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Healthy Living: What Does Intuitive Eating Actually Mean?

In 2019, the dieting and weight loss industry was valued at 192.2 billion, and market researchers suspect that this figure will skyrocket to nearly 300 million by 2027. That's an insane amount of money devoted to capitalizing your body.

As you may know, diets tend to fail. Even if people lose weight, they often struggle to maintain the loss. Likewise, cycling through periods of restriction can trigger obsessive thoughts. In some cases, it may lead to other disordered behaviors like overeating or bingeing.

Intuitive eating is a simple but radical approach rooted in listening and trusting your body to tell you what it needs. This mindset can free you from toxic diet culture and help you embrace a better relationship with your mind and body. Here's what you need to know.

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is a way of eating that honors your body's physical and emotional hunger cues. Instead of adhering to external rules, you're only listening to yourself.

At first, this concept may seem obvious. But if you're like most people, you probably subscribe to certain dieting beliefs. For example, you may naturally label foods as either "good" or "bad." Or, you might count calories or other macronutrients. You might also struggle with your emotions before and after eating.

Intuitive eating often entails a process of relearning. You'll need to recognize when your body tells you it's hungry and when it's full. You'll also need to learn how to distinguish physical hunger from emotional cravings.

How Can You Embrace Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating entails a level of commitment. You may not even realize how deeply entrenched some of your beliefs around food really are.

Diet culture can be insidious, but it's important to recognize its role in mainstream society. Some examples of diet culture include:

  • exercising as a way to compensate for eating

  • avoiding entire food groups because they're "bad" or "unhealthy"

  • shaming or guilting yourself after eating

  • trying to suppress your appetite with water, caffeine, nicotine, or other substances

  • basing your worth on your external appearance

  • weighing yourself consistently

  • fat-shaming yourself or others

  • adhering to 'food rules' when eating

  • having "good eating" days along with "cheat" days

As an intuitive eater, you will want to reject these notions. Instead, you will want to embrace that your body knows exactly what it needs to stay healthy and functioning.

With this approach, no food is off-limits. There are no specific rules for when, how, and what you should eat. Instead, it goes back to your roots of being a child. When you were very young, you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full. Moreover, you likely ate a variety of nourishing foods without paying attention to their ingredients or nutrients.

Is Intuitive Eating Healthy?

Yes, when you truly embrace this mindset, intuitive eating can be much healthier than how you're currently eating or treating yourself. That's because you aren't trying to fix, control, or master anything. You're simply eating to eat and moving to move.

In many ways, this makes life much easier- both physically and emotionally. You can listen to what your body tells you it needs, respond accordingly, and move on.

People often find that this approach reduces (or eliminates) unhealthy behaviors like restricting, overeating, or bingeing. It can also significantly minimize negative self-talk, as the principles of intuitive eating are adamantly opposed to shaming, guilting, or trying to "control" how you feel about your food decisions.

Why Is Intuitive Eating Important?

If you struggle with an eating disorder, poor body image, or obsessive thoughts, this approach may pave the path for emotional freedom. It might be the philosophy you need to supercharge your recovery.

Additionally, intuitive eating can improve your mental health. When you aren't so focused on food, you can focus all that precious energy elsewhere- like on your relationships and hobbies.

Intuitive eating is also important because it is empowering. Imagine a world where you can eat ice cream without feeling guilty or feeling the need to restrict later that day. Imagine a world where you can go on a long, invigorating hike simply because it makes your body feel strong (and not because you're trying to "burn off" anything).

Intuitive eating offers that kind of balanced, flexible living. It's a way to escape from the trap of nonstop dieting traps and weight obsession. It's also a way to truly be in touch with the one who's in charge- you!

Final Thoughts

Intuitive eating is a rebellious- but freeing- approach towards trusting yourself and honoring your body's needs. At The Mental Health House, we are here to support you in building a positive relationship with yourself. We know that you inherently have everything you need to live an authentic, meaningful life.

If you're struggling, we can help. Contact us today to learn more!

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