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8 Tips for Intuitive Eating

Interested in giving intuitive eating a try? Here are eight things to keep in mind.

A woman drinks a green smoothie while she smiles out the window.

The principles (and caveats) below provide a basic road map for increasing your food awareness and satisfaction. Intuitive eaters eat when hungry and to satisfy their cravings — but they stay ever mindful of their physiology, experience and state of mind.

  • Learn to recognize mild sensations of hunger that emerge even while you are busy doing something else, and feed them before you become ravenous or become tempted to make unhealthy eating choices.
  • Give yourself permission to eat whenever you feel hungry, and let go of internal feelings of guilt or rigid rules that say you can’t eat more than a certain number of calories a day or enjoy a slice of cake.
  • Derive pleasure and satisfaction from the eating experience moment by moment, without distraction, and savor your food. Notice when and how your hunger abates. While you are eating, do not watch television, work at the computer or think about your plans for the rest of the day. Instead, look at your food, observing color, shape, taste, smell, texture, and quality. Observe your own sensations and reactions.
  • After a meal is done, take some time to focus on your inner feelings — sluggish or energized, anxious or calm? Decide whether the meal and its contents are worth eating again.
  • Don’t eat to alleviate anxiety, boredom or depression. If you find yourself overeating to treat a mood or emotion instead of to satisfy physiological hunger, search for the emotional root of the problem and then soothe or stimulate yourself through yoga, a long walk, or a talk with a friend.
  • Exercise and move for enjoyment — not expressly for weight loss or calorie burning.
  • Notice how you feel when you choose healthy, high-quality food. Take stock of your physical, mental, and emotional responses.
  • Keep caveats in mind. Many integrative health experts point out that the foods we most crave are sometimes those to which we are allergic or intolerant. If you suffer from this sort of food “addiction,” be aware that feeding it may make your cravings worse.

This originally appeared in “Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss” in the November 2010 issue of Experience Life magazine.

is the psychology and health editor at Aeon and author of Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic.

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