Intuitive Eating 101

I know I talk a lot about my struggles with living in the moment and with intuitive eating (also known as mindful eating), which kind of go hand and hand, but I realized I may need to introduce or reintroduce the intuitive eating concept.  So here’s a little snapshot of what I’ve learned about along the way.

Intuitive Eating 101 - yoursassyself.com

Intuitive eating is a new way to look at our relationship with food, not a fad diet.  It’s foundation lies in the fact that if you listen to your hunger and fullness levels, you will again return food to exactly what it’s meant to provide – fuel for our bodies vs comfort for all the uncomfortable things we have to deal with on the day to day – thus removing the need to ever diet again.  Although intuitive eating is really about being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, that does not mean that you can eat an entire supersized fast food meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and maintain a healthy weight.  It just frees you from the mentality that food is the enemy and makes you look inside yourself to address what you are trying to quiet within yourself through food.

Eating fried foods - yoursassyself.com

It’s a definite mind shift and one that I have yet to fully conquer, which is why I’ve decided to revisit what I’ve learned about intuitive eating and share what I’ve chosen to get me back on the intuitive eating track.

Any time you want to eat – ask yourself – Why are you eating?

  • Is it because you’re truly experiencing hunger pains, or is it merely because it’s lunch time;
  • you’re at a party/meeting with food everywhere;
  • or your trying to soothe yourself because you’re tired, bored, etc.

Diced veggies, tuna and two eggs - yoursassyself.com

If you’re coming from the dieting mindset, you’re used to having a menu that tells you what to eat and when to eat it.  Eating because you’re hungry is generally not something you have to think about when you’re dieting because let’s face it, we’re always hungry and thinking about food.  So having to make the hunger and fullness determination can seem a bit confusing at first.   I know it was for me, which is where Pipps Tips Hunger Scale helped tremendously.  It gave me something to check in with as I decided whether I was truly hungry and then once I decided I was, it gave me something to keep me from feeling stuffed after a meal.

Pipps Tips Hunger Scale - yoursassyself.com

Are you being mindful of what you’re eating?

If you’ve ever eaten in a car or in front of a computer or TV screen, then you’ve experienced what I and over eaters everywhere experience, unconscious eating.  That’s when you scarf down your food without ever looking at it or savoring it and end up feeling gypped when you realize it’s gone.  I am the queen of multitasking while doing everything in my life, so focusing only on eating is a challenge for me.  That’s why taking time out of your day, couch, car, desk, etc., to eat at a table, without distractions, is considered the best option in helping you remain mindful of what you’re eating.

Kids eating at dinner table - yoursassyself.com

Are you eating everything off a plate?

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Studies have shown that when we’re able to see how much we’ve eaten off our plate, it helps our mind in deciding just how full or hungry we are, which is why we should never eat anything out of a box or bag.  I know anytime I eat out of a bag I over eat without fail.

Plate with bread, eggs and tuna - yoursassyself.com

So I am in the process of making sure I always place all my food in pre-measured, portion control bags/containers, or on a plate, following the 50-80 Rule from mindfuleating.org (which I had completely forgotten about).

Here are the deets of the 50-80 Rule:

  • When you serve yourself, make sure you only cover 50% of your plate (bowl, cup, etc.), leaving 50% of your plate exposed.  Don’t worry, you can go back for as many helpings of food as you like. This is done to help make the visual connection your mind needs to determine your hunger/fullness levels, while encouraging you to eat your food slowly, mindfully, savoring every last bite.
  • If you find that you’re still hungry and need to go back for seconds, you’re welcome to. However this time you will only cover 20% of your plate with food, leaving 80% of your plate exposed. Again, eat slowly and mindfully, savoring every bite.
  • Still hungry?  Guess what?  You can go back for thirds, fourths, etc.  All you have to do is follow the “80” Rule for these servings and eat them slowly and attentively, making sure you stop when you feel comfortably full. (If you’re using Pipps Tips Hunger Scale, decide what number or feeling you want to be at when you’re done with your meal, before you begin to eat it.  Keeping that number/feeling in mind as you eat will hopefully keep you from feeling stuffed at the end of the meal and may help you get used to eating to that fullness level every time you eat.) This should help wonders with my need to eat everything off my plate since I grew up being told I should to keep from being wasteful.
  • Saving room for dessert? No worries, just switch to a smaller plate (like a dessert plate) and follow the “80” Rule here too.

Are you eating the best part of your meal first?

I don’t know about you but I’m definitely one who always feels the need to delay gratitification, in a lot of things in my life. If you’ve ever bought shoes, jewelry, clothes, candles, etc and decided to save them for a special occasion rather than using them the next day, you know exactly what I mean.  It’s definitely something we need to stop doing, even when dealing with food. Who knew?  It seems that when you eat the best part of your meal first, it helps keep you from overeating. So if the steak or baked potato is what you really want to eat off your plate, eat that first and see if you still want the other items on your plate.

Eating Rice Krispie Treat - yoursassyself.com

Once you decide which food you want to eat, chew it slowly and allow your senses to really taste and enjoy every part of your meal. Until I started this exercise, I never knew how much I really enjoyed the texture of food.  So much so that sometimes wanting the texture made me eat beyond my fullness level – crazy! I’ve also found that really savoring food has made me realize that some of the foods I crave often don’t taste as good as I remember.  I’m not saying that you’ll no longer enjoy all the foods you crave, but you may find that you can let some of them go in lieu of other tasty foods.

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Are you done with your meal?

