linear path forward. Recognize that falling off the path is okay. Everything you learn is simply data to make better decisions about your body and health.”

If your interested in learning more about Intuitive Eating Grosskopf recommends Tribole and Resch’s book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works and workbook, The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food. You can also reach out directly to her on her website if you’d like one-on-one sessions to learn more about how Intuitive Eating can help your relationship with food!