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5 TIPS TO HELP YOU EAT INTUITIVELY

We are living in the anti-diet era, and I for one am thrilled. Diets have notoriously been associated with unhealthy weight loss, yo-yo dieting, intense weight fluctuations, and even eating disorders.  

Now, we find ourselves being told to just “eat intuitively” and “listen our hunger cues.” But the issue is that for most people, these words have little meaning and are therefore of little help. If you don’t actually know what a “hunger cue” is, how are you supposed to listen to it?

My job as a dietitian is to take those seemingly intangible ideas and give you the tools to grasp them. This way, you can make them part of your life and eating habits. So below, I am giving you my 5 tips to begin your intuitive eating journey.

1. Sit down when you’re eating.

Becoming more mindful of how we eat is a big part of eating intuitively, and you would be surprised how much we mindlessly consume standing up. Whether it is having a few slices of turkey as you make your child’s sandwich or quickly inhaling a breakfast bar on the way to work, eating standing up is an issue for many. Unfortunately, the calories we consume standing up count just as much as the ones we consume sitting. The sad part is, we definitely don’t enjoy them as much. So the next time you go to put something in your mouth, try sitting down.  

2. Eat half of what’s on your plate, then consider having more.

How many times during our meal do we stop and assess how we are feeling? In theory, there should be a marked difference between how hungry we are at our first bite versus halfway through the meal. By taking note of these feelings, we can begin to identify the differences between our varying hunger levels. This is the first step to learning how to listen to those “hunger cues” we never really felt before.

3. Leave the last bite.

If you are a member of the “clean plate club” you are not alone. Growing up you may have been told to “finish what’s on your plate” whether you were hungry or not. But as we know, eating past the point of fullness likely means we are taking in more than we need. (read: weight gain) Furthermore, eating for the sake of finishing our plate blurs the lines between real hunger and mere appetite. (read: misunderstanding “hunger cues”) Getting comfortable with leaving a bite uneaten will train your mind to eat because you are hungry, not because food is in front of you.

4. Listen to your food cravings

A big part of traditional “dieting” is demonizing certain foods. However, once we do that, we suddenly desire those foods more. By allowing ourselves to listen to our cravings, we naturally temper them. This is because our relationship with food is less repressed. When we go to indulge we treat it like any other dining experience: we listen to our hunger cues (if we want dessert, we leave room for it); we eat sitting down (if we are indulging, we want to enjoy it); and maybe we even leave that last bite (because we know there is always next time). Getting rid of the rules around what we can and cannot eat automatically lends itself to a more relaxed and intuitive outlook towards food.

5. Keep a food journal

Keeping a food journal can help us pick up on habits that are contrary to intuitive eating. For example, you may read your food journal and find that after dinner you tend to snack on your couch till you go to bed. If so, ask yourself how much of that snacking is intuitive versus habit. If you are sufficiently full from dinner and only eat after out of habit, try having a cup of herbal tea instead. Disrupting those mindless eating tendencies with healthier practices can seem daunting, but it can make all the difference.