Since according to mindfuleating.org it takes about 20 minutes for our food to begin to work its way into our system, I’ve made it my goal to have every meal last at least 25 minutes vs. the 10-15 minutes they last now (unconscious eating and waiting until I’m starving have played a big role in those numbers).  Then once I’ve reached the fullness level I set for myself at the beginning of the meal, I stop eating.  I get up, take my plate to the sink and put away any leftovers. I now need to make this same adjustment when I’m at a party or gathering because studies show that when we have food in front of us, we tend to eat it regardless if we’re really hungry or not. Who hasn’t experienced that? And with the Holidays around the corner and the kitchen being the corner stone of all gatherings, it’s definitely something I need to work on.

Food on table - yoursassyself.com

The beauty of a mind shift toward intuitive eating is that it’s ok to take it one meal at a time, which I totally do.

What mindful, intuitive eating habits help you maintain a healthy weight?

Rocio Chavez
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Rocio Chavez

Digital Content Creator & Multimedia Designer at Your Sassy Self
I'm a Mexican-American, Sassy, Bilingual, Professional Woman with a passion for life long learning, sharing, and living my best life. I'm the founder and digital content creator for Your Sassy Self and work full time as a Multimedia Designer. Let's connect and see how we can change the world...or at least change our perspective of it. ;)
Rocio Chavez
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62 thoughts on “Intuitive Eating 101

  1. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but this is SO helpful. I gave up dieting about 5 weeks ago, and I had no intention of eating this way. I just wanted to eat whatever and be fat. Since most of my life I’ve dieted and been fat, so what’s the point? But then pretty quickly I found that I just didn’t have the urge to eat like I usually did. Stopping was easy. And I did a lot more research into Intuitive Eating and now practice it most of the time. But I did have a couple of weeks where I ate a lot, especially chocolate croissants. (I don’t care for them at all now!) I found that one of the most helpful things to me was to identify what ‘not hungry’ felt like. That normal, not full, not low on energy feeling. When I eat now, it’s in order to get back to that ‘not hungry’ place. And it’s amazing to me, how smart the body is. I’ve had a cold these past couple of days, and I’ve been hungry a LOT – I just found out that your body uses up a lot of energy fighting the cold, so it’s normal! Clever body!

    1. Ariana, thanks for stopping by and sharing your success with intuitive eating! I’m so happy you’ve been able to say goodbye to those pesky diets and are now starting to identify what hungry feels like and what satisfied vs. full looks like. Good for you! My journey has it’s fluctuations, but I know dieting won’t do anything for me. Being in tune with my emotions and hunger/fullness levels will! Here’s to our continued success!!!

  2. I could literally live on junk food. I always tell people I’m allergic to healthy food.

  3. This is a great system. I think it is much more beneficial to learn about making a shift in the way we look at food instead of constantly trying to deprive ourselves of this, that, or the other thing!

    1. Agreed Heidi – that’s part of the reason diets never work, we deprive, without dealing with the reasons why we’re reaching for it in the first place. Glad you dropped by.

  4. This is an interesting way of changing your relationship with food and especially thinking about why you are eating. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Lol Tara, I think I would be at my ideal weight in no time if I had to eat in front of a mirror. Since I’m gonna try not to watch TV while I’m eating, I may just angle my seat so I can see myself in the mirror I have in my dining room 😉

  5. Great post! My tip for eating mindfully is to focus on eating and nothing else! I was recently in Italy and meals last almost 2 hours because they place such an emphasis on enjoying the moment. When I let myself watch TV or work at my computer while eating, it takes away from the experience of enjoying my food and often leads to over consumption. Thanks for sharing!
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  6. Great post. The WHY am I eating is a big one for me. I’m definitely going to try the 50 percent trick when serving myself. Thank you for the tips.

    1. Totally Marissa – that why is tricky though when you don’t want to take the time to really acknowledge it, but it makes all the difference from eating because you’re hungry vs. eating because you want to quite some other emotion.

  7. I love the print out! Yes mindful eating not mindless eating! Those cravings for sweets need not be empty calorie sweets. I love nothing more than a plate of nuts, whole grain bread, some cheese, grapes, cherry tomatoes, a little avocado, a few olives, and a glass of red wine – as my treat. The best foods are WHOLE foods.
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    1. Agree Joely and the best way to ensure that is to only keep whole foods at home, which is generally where things get out of control for me, just gets harder to do when I have guests over for the holidays, but definitely working on that!

    1. Right Michelle, helps put it into perspective when we’ve lost all idea of what our body hunger feels like vs our emotional hunger. Glad you stopped by 😀

  8. I learned about mindful eating in one of my Nutrition classes and I loved the way it talked about the way we approach and interact with food. It totally changed my relationship with food and caused me to talk to myself about what I was eating and why. Great informational post.
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  9. I am a horrible eater. I never eat breakfast, never. I never eat lunch (so rarely unless invited) and I am so picky I only eat half a dinner. I need to switch to a pre-measured, portion control bags for meals!!

  10. I think this is an awesome concept and it makes sense. I try to do the same when I eat, I balance the things I eat throughout the day and make sure that if I eat something fatty, it will just be for one meal. It works fine and I love that I’m not overweight and I still manage to eat what I love. Very effective!

  11. I started doing this my last semester of college. Unfortunately, I was a tad bit late and ended up gaining lots of weight during college and losing a lot of self-confidence. I have gave up all diets and have stuck to intuitive eating. I have seen a MAJOR change in my weight, my happiness, and my overall life. Yeah, people criticize because I essentially eat whatever I want. But I tell them that’s it’s all with moderation. Great post! Super informative! Thank you!
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  12. I was raised by a vegetarian and even though my mom fed us meat, we army’s extremely healthy and thankfully those habits stuck! I do love me some junk every now and again though! Especially now and all the Halloween candy lol… Yum

    1. Yes, it’s a meal at a time for me for sure, but when I force myself a lot of the time I find I’m just tired and try to take a 30 minute nap and then see if I’m still hungry or not – ugh, never ending. 😀

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