What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a weight-neutral, non-diet approach to improving your relationship with food. This method of eating focuses on cultivating a trusting relationship between yourself and food so that you can listen to your body’s intuitive signals. Unlike traditional dieting, intuitive eating does not involve calorie counting, portion control, or limiting any food types. Instead, it teaches mindful eating skills so that you can trust your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals.
According to the original creators of intuitive eating, dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this approach helps you to “honor your hunger and respect your fullness”. It’s about ditching the diet mentality and taking a non-judgemental approach to food. As well as focusing on emotional eating strategies and mindful eating behaviours, intuitive eating is about becoming an expert on your own body’s responses to foods.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
The benefits of intuitive eating are vast. Not only can it help improve your relationship with food and body image, but it is also associated with decreased feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety around food.
Intuitive eating has been shown to reduce binge eating episodes, which are often caused by years of restrictive dieting and calorie restriction. This approach to eating is also associated with improved nutrition and healthier lifestyles, as dieters are more likely to identify and eat food combinations which are beneficial for