Intuitive Eating “is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet physical and psychological needs.” It is a non-diet approach to nutrition and health and one of the main pillars of this nutrition practice!
The concept of Intuitive Eating was developed by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, back in the mid 1990s. Intuitive Eating teaches you how to reconnect with your body, identify how certain foods make you feel, and takes the emphasis away from external cues (counting macros, calorie counts, fitness trackers etc.), to internal cues that help you determine when, how much, and what to eat. It helps to build trust around foods that you may have labeled “bad” or those that caused guilt and shame, and works to remove the morality around food.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Respect Your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
Intuitive Eating has been associated with lower rates of disordered eating, improved body image and emotional functioning, greater life satisfaction and an increased motivation to exercise.1,3 Implementing Intuitive Eating has been associated with improved health indicators such as blood pressure, blood lipids, and dietary intake, as well as improved psychological health.2,3,4 Additionally, the data illustrates that adopting Intuitive Eating practices may help individuals abandon unhealthy weight control behaviors and improve metabolic fitness.3 Many other dietitians, as well as myself, have found that their clients respond well to this style of eating.
5 things you need to know about Intuitive Eating:
1. Weight loss is not the goal with Intuitive Eating. While some people may lose weight when practicing Intuitive Eating, others may gain weight or stay at the same weight. If you are interested in this process, weight cannot be your main priority, and manipulation and/or restriction of foods will not allow you to fully engage in Intuitive Eating. Keep in mind that weight is an outcome, not a behavior of health, and weight alone is not the cause of health issues. With Intuitive Eating, the focus is on developing self-care behaviors, so that you can have a positive relationship with food and your body.
2. Intuitive Eating is NOT another diet. It is not as simple as, “eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full”. It does not claim to produce weight loss, although it does support improved health outcomes. If someone is promoting Intuitive Eating and weight loss, run fast. That is not Intuitive Eating.
3. Everyone can practice Intuitive Eating. While the practice has been used for those with a history of eating disorders, and/or disordered eating, most people in this day and age can benefit from reconnection to hunger and fullness cues, dismantling “good” vs “bad” food mentality, and finding physical activity that they actually enjoy.
4. Intuitive Eating is not easy. But neither is dieting, right? With diets, you have rules to follow, certain things to eat, exercise plans… But most diets have an end point (30 days, 3 months etc). Intuitive Eating does not. Intuitive Eating asks that you give up those rules, your meal plans, your calorie counters, and rigid exercise routines, and learn a different way of approaching health. It’s advised to work with an Intuitive Eating counselor, dietitian, or therapist in this process.
5. We are all born to be intuitive eaters. Think about it. Babies cry when they want to eat, and then will refuse food once they have had enough. It’s only when we receive external messages, “eat your veggies or you can’t go play,” or “if you finish your homework you can have dessert,” that this becomes disrupted. While largely good meaning and unintentional, these messages take us away from our internal cues.
Here is a short quiz to see if Intuitive Eating may be right for you! Answer yes or no to the following questions:
Quiz excerpt from the book Intuitive Eating
Unconditional permission to eat.
- I try to avoid certain foods high in fat, carbs, or calories.
- If I am craving a certain food, I don’t allow myself to have it.
- I follow eating rules of diet plans that dictate what, when and/or how to eat.
- I get mad at myself for eating something unhealthy.
- I have forbidden foods that I don’t allow myself to eat.
Eating for emotional rather than physical reasons.
- I find myself eating when I’m feeling emotional (anxious, sad, depressed), even when I am not physically hungry.
- I find myself eating when I am bored, even when I am not physically hungry.
- I cannot stop eating when I feel full.
- I find myself eating when I am lonely, even when I am not physically hungry.
- I use food to help soothe my negative emotions.
- I find myself eating when I am stressed, even when I am not physically hungry.
Reliance on internal hunger/satiety cues.
- I cannot tell when I am slightly full.
- I cannot tell when I am slightly hungry.
- I do not trust my body to tell me when to eat.
- I do not trust my body to tell me what to eat.
- I do not trust my body to tell me how much to eat.
- When I am eating, I cannot tell when I am getting full.
If you found yourself mentally circling several of these, that’s ok, there is room for growth!
Think about these questions – what would you life look like if you thought less about food? Can image a life with no food rules, no more weigh-ins, no more stressing out at restaurants? Can you imagine having more time to devote yourself to the things that really matter to you? Are you interested in answering questions such as, “how does that food make you feel?” and working on aligning your health decisions from a place of self-compassion and acceptance? If so, this may be the place for you.
If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend checking out these resources, and working one-on-one with a dietitian who specializes these practices, like me! Learn more about working with me here!
Also – if you are into freebies, check out this FREE guide I made with 4 steps to start healing your relationship with food and body.
- Bruce, Lauren J., and Lina A. Ricciardelli. “A Systematic Review of the Psychosocial Correlates of Intuitive Eating among Adult Women.” Appetite, vol. 96, 2016, pp. 454–472., doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.012.
- Dyke, Nina Van, and Eric J Drinkwater. “Review Article Relationships between Intuitive Eating and Health Indicators: Literature Review.” Public Health Nutrition, vol. 17, no. 08, 2013, pp. 1757–1766., doi:10.1017/s1368980013002139.
- Schaefer, Julie T., and Amy B. Magnuson. “A Review of Interventions That Promote Eating by Internal Cues.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 114, no. 5, 2014, pp. 734–760., doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.024.
- Tylka, Tracy L., et al. “The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss.” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2014, 2014, pp. 1–18., doi:10.1155/2014/983495.