There’s a common misconception that intuitive eating is anti-nutrition (and sometimes even anti-health). Not true!
Intuitive eating is pro nutrition and pro health — for everybody and every body.
In fact, gentle nutrition is one of the 10 core principles of Intuitive Eating.
As a quick refresher, the 10 principles of intuitive eating are:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise – feel the difference
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition
See? #10 = Honor your health with gentle nutrition.
It’s not a mistake that the nutrition-focused principle of intuitive eating comes last.
Which is why before we talk about incorporating gentle nutrition, there has to be healing.
And that’s the key here in responding to this week’s awesome question… your relationship with food really needs to be healed (and that healing is so beautifully supported practicing those other principles) first unless there is something extreme medically going on that requires nutritional therapy, etc.
Check in with yourself and ask…
Is there any guilt in your relationship with food? Any lingering rules or diet related stress?
If so, that’s ok! Anytime there is any guilt, it’s a chance to heal thoughts + beliefs. Keep working on that piece of the puzzle before you move on. Once that is consistent, you can start to layer in gentle nutrition!
Once you really do feel your relationship with food has come to a place of healing, freedom, and peace, then you can start to ask yourself…
How do YOU want to approach gentle nutrition? What does eating nutritionally well mean to you?
Does it mean more fresh foods, like fruit and veggies? Does it mean you make more of an effort to incorporate a variety of foods? Does it mean more home cooking? Something else?
Really get curious with what it means to you.
I know that diet culture can make nutrition feel VERY complex and VERY overwhelming.
The truth is, eating nutritionally well or ‘gentle nutrition’ can be extremely simple.
‘Gentle nutrition’ is the bow on the package of the intuitive eating principles, tying them all together. This principle is about honoring your health AND how you feel AND your taste buds.
It’s also about letting go of the idea that we need to eat ‘perfectly’ to feel well or to invest in our overall health.
Within your budget and in a way that works for your lifestyle (two very important points), some helpful things to consider are:
- Adding in foods that feel good to your body
- Listening to how things make your body feel – tune in to its messages
- Gently honor your hunger and fullness, no counting or measuring needed
- Embrace a variety of foods that help you to feel satisfied
- Let food enhance your life rather than distract you from it
- Food is one of many ways we can take care of ourselves but not the only way
- Nutrition is one chapter in the book, not the whole story
- Be mindful of mental and emotional health as well – broadening your definition of wellness
- The choices you’re making regularly rather than occasionally
- Variety and balance of macro nutrients (fat, protein, carbs) – variety is so important for adequate nutrition!
- Exploring fruits and veggies
- Experimenting with home cooking if possible
- Balancing blood sugar
- Eating regularly
Then, check in with how you enjoy eating the things you want to incorporate!
Let’s just got with the fruit + veggies example here for a second.
If you want to eat more fruits and veggies…
Which ones do you love? What makes eating them feel more fun — is it the farmer’s market? Is it having them washed and ready at the start of the week so they are easy to grab on the go? Is it preparing them a certain way, like drizzling on a delicious salad dressing or cooking them in satiating fats?
As you’re experimenting with putting these ideas into practice, always come back to how they’re making you feel — in your body and in your life.
How do these choices make you feel physically? Do they contribute to your satisfaction? Are they realistic in your real life (budget, lifestyle, etc)?
It’s important to discover what it’s true for YOU.
In this specific reader question, she also touched on the idea of eating less gluten + dairy because she shared they don’t make her feel her best.
So, the last thing I want to address here is what to do when something doesn’t feel good to your body.
I’ve mentioned this before in blog posts, but the longer you’ve been restrictive with your eating the more likely you are to experience digestive distress. It is very normal for it to take some time for digestion to heal. More on that here in this post.
Intuitive eating often requires time and patience, while we learn how to connect to our bodies and give them the nurturing they need to heal.
With that said, if you’re noticing some serious distress from certain foods — like gluten — I’d strongly encourage you to be tested for allergies and have a Celiac disease biopsy. As someone with Celiac disease, I know how awful it is to struggle with the digestive distress that comes with that!
Explore this is you’re really noticing distress.
It’s also very important to be cognizant of the impact of diet culture messaging (i.e. if we always hear that gluten is ‘the devil’ and then we feel guilt when we eat it, it can be common to then experience distress — which is something I chat about more here).
Check in with the experiences of your body. Check in with your thoughts around the particular foods.
What is your body telling you? And how do your body’s messages feel different than reactions to diet culture messaging?
These questions are incredibly important for us to ask ourselves to avoid unnecessary elimination or restriction.
And, if you discover that you don’t have a life threatening allergy or something like Celiac disease but you do notice that you have a slight intolerance to a food (i.e. gluten) ask yourself:
What does freedom with that food looks like for you? How can you be flexible and free in this area — honoring your quality of life AND your body?
Does it look like enjoying gluten free bread at home and when it’s available at restaurants, but not stressing if it’s not an option? Does it look like something different? How do these choices impact your quality of life?
Check in with how you feel AND with how it is impacting your quality of life.
Health is not about ‘eating perfectly.’
It’s about mental, emotional, social, and physical wellbeing and stressful, isolated, and restrictive food practices can be more damaging to that than many of the foods we’ve been taught fear.
I always come back to this quote from the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works:
‘Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters – progress not perfection is what counts.’
I love the focus on:
progress > perfection
and the balance of:
health + taste buds + feeling well
And above all, be so gentle with yourself.
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