Learn the basics of intuitive eating, including the ten principles, the benefits, what an intuitive eater is, and what intuitive eating is not.
- What is Intuitive Eating?
- What are the Intuitive Eating Principles?
- Intuitive Eating Benefits
- What Intuitive Eating is Not
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is using the wisdom of your experiences and knowledge to determine what, how much, and when to eat to best serve your body.
According to the official website, "Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and over 125 studies to date."
There are ten principles — not rules — that guide you to be the expert on your body. These guidelines help facilitate your journey to becoming more aware of your body’s cues while empowering you to trust and meet your needs.
What is an Intuitive Eater?
An intuitive eater is someone who eats in a way that makes their body feel nurtured and satisfied. They eat without attaching moral value to foods.
Using their own internal wisdom as well as the knowledge they've gained from their lived experience, they make choices that serve their body, mind, and spirit in whatever way works for them.
What are the Intuitive Eating Principles?
The ten principles are
- reject the diet mentality
- honor your hunger
- make peace with food
- challenge the food police
- discover the satisfaction factor
- feel your fullness
- cope with your emotions with kindness
- respect your body
- movement—feel the difference
- honor your health—gentle nutrition.
Here is a brief description of each principle:
Reject the Diet Mentality
Intuitive eating doesn't work if you are still controlled by the diet mentality. You might not officially be “on a diet.” However, the diet mentality could still show up in your life.
Anything that contributes to the idea that your body needs to be a certain weight or body size to be valued, respected, and in good health is the diet mentality.
Honor Your Hunger
Feeling hunger is a good thing! It means your body is working.
Honoring your hunger means that you notice your body’s hunger signals and feed yourself what your body needs.
Make Peace with Food
Making peace with food is where you find freedom around food. It removes the power food has over you.
This step is essential to healing your relationship to food and feeling the positive mental benefits of intuitive eating.
Once you’ve made peace with food, you are able to enjoy any and all foods without limits, restrictions, or conditions.
Challenge the Food Police
Food policing thoughts will imply that you're bad for making less nutritious choices. They will cause you to question your hunger and fullness, place limits on certain food groups or macronutrients, set time restraints on when you can eat, and more.
It’s time to throw out the food police from your life because it serves you absolutely no good purpose.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
For many people, the pleasure-based principle of eating for satisfaction is the hook for intuitive eating. It makes sense because it's a lovely feeling to eat food you enjoy.
And feeling guilty for eating certain foods diminishes the pleasure and satisfaction factor of that food.
Aiming for satisfying meals allows you to show your body that you care and respect it.
Feel Your Fullness
Feeling full means that you honored your hunger — hooray for practicing the second principle! The feeling of fullness can teach you so much about your body and how it reacts to food each time you eat.
The sensation of fullness is not bad or wrong, and it is not a signal of loss of control. Feeling full is simply a sign that your body is working, and it’s a great way to learn more about your body.
Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Emotional eating is not the villain it’s often made out to be. In fact, food is emotional in its mere nature. Feelings of love, connection, and reward are all associated with food.
Sadly, diet culture attaches negative feelings to food which can cause shame and guilt.
Give yourself permission to enjoy food as comfort but know that it is not your only source of comfort.
Respect Your Body
Body respect will not only transform how you feel about yourself, but it’ll also greatly improve your relationship with food.
Respecting your body means finding ways to care for your body, acknowledging what it does for you, and accepting it.
Despite how it might feel, acceptance and respect for your body do not mean you are giving up on yourself. In fact, it is the exact opposite because when you release control from trying to micromanage the way your body looks, you can focus on caring for it from a place of compassion.
Movement—Feel the Difference
Move your body for the fun of it, and enjoy the abundance of benefits that don’t involve manipulating your body size or shape.
Instead of using exercise as permission or punishment, try moving your body to relieve stress, feel strong, promote heart health, upgrade your mood, help manage your blood sugar levels, improve your sleep, and more.
Our bodies were designed to move, so if you are capable, it’s beneficial for your well-being to add movement to your life.
Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Gentle nutrition focuses on the overall picture of the food you eat instead of counting calories, monitoring portions, or only eating "healthy" food.
It includes eating a wide variety of foods, which studies show to be beneficial for overall health and wellbeing.
Eat with a flexible attitude, and make choices that honor your hunger and how you will feel during and after you eat. Gentle nutrition includes fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and treats. Nothing is restricted and nothing is off-limits.
Intuitive Eating Benefits
Intuitive eating is full of benefits! Studies have shown it can lead to improved cardiovascular levels, lower triglycerides, higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), less insulin resistance, and a stable weight.
Additionally, those who practice intuitive eating are less likely to practice eating disorder behaviors or have occurrences of binge eating.
Plus, intuitive eating offers an impressive number of mental health benefits, like more satisfaction with life, greater emotional functioning, and a more positive mood.
Practicing intuitive eating is shown to promote greater body appreciation, better self-esteem, a more positive body image, and likely to internalize unrealistic thin body ideals. Additionally, an increase in enjoyment and pleasure of food along with reduced anxiety around food is related to the act of intuitive eating.
Cons of Intuitive Eating
The downsides of intuitive eating are that it isn't a quick fix, and you might feel chaotic or out of control when you start practicing.
However, the more you practice and work on healing your relationship to food and build trust in your body, the easier and more natural this way of life becomes.
What Intuitive Eating is Not
Intuitive eating does not have rules or conditions around food. It does not attach moral value to food (example: "good" or "healthy" vs. "bad" or "unhealthy").
An important factor is that there is no focus on weight in intuitive eating. If someone claims to teach intuitive eating yet they talk about weight or weight loss, run! This person is only going to cause you more stress, anxiety, and chaos around food.
It is understandable to want weight loss since we live in a world that is so focused on promoting thin bodies and treating larger/fat bodies with such disrespect and hatred. However, no one can confidently assure you that you will effectively and safely lose weight long term. Therefore, intuitive eating removes the focus on weight and considers behaviors. You can still desire weight change when practicing, but it is more effective and helpful if you focus more on behaviors than weight.
If something or someone claims to promote intuitive eating but has one of the following qualities, you can know that it is not intuitive eating and it will likely be detrimental to both your physical and mental health:
- Before and after photos showing weight change
- Mentions of pounds lost
- Time restrictions on when you can eat
- Counting calories, macros, carbs, and/or points
- Moralizing certain foods
- Eliminating foods
- Cheat days
- Focus on body size, weight, or body shape
- Limits quantity of food
- List of rules
- Uses phrases like:
- "Burn fat"
- "Lose inches"
- My book — The Intuitive Eating Guide to Recovery: Let Go of Toxic Diet Culture, Reconnect with Food, and Build Self-Love 🥳
- The original Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch — this book is a must-have. It is an in-depth, comprehensive guide to using your own internal wisdom when eating.
- Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- Intuitive Eating for Every Day: 365 Daily Practices & Inspirations to Rediscover the Pleasures of Eating by Evelyn Tribole
- Other intuitive eating blog posts I've written
- The Path to Living Well course — The ultimate course to help guide you from anxious and stressed around food & your body to feeling better in your body and freer around food. Sign up for the waitlist!