Intuitive Eating: How to Apply It to Your Life Today

by Kellie Mendes, future Registered Dietitian

Hello everyone! Before I get going on intuitive eating, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Kellie Mendes and I am a future Registered Dietitian. I have graduated with a BS degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. I plan to become a RD through many hours of clinical, community and food service work. I have had foundational experience in the field and am looking forward to much more. While working for Nikki Yelton RD, I met Jennifer. She is very inspiring and makes the best treats and cakes ever!! (Seriously a must try). Jennifer has so kindly asked me to share something that I am passionate about in this field. I loved taking the time to really think and personalize this post. So as I open, I hope you are inspired and enjoy reading my post!

If you have never heard of intuitive eating, no worries!

I had no idea there was such a thing until about a year or two ago. Intuitive eating is the practice of creating a healthy relationship with food. Commonly, it is taught by following ten principles. The ten principles, I will get into later are pretty simple and very positive. In fact, the principles are almost all common sense that so many of us often forget we have the power and capability to follow them. It is very common in today’s society to see a post, ad, or commercial about diets, weight loss, and looking your best. With those posts and advertisements there is often a diet food or low calorie bar on display. To me, this always seemed like a false hope to solve the problems of feeling and looking healthy. It was also very distant to how I felt about food. Everyone is happy to eat their favorite meal or dessert once in a while. Food shouldn’t be shameful or bad, instead it should help you express positive emotions. These fad diets that are often advertised promote artificial emotions. “I don’t really want to have that low calorie bar but if it will help me feel better like they say so, I guess I’ll give it a try”. That didn’t feel right. Food is natural, so our relationship with it should also be natural.

I only have one body, it helps me cook, garden, sing, dance and more! Everything I love to do, my body is there with me. So I wanted to take care of it to its fullest potential. I noticed I ate less of the foods that didn’t seem naturally good for me. And as I ate the right foods, I thought about the nutrients in them that nurtured my body. The control and power to feel healthy was in my own hands and it was awesome. Slowly, the artificial or negative emotions that were related to food went away. I also began to make healthier choices because as I listened to my body, I learned what worked and didn’t. Before I knew it, I was intuitively eating. I was thinking about nutrients, my hunger, where my food came from, how I would feel after I finished, and not feeling bad if I wanted a handful of chocolate chips because OH MAN that is the best treat ever!!

When I learned what intuitive eating was I was amazed and couldn’t agree more with its principles! I am not perfect at it, but it is constantly improving my relationship with food. Not to mention, I feel strong, healthy and confident! It is important to start this journey if you want to leave the diets behind and flourish. Diets most of the time don’t work and once off of it, the cycle of searching for a “better you” begins all over again. This causes an unhealthy and unrealistic relationship with food. Below are listed the 10 Principles and how you can tackle each one of them!! I hope you are inspired to eat intuitively!

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Reject Diet Mentality

  2. Honor Hunger

  3. Make Peace With Food

  4. Challenge Judgement

  5. Respect Your Limits

  6. Discover Satisfactory Factors

  7. Honor Emotion Without Food

  8. Respect Your Body

  9. Exercise

  10. Honor Nutrition For Your Health

  1. Rejecting the diet mentality is the first step in making the decision to commit to a healthier you. You are officially going to give up that quick fix, instant gratification connection with food and erase those diets from your mind. You are ready if your answer is yes to any of these questions. Are you tired of diets? Do diet always fail you? Do you want to take control of your body?

  2. Pay attention to when you are feeling hungry. Lots of times we eat when we are bored, anxious, or thirsty. It is important to keep hydrated and know when our body is craving nutrients. Try to keep a log of your meals, this can help you identify when you are you hungriest. Compare the timing of your largest meals to your snacks, maybe they were too many hours apart or every hour. Naturally we are eating to feed our body. Don’t ignore the signs of hunger, there is a science behind that stomach growl!

  3. Avoid thinking of certain foods as “bad” or “forbidden”. You should be able to eat what you want when it is best for your body. Make peace with your food, know what they are beneficial for and what they might cause you to feel. Often times when we are told we can’t have something, we want it more. Ever tell a child he can’t have candy? You’ll hear about it for hours.  

  4. One way you can make that change is by challenging all the “nay-sayers” around you. Ignore the calorie counters and the dieting rules. Those ads we watch everyday are full of actors, models and artificial emotions. Intuitive eating is about YOUR body and food, challenge the judgement that comes your way.

  5. Learn when you are full. Many families grew up forcing everyone to finish their plates. That is not the relationship we want to create with food. Eating food should come natural and so should knowing when to finish. When we feel full it is time to realize how much of what we ate. Being more mindful will help you reach your goals quicker. One tip to follow is to keep your prepared food in the cooking dish or pan. Start with a realistic portion, no need overfill the plate. Plus leftovers are the best when packing lunch the next day.

  6. Along with learning when you are full, identify what is satisfying about your meal. During your meal and after your meal, note how the food made you feel. If something didn’t work well with your body a few hours after, make a note of that. If opposite, you may tend to have more of that food going forward. You will feel great after appreciating the preparation that went into creating your plate and where the food came from. One of the things that makes me satisfied is consuming the produce I grew in my garden and knowing how much sun, water and care it took to grow. You are also more likely to enjoy your food and feel better when you are sitting down in a comfortable environment. Appreciation and satisfaction go hand in hand.

  7. Honoring your feelings without food. Avoid overeating throughout the day because you are feeling stressed, tired, bored or upset. Foods should be feeding more of our bodies and less of our emotions. A good way to turn away from food when these emotions come along is to find a busy hobby. Engage in exercise, yoga, reading, gardening, and more. Find something that can distract the negative feeling and turn it into something positive.

  8. Respecting your body is important when learning to eat intuitively. We must understand that our bodies are all different. Feeling confident and accepting your body will keep you away from unrealistic expectations that may arise from dieting or restrictions. It is also important to understand that in our body every cell, nerve, movement, and thought is powered by energy. That energy comes from the food we feed our bodies, respect and honor our bodies hard work to digest that food and create power.

  9. Exercise improves overall health physically and mentally. Exercise can boost your mood, improve your cardiovascular health and reduce cortisol levels. Strengthening your exercise habits will strengthen your overall health and confidence. You can weight lift at the gym, download a free workout app or join local exercise classes. If those don’t work for you, taking a walk everyday outside or on a treadmill is one of the easiest ways to up your exercise. To amp the motivation, put on a podcast or drive to your favorite park / beach to walk. If you are listening or looking at something that brings you joy, it makes it easier to exercise. Bring a friend along too!

  10. If the idea of longevity or quality of life is appealing to you, you are sure to honor nutrition for your health. Little by little, choose healthier and fresher foods. Avoiding artificial and processed foods will give your body a rest at digesting additives and processed sugars. All in all, eating healthier is the goal. Something you can do to make this journey fun and educational is consuming a new fruit or vegetable every week. Research what vitamins or health benefits make that food so special. Next time you eat it, the benefits will come to mind and you will realize how exactly that food is fueling your body.

Thank you so much Kellie for sharing your knowledge about intuitive eating with us! I know I am going to start practicing more of these principles on a daily basis. To learn more about Kellie is up to on her journey to be a registered dietician, follow her on instagram @inapinchofthyme