Bauman College Grad Virginia Watkins on The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Virginia Watkins, Intuitive Eating Coach and Bauman College Graduate
Virginia Watkins, Intuitive Eating Coach and Bauman College Graduate

Bauman College offered a more holistic approach to health than other dietetics programs, and I was able to work a full-time job, and have a baby while doing the program.

Bauman College gave me information and tools about how diet, sleep and exercise affect us, and fueled my curiosity to learn more. More recently, I’ve focused on helping people listen to their internal cues about food versus following a strict list of foods that are “healthy.” I want my clients to worry less about food and being perfect about what they eat, so they can focus on their larger goals in life.

Currently, I run my own business as an non-diet Nutrition Educator and Intuitive Eating Coach. Helping clients regain trust in themselves and develop healthy relationships with food and their bodies is what I love most.

Intuitive Eating is a valuable tool that’s helping me and my nutrition practice thrive.

Following the principles of Intuitive Eating can feel upside down at first since the messages are the opposite of what diet culture tells us. By rejecting the external messages about what you should eat and how your body should look, Intuitive Eating helps YOU become the expert of YOUR body.

Intuitive Eating is particularly valuable for people who’ve had a history of calorie restriction, weight cycling (yo-yo dieting), or disordered eating. The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating provide a road map toward honoring your body’s physiological signals and deeper intuition about taking care of yourself.

Embracing these principles has given me an enormous amount of freedom and flexibility. By regaining trust in myself, I have let go of the stress about what I eat which, I’m convinced, has improved my overall health.

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

If you’re someone who’s been on diets or restrictive programs, including many that are masked as “healthy eating plans”, for many years, rejecting diet culture can feel like being suspended over a dark canyon of unknowing – and it can be totally liberating at the same time.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Our hunger is a biological signal that diet culture has taught us to ignore or to fight through with will power. Because of our bodies’ built-in protection plan to keep us from starving, many of us have also experienced periods of restriction followed by uncontrolled binge eating.

3. Make Peace with Food

Allow yourself to eat any food you want and any amount. Banishing and restricting foods can lead to a deep sense of deprivation and cause uncontrollable cravings. “Giving in” is really just our bodies’ way of fighting starvation and asking for what it needs.

(At this point you may be saying, “Intuitive Eating is not for me; we have to restrain ourselves or we’d overeat all the time!” I understand your reaction, but please keep reading.)

4. Challenge the Food Police

Because diet culture is everywhere, the food police can be deep in our psyches and they’re the ones saying that foods are “good” and “bad,” and that eating from the “good food list” makes you a better person, and eating forbidden foods makes you guilt-ridden and terrible. With some practice, you’ll be able to quiet these voices and focus on what is right for you instead.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

(This is where Intuitive Eating starts to come together for me!) When we honor our human desire for pleasure and eat foods that bring us genuine enjoyment – from satisfying our senses to creating memories with others to providing lasting energy – we learn the right amount of food for ourselves and when we’ve had enough. By allowing ourselves access to foods we enjoy, we rebuild trust with our bodies and help end the restriction and bingeing pendulum.

6. Feel Your Fullness

This principle may take time to re-learn since it asks us to pause and check in with ourselves with questions like, “How does the food taste, and, what’s my hunger level?” This mindful way of eating guides us to knowing when we’re comfortably full.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

It’s important to recognize that the physical and mental effects of food restriction can trigger a loss of control and lead to what some people call “emotional eating.” In these instances, again, the body is just doing its job of protecting us. When someone eats in response to an uncomfortable feeling, they may feel better in the short term, but at some point, addressing the underlying emotion is the kinder and more loving path.

8. Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint,” urge Intuitive Eating authors, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. To illustrate, they write that we wouldn’t try to cram our size 8 foot into a size 6 shoe. We’re encouraged to have similar expectations about body size. By treating our bodies with dignity, feeling good about ourselves becomes a lot easier.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

I like this one because we’re asked to feel the energy and sensations of moving our bodies instead of counting miles logged or calories burned. Through my kundalini yoga practice, I’ve learned to tune in more deeply to my body’s energy shifts, a nourishing experience that keeps me coming back to my mat.

10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Do certain foods taste good to you and give you lasting energy? Honor your body’s signals and choose those foods most of the time. Know that eating other foods won’t suddenly create a nutrient deficiency or make you unhealthy. I like the word, “gentle”, here since it applies both to our food choices and to how we treat ourselves.

Authors Evelyn Tribble and Elyse Resch explain these principles in more detail in their go-to book for making peace with food and your body called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. Be sure to look for the 2020 edition.

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