What is Intuitive Eating?
Almost all teens are affected by the appearance-oriented world we live in. So what can we do as parents to help support them break out of that cycle and learn to love their bodies? As a Teen Health and Wellness Coach, a principle I like to work with all of my young clients on is one called Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to building a healthy relationship with food. It is about trusting your inner wisdom and believing that you know exactly how to eat in a satisfying and balanced way.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
Studies show that intuitive eaters have better coping skills, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of well-being, more optimism, greater body appreciation, and unconditional self-regard, and most importantly they get more pleasure from eating!
As parents, here are some steps you can take to instill Intuitive Eating in your teen:
1. Develop Body Awareness
Encourage your teen to stop and listen to what their body is telling them. Are they really hungry or just bored? Once they have determined if they are actually hungry, focus on what their body needs. Do they want a snack or is their body craving a full lunch? Urge them to listen to their body and honor that craving.
2. Make Peace with Food
Making peace with food means they are not beating themselves up when they indulge. Help teach them to eat with the intention of getting satisfaction out of their food and truly enjoying it. If they have been thinking about treating themselves to a piece of cake or slice of pizza, have them go for it and enjoy every bite of it and then move on without any guilt.
3. Reject the Diet Mentality
Instead of focusing on the latest fad diet, worrying about a number on their scale, or the size of pants they wear, try getting your teen to focus their energy on healthy behaviors that they can engage in, regardless of their body weight. Then help them try to make these behaviors a regular part of their lifestyle.
4. Feel their Fullness
Helping your teen to learn to stop eating once they are comfortably full is a skill that takes practice but is something to strive towards. Here are a few tips to help them identify their level of fullness:
- Stay present when eating
- Eat slowly
- Eat every few hours so you don’t get into an overly hungry state
- Pay attention to why you started eating
- Eat when you are comfortably hungry and stop when you are comfortably full
5. Cope with their Emotions without Using Food
If their body needs only a certain amount of food to feel comfortably full but they still want more, it could be a sign that their life needs attention in other areas and that they are using food to fill that void. It may be hard for them to figure out what they are feeling in the moment and instead, they may just need a distraction that’s not food until they can sort out their emotions.
Here are some ideas:
- Have a couple of glasses of water
- Go for a walk
- Watch TV
- Call a friend
- Paint or draw
- Write in their journal
- Read a book
- Listen to music