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Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition

Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition

“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, 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.” -Evelyn Tribole, “Intuitive Eating” 

The final principle of Intuitive Eating is “honor your health- gentle nutrition.” 

As we have been breaking down the ideas behind intuitive eating principles, my hope is that it feels much different from rigid, diet-mentality driven eating approaches you may have had previous experiences with.  

Eating is meant to be enjoyed, not just to sustain life! This principle involves how your eating can be both enjoyable and sustaining.  

It’s last for a reason: 

The principle of gentle nutrition is, interestingly enough, not the first principle of Intuitive Eating, but the very last. That may seem quite un-intuitive at first, but as you review the principles of Intuitive Eating below, do you notice anything? 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality 

2. Honor Your Hunger

3. Make Peace with Food

4. Challenge the Food Police

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

6. Fell Your Fullness

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

8. Respect Your Body

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Honoring your health through learning how to gently nourish yourself is last because you can’t effectively do that without having a secure foundation built through the first nine steps. This step requires some awareness of how this crazy world we live in has impacted your relationship with food and your body. It requires having put some work into healing those relationships. It’s not just physical work- but mental and emotional as well. Skipping any of those steps shortchanges the necessary process to be successful with intuitive eating!  


It’s all about balance:

When you look at this principle, you can quickly see that it’s all about balance. The idea that you suddenly “pollute” your bodies when you don’t follow certain guidelines is really strict and rigid- and when you are working towards a balanced, flexible, non-obsessive relationship with food, there is no room for rigid, black and white thinking.  

With that flexibility and balance in mind, start to examine your feelings and observations around eating.  It might help to examine:

  • What foods do I enjoy my experience eating?  
  • Do those foods leave me feeling well nourished? 
  • Do I want to keep feeling the way those foods result in feeling, or make some adjustments/try new things? 
  • Am I eating a balanced, flexible assortment of foods?  
  • Is there room to be curious about new foods? 

When we have really mastered this principle, we will be prioritizing how we experience eating in our own bodies above whatever the popular diet gurus or social media influencers are telling us our eating needs to look like. This step moves you away from that crazy-making, never ending chatter and towards honoring your own intuition that can bring healing and peace. 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference


When you think about exercise, what immediate reactions do you have to the concept? Does it bring to mind peaceful jogs through a park, or punitive drill sergeant style fitness coaches at the gym? Do you remember the joy of a zumba class with friends, or the distressed feeling that you are always working against the clock to get all of your steps for the day in? 

As we begin to examine your relationship to movement, I’d like to invite you to slow down and consider the honest answer to some of these questions: 

Do I feel my worth rise and fall depending on how much or how little I exercise? 

Do I feel the need to “earn” my nutrition through exercise? 

Do I find myself obsessionally thinking about my step count or workout stats? 

As you think about your relationship with movement, you likely see some themes begin to emerge. They may be marked by obsession, punishment, or ignoring your body’s signals; or they may be balanced, nurturing, and restorative practices. You may even notice times in your life where you have fallen more into one category than the other, depending on choice and circumstance. 

Intuitive eating principle number nine is “Movement- feel the difference”. Evelyn Tribole shares with us: 

“Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.”

As you reframe your relationship with your body through intuitive eating principles, we look at not only what nutritional care you are providing your body, but also what activities and movements you use your body to perform.  

While striving to ensure that your exercise falls within intuitive bounds, here are a few things to consider: 

Focus on how movement feels in your body. Do you enjoy it? What would make the experience more enjoyable?  

Don’t move with the primary goal of weight loss. Move to enjoy moving. Mindfully observe your exercise. 

Explore movement as self-care. Few things feel as good as a yoga class at the end of a stressful day, or a boxing class after a frustrating day. How can you incorporate movement into your routines of self care? 

Adequately nourish your body before, during, and after movement. Eat and drink in ways that are restorative to yourself.  

Enjoying movement is a wonderful way to connect more deeply with your body and grow an appreciation for what she does for you.  


Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint. 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.” -Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating 

Accepting genetic blueprints? Having realistic and kind expectations? YES- these are possible and attainable mindset goals when we shift toward the idea of BODY RESPECT.  

I had an experience this morning with my middle school daughters. Imagine them, 13 and 15, half asleep while I do my best to instill some religion into them before sending them off to the junior high school trenches. We were reading the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible- “and God saw that it was good” is a phrase used over and over again as God looked over His creations. I pointed this out to my half asleep teenaged girls- and asked them, “So if God calls the things that He makes ‘good’, what does this suggest about the way we should view God’s creations? Including… ourselves?” I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond the typical half asleep nods I usually get- but suddenly, my 13 year old perked up, having made a personal connection to what we had been reading. 

“MOM!” she began, “like all my friends need to hear this. THEY ALL talk about how they think their bodies are so gross and they compare bodies all the time. Like can’t we all just look around and say, ‘IT WAS GOOD’!”  

I was kind of surprised at her passion. This really struck a nerve with her- all creations, all bodies- are good. All are worthy of care, respect, and dignity.  

How comfortable are you with acknowledging body diversity-  and calling it good

I believe that all bodies are good bodies. None of our bodies look the same- just like the earth, there is beautiful diversity. I can admire a sweeping mountain vista and not shame it for not being a serene tropical beach. They are both “good”.  

How to practice body respect 

This may be a radical thought to some- but shaming your body isn’t getting you very far. It’s not making you fit differently into your clothes, be more productive, or feel any happier. In fact, body shaming is probably doing the exact opposite: making you feel exhaustingly sluggish and miserable as you go about your everyday tasks.    

In therapy, I like to illustrate this principle by having clients imagine a sweet little baby girl, just learning to walk. Now, as that tiny child embarks on learning this novel skill of walking, imagine standing beside her. What words naturally come to mind when you think of speaking to her?  

“You dumb baby, you still can’t walk? Gosh, all the other babies are figuring this out so much faster than you. Some are even RUNNING, and you can’t figure out a few steps? What is wrong with you? Oh, there you go again. Falling over on yourself. Tripping over your own feet. You are never going to get this right. There is something seriously wrong with you.”  

Did that just make you feel a little sick to your stomach to read? Could you ever picture yourself saying that to a sweet little baby?  

If you were to speak to a baby like that, how far do you imagine she gets in life, how many new things is she willing to try (and sometimes fail at!)? When you stand next to her, constantly critical and harsh, does it set her up for success or failure? This illustration works so well because most of us could never imagine being that awful to a small, innocent child- yet we have no problem being that awful to ourselves. Part of learning to respect your body is taking the time to relearn ways of approaching and speaking to yourself. This isn’t about “letting yourself off the hook”- it’s about learning a new way to interact with yourself, a respectful one. Just like that baby, you will be far more set up for success in life when you shed the constant critical voice inside of you pointing out and emphasizing every misstep.   

Love VS Respect 

You don’t have to LOVE your body. But can you imagine getting to a place where you aren’t beating yourself up constantly? When you put the goal at “LOVE your body!” you are setting yourself up for failure with an unrealistic expectation. Can you set the dial to a more realistic setting of ‘RESPECT your body’?  

Let’s think about that word- respect- and why it may be the right foundation for a healthy relationship with your body. Dictionary.com tells us the definition of respect is: 

“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”

A sense of worth, a sense of excellence, a quality or ability- when applied to your body, do you see how this translates to a heck of a lot more than size or appearance? It encompasses being able to comfort a friend with a hug, wrap your arms around your grandmother in greeting and shared affection, appreciating your body for getting you through another long shift at work, and acknowledging her ability to renew and heal after a sickness. There is so much more to the idea of respecting your body than just loving the size or appearance of it!  

As you continue on in the work of healing your relationship with your body, I want you to envision what a respectful relationship with her would look like. Examine your expectations of yourself with fresh eyes.  And more than anything, give yourself permission to start seeing yourself as “good”.  Because you are- you are SO good.


Learn to Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Learn to Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

As we continue to break down and explore the principles of Intuitive Eating, we look next at principle seven: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness.  

Food comforts. There is likely some food that you feel a certain nostalgia for at different times of the year- during the holiday season, I love the peppermint and cinnamon and fudgy dishes that come with comforting memories of time spent with loved ones and experiencing the magic this season brings. Beyond nostalgia, food also brings comfort when you are in distress. Much like a cozy blanket and warm slippers, food can give you a sense of indulgence and self care that can be particularly meaningful when you are having a hard time. 

Emotional eating” has become a shame-filled catch phrase in the diet industry which would have you believe that eating should- I suppose- be an activity completely outside the realm of your emotions. That doesn’t seem very feasible, does it? When done mindfully, eating is integrated into your awareness- an awareness that includes your emotions!

Mindful eating is the exact opposite of what we might view as “mind-numb” eating- a space where you eat mindlessly, maybe while trying to avoid or numb out your emotions. This can be a powerful way to look at your eating- while not moralistically assigning values to food you may or may not eat during a state of high emotion, can you stay mindful in your experiences of eating? 

Have you had a hard day and oreos seem like an amazing source of self-care? I get it. Oreos are the best. Take a moment to check in with yourself- what is the emotion I am currently experiencing? (See emotion wheel below, it can help really cue into what it might be that you are feeling.) Ask yourself- is this an emotion that I would like to experience with oreos? Is the answer no? Keep investigating with curiosity what is called for in that moment. Is the answer yes? Then I want you to slow down, sit back, and savor those oreos, squeezing out every ounce of comfort to be had. Notice how they taste, smell, and feel to consume. Notice how attending to your own needs- physical and emotional- feels. This is not a wild, emotion numbing event- this is mindful and honoring of ourselves. Take a moment to thank yourself with loving kindness for always being there- through the good and the bad- working with your body to identify and provide for yourself the best experiences through life possible.  

This is coping with your emotions with kindness. It’s not saying eating while experiencing an emotion is BAD like so many diet platforms would tell you. (Does it even make sense to imagine a world where we only eat when we are UNemotional? A world where we really never experience ice cream when coping with a break up, or eat cake when our friends get married, or go out to a fancy dinner to celebrate a promotion? As a foodie who loves experiencing and gifting the experience of food to others, this diet culture imposed view of food as separate from emotional experiences is foreign and uncomfortable to me! 

Food is used to sustain life, yes- but also to comfort and celebrate and mourn. Food isn’t for fixing our emotions, but it can be part of an emotional experience!

Intuitive Eating Basics: Feel Your Fullness

Intuitive Eating Basics: Feel Your Fullness

As we continue our exploration of the basic principles of Intuitive Eating, we are going to focus next on the concept of learning to “Feel Your Fullness”. 

In “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they instruct:

Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.” 

Take a second and evaluate – how comfortable are you with leaving food on your plate?  

Chances are, if you have a history of dieting, you are likely cleaning that plate without even thinking about it. There is an interesting correlation between diet mentality and the “clean plate club”. When you have been following a restrictive diet and it comes time to eat your “allowed” food, people typically consume everything permitted. Even if it’s a garbage-tasting weird-as-all-get-out diet substitute for a beloved treat – if it’s “allowed”, it gets eaten. A mentality of “eat while you can!” develops.  

This type of relationship with food is out of touch with your body’s natural inner hunger and fullness cues. When you engage in this type of extremely common and culturally promoted behavior, you are training yourself to deny your desire to eat and also to ignore your sense of satiety.   

Ignoring your fullness cue can also show up in another way-  by primarily focusing on external cues for information about how much you should eat. This may look like needing to eat the entire bag of chips or the entire burrito rather than letting your internal cues guide your eating. You may be numb to your body and your relationship with food has suffered because of it, and so you eat mindlessly until the package or serving is completed, and decide you are “done” – without ever checking in on what your body is trying to tell you. 

By learning how to fully feel and respect your fullness, you are allowing your body to guide your intake of food. 

How do you recognize your fullness or satiety cues? While this is something that can be very individual, you can learn to recognize the unique way your body is giving you information about how much to eat. It can be helpful to think back to your hunger cues. Do you primarily feel hunger as a stomach sensation? Do you notice feeling irritable, distractible, or thinking more about food when you are hungry? Often your fullness cues will mirror your hunger cues. You can feel a lack of the stomach sensation of hunger, or less irritable and distractible, or less interested in thinking about food when you are full.  

In order to really understand this individual cue, take some time to practice mindful eating. Rate your hunger cue at the beginning, middle, and end of a meal. How does it change as you eat? Slow down and focus on the experience of the taste, texture, temperature, and smell of your food.  

This approach to eating is like taking your body off of autopilot – either from dieting or feeling like you “have” to eat your serving size – and putting you fully in the driver’s seat. You take over the operation and navigation of your relationship with food and use your hunger and fullness as a guide to what happens. By empowering yourself in this way, you are getting one step closer to intuitive eating!