The final step in intuitive eating and the 10th principle in the Intuitive Eating book by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole is gentle nutrition. This is the focus after you have gone through the previous steps of eating without judgment or restrictions, honoring your hunger, listening to your body, and learning your hunger and fullness cues.
How to Handle Gentle Nutrition without Restricting
Once you get to this step, it can feel like the hardest one of all, from a combination of fear overusing it to restrict your food, to know what to eat. Here are some tips for adding gentle nutrition into your life without limiting your food.
Make Your Peace with Food
For gentle nutrition, you are starting to make peace with food and keep it neutral. This means you are neutralizing all the food you eat, and no longer looking at it as bad, something to feel guilty about, or a craving you are avoiding. No food or ingredient is bad for you. If it is tasty and what you currently feel like eating, you can enjoy every bite without any shame or regret.
Gentle Nutrition is Different for Everyone
Keep in mind that gentle nutrition looks different for everyone, so try not to compare yourself to other people and what they are eating. Just because someone else is eating a salad for lunch, and you are eating a sandwich, means absolutely nothing. It is just-food. Your friend wanted a salad today, and maybe they will eat a big juicy steak or piece of pizza for dinner. It is all food, and it is up to you to decide what you want to eat, and what sounds good to you.
Have a Loose Structure Around Eating
Eating no longer has to be a certain amount, a type of food during certain times of the day, or follow any structure. While there are some exceptions, like having a scheduled lunch hour at work, the rest of the time, you don’t need to follow these arbitrary rules. Want cereal for dinner? Go for it! Does your Chinese chicken salad sound appetizing in the morning? Enjoy it! Try to take all those food rules out of the equation and focus on your body and what you believe is going to make you feel satisfied.
Focus on Balance and What Makes You Feel Good
Life is all about having a healthy balance, and the same goes for food when you want to focus on your nutrition. You will start learning what your body reacts to, from ingredients to eating at certain times of the day. Without rules, you are able to focus on how you feel. Maybe you prefer eating your sweets at night because sugar in the morning causes a crash of energy after a couple of hours. Or you might be someone who needs carbs for breakfast because you like your late morning workouts.
Work with your schedule, your tastes, and your body to figure out what nutrient balance is going to work best for YOU.