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Intuitive eating: How to tune in to bodily cues for hunger

woman standing on balcony eating a salad
Intuitive eating: How to tune in to bodily cues for hunger

Take a moment to reflect on the last time you ate something. How did you feel about eating it? Were you hungry before eating? How full were you afterward? Was the food satisfying? These questions may seem difficult to answer, and that may be because you, like many folks out there, have learned to rely on plans, protocols, and diets to guide your eating decisions rather than on intuition.

Intuitive eating promotes an experience where you embrace and become attuned with bodily cues for hunger and nourishment and learn to eat for pleasure without guilt or shame. Unfortunately, many diet plans and strict weight loss routines don't rely on intuitions or feelings of hunger and satisfaction, but often are rigid, scheduled, and consist of "eat this, not that" advice. Nutrition is much more diverse than that!

Tips for getting started

Here are some ways you can start rejecting external influences on when, what, how much and why you eat, and draw your attention inward on what your body wants:

  • Set yourself a gentle routine for eating meals and snacks. Generally, eating every 3-5 hours will provide you with consistent fuel in the tank, especially if you're too distracted to notice when you're hungry.
  • Pay attention to your body. Let your hunger and fullness cues guide you on when and how much to eat. This will take practice; you'll likely stumble as you learn to trust your body again, but don't give up!
  • Notice what thoughts and emotions come up as you eat. Do you feel anxiety, guilt or shame when you eat certain foods, and less of those emotions when you eat other foods? This is because culture has taught people it's okay to eat as much as they want of some foods while avoiding or restricting others. If this is true for you, seek the help of a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating to help you make peace with food.
  • Recognize which foods are satisfying to you and which are not. Striving for satisfaction with eating will help you be able to stop eating when satisfied and move on with your life, rather than be preoccupied with food thoughts. If you regularly eat foods that are unsatisfying, consider venturing out to different options. Again, you may need to make peace with foods that are satisfying but "off limits."
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