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Whenever I introduce myself as a health and nutrition coach, I always find it amusing when most people ask me (with a slightly scared expression) "Are you vegan?"

What I believe they’re really asking is whether they need to go plant-based in order to be healthy.

When I reply with a calm and friendly “No”, I hear people sigh with relief, and I anticipate the follow-up question that often trails behind… “So, what do you eat?”

Most people hope at this point I’ll share the one magical element that solves everything overnight. I used to explain that I didn’t believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ specific diet, but after seeing people switch off when I said that, I got a bit more specific.

My answer became “I practice intuitive eating.” I have found that this response helps me to better engage people with their health. However, it’s a practice that many have never heard of.

Intuitive eating, as you might guess, means I follow my intuition when choosing what to eat. I eat what my body tells me to. It’s actually quite simple.

The experiences and beliefs that have brought me to this intuitive practice have come to me through my own healing journey and through the concepts I learned at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

The real reason I go for the healthy choice (most of the time) is not only because I find that it tastes delicious, but also because I can instantly feel how well my body responds to fresh food.

It took self-discipline at the beginning to get into this space. But today, it's joy - not a chore - to make my morning smoothie, to cook at home instead of picking up take-away, and to drink green tea and lots of water.

Here are 6 key concepts that underpin intuitive eating, and why I believe in it!

Concept 1

Food is not the only ingredient to health

What you eat undoubtedly influences your health in a massive way, but it’s far from being the only factor. Other elements play a significant role: the air you breathe, the water you drink, the exercise you get, the quality of the relationships you nurture in your life, the way you express yourself through work, and whether you practice any kind of spiritual connection in your life.

All the broccoli in the world cannot balance out the negative effects a toxic relationship, an unfulfilling job, or a unfulfilling lifestyle will have on your body. Looking at health holistically means not only focusing on food, but also looking at areas such as exercise, relationships, career, and spirituality.

Following a spiritual practice means healing and happiness can come to you in a faster, more gratifying way. Connecting to something outside of yourself allows you to see a bigger picture of what you want and need, develop greater trust, and reduce the pressure of doing it ‘alone’. This could be nurturing a connection to your intuition, your life’s purpose, God, the Universe, your ancestors, energy… anything that resonates.

Concept 2

There is no one-size-fits-all diet (never has been, never will be!)

No lifestyle choice or diet will be beneficial all the time for everyone. Even our own individual needs change at different stages of our life.

There are certainly some basic rules which apply to every human, such as our need for water, macronutrients and micronutrients. However, differences in many factors, including our bodies, metabolism and hormones, means our specific dietary needs are quite diverse.

The best diet is based on the individual and never on one theory. Diet regimes and recipe books are a great resource, but always challenge yourself to see outside the box and implement the parts that feel truly right for you.

Concept 3

Addition is better than subtraction

Going cold turkey on things we’ve been craving can have a short-lived and challenging effect. Focusing on including high-nutrition foods, instead of taking away things that don’t fully support our wellness, is a great way to transition into healthier forms of eating.

Concept 4

Your body is a powerful healer

Just like mammals in the wild, our human body has incredibly powerful healing mechanisms. We can support these processes not only from consuming excellent nutritious food, but also ensuring that rest and deep sleep are part of our everyday lives.

Concept 5

The body talks and is always right

Our body sends us messages every single day, like it needs more rest, a certain type of food, more movement, fluids etc. It always guides us in the right direction.

This is where intuitive eating comes into play. Once we have cleansed our systems of any food, drink or substance addictions, we can ‘clear the floor’ for our body to share what it truly requires.

Concept 6

Disease is a byproduct of imbalance

The root cause of nearly every ailment is being out of balance. Homeostasis is the process of bringing our body into equilibrium. You can get back to balance by eating less meat and dairy products and reducing or cutting out sugar, artificial junk food, coffee, and alcohol.

You do this along with eating more fruits, vegetables and whole foods; drinking lots of water; and getting adequate rest. If you do consume animal products, ensure these are of the highest-quality available to you. Go for the gold standard: grass-fed, organic and no antibiotics.