By now, you likely know that long-term habit shifts and a sustainable healthy lifestyle are all about choices and listening to your body. After embracing healthy fats, whole foods, and clean protein, you’ve already got a pretty good handle on how it feels to nourish your body well. What you might not know is that by doing so, you are also mastering the art of intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating has been around as early as the 1970s but the practice as we know it came about in the mid-90s in response to fad dieting culture. Favoring healthy lifestyle changes and a more personal approach to our relationship with food, there are 10 basic principles that guide the intuitive eater. Each principle is centered on trusting the body and its signals. After rejecting the diet mentality of calorie restriction and one-size-fits-all regimens, intuitive eaters embrace their body as it is, responding to hunger with intention and care.

A major goal of intuitive eating is to ‘make peace with food’, making room for occasional indulgences as part of a rich, contented life. Hunger becomes a healthy signal that your body needs nourishment, with cravings offering helpful insight into our emotional and physical states and how we want to respond. Research shows that intuitive eating can diffuse feelings of shame, failure, and powerlessness over food, our bodies, and our cravings, offering balance and lasting change.

Intuitive eating can also help us exercise more and motivate us to maintain healthy habits by tuning us in to how much better we feel. By relying on how we feel after eating healthy foods or doing exercise we enjoy, intuitive eating essentially uses these positive emotions as reinforcement for continuing to make healthy choices.

As intuitive eaters become more in sync with their bodies’ signals of hunger, fullness, and wellbeing, research shows they are more motivated to continue than if their sole motivation was weight loss. Studies also show that intuitive eaters are more likely to maintain their weight, have healthier body images, and are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or disordered eating. Intuitive eating allows for flexibility as one’s needs change over time. With such versatility and a re-orientation of how the body and food relate, intuitive eating can also improve quality of life and feelings of self-esteem, putting people in control of their health and wellbeing.

Like mindfulness, intuitive eating puts us in touch with ourselves, allowing us to notice how thoughts, feelings, and physical needs interact throughout the day. So, the next time you eat, sit down and enjoy your meal, savoring everything about it and pay attention to how you feel, inside and out. This un-diet could set you free to make the choices your body craves and to feel the confidence you deserve.

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