Mindfulness and Intuitive Eating: Why You Should Practice Both
Intuitive Eating and mindfulness go together like wine and cheese. Ross and Rachel. Chocolate and peanut butter. One compliments the other! That’s why I teach both intuitive eating and mindfulness in my 1:1 Coaching Programs.
Whether you’re an Intuitive Eating expert or just starting your journey today, discover why you should practice mindfulness with Intuitive Eating. First, let’s start with a quick overview of each.
Intuitive Eating 101
In short, Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to health. It consists of 10 principles that help you listen to your body, develop body respect, and implement nutrition for the right reasons. Emphasis is placed on the cultivation of health-promoting behaviors versus weight control.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Ditch the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Feel Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise–Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
If you’re not familiar with intuitive eating, I recommend starting with this article: What is Intuitive Eating?
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. There are a variety of methods for practicing mindfulness including mediation, breathwork, and body scan. Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of living in the here and now.
The 7 Keys to Mindfulness:
- Beginner’s Mind
- Letting Go
For a deeper look into mindfulness, I recommend reading this article Mindfulness 101 for Busy Professionals.
Mindfulness and Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating is an ongoing practice, NOT a quick-fix. It’s a long-term solution to honoring your health by changing the way you relate to food, mind, and body.
With any journey, it helps to have support along the way. Mindfulness is like a helping hand along your unique intuitive eating journey.
The 7 pillars of mindfulness parallel the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. Let’s take a closer look at some of these connections.
Beginner’s Mind + Ditch the Diet Mentality
Intuitive Eating principle #1 invites us to ditch the diet mentality. If you have a history of dieting or restricting food, this principle might sound like catching a unicorn…SO FAR OUT OF REACH. I’m here to tell you that ditching the diet mentality IS possible, especially when coupled with beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind is to look at things as if you were seeing them for the first time.
Consider the example of a child’s first birthday cake. Do you know those cute videos of kids taking fistfuls of cake to their mouths and ending up with icing all over their body? It’s a pure and joyful moment.
Now, think about a recent time that you ate cake. Chances are that your experience eating cake has been tainted by diet culture. You’ve probably picked up fear-based messages like cake is bad, it’s too many calories, or maybe it hasn’t been allowed on your diet. This leads to feelings of guilt and shame during and after eating. Does this resonate with you?
If yes, apply the beginner’s mind concept. Imagine everything as if you were experiencing it for the first time. What was cake before you were taught that it was “bad” for you? It was just a cake! Beginner’s Mind allows us to drop the labels we’ve picked up from diet culture.
Non-judging + Challenge the Food Police
Intuitive Eating principle #4 invites us to challenge the food police. The food police is an inner voice that enforces “rules” around eating behaviors. It’s the same voice that tells you when you’re “good” for eating salad or “bad” for eating a brownie. It’s the voice that determines your worth based on what you did or didn’t eat.
When you catch judgment in your thoughts about food, it’s probably the food police. The food police sounds like:
- I ate after 7 pm, I’m a failure.
- Ugh- I always seem to overeat pizza. I shouldn’t eat pizza again.
- I feel so guilty for eating ice cream on a weeknight.
Notice the judgemental tone in these statements? Now, let’s see what happens when we look at them through a lens of non-judging.
- I ate after 7 pm, I’m a failure. → The time that I eat does not determine my worth. My body was hungry and I honored its needs.
- Ugh- I always overeat pizza. I should never eat pizza again. → Sometimes I eat a larger quantity of pizza, and it’s okay. This is a learning process.
- I feel so guilty for eating ice cream on a weeknight. → The night of the week does not change whether or not I can enjoy ice cream.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE? Non-judging softens the edges around the voice of the food police. As you work to challenge the food police and make peace with food, remember non-judging as your mindfulness friend.
Acceptance + Respect Your Body
Next up, Intuitive Eating principle #8 encourages body respect. It’s important to note that body respect is not the same as body love. Loving your body is not a prerequisite to respecting your body.
Instead, this Intuitive Eating principle states that to respect your body is to accept your genetic blueprint. The authors of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, go on to state:
Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.
With mindfulness, acceptance is seeing things as they are in the present. We spend so much wasted energy denying what is true. This creates extra resistance and tension, which prevents the flow of energy to make positive change.
Practicing acceptance sets the stage for body respect, no matter where you are in your intuitive eating journey.
Putting Mindfulness to Practice
I know what you’re thinking. These principles sound great, but how do I practice them? Helpful tools include journaling, meditation, and breathwork. The sample activity of filtering diet mentality through a lens of non-judging is an excellent journal prompt. Also, I’m a big fan of morning routines to start the day mindfully. If you’re looking for individualized support with blending mindfulness and intuitive eating on your path of food freedom, schedule a free discovery call with me today.
Do you have a mindfulness practice? Tell me about your journey in the comments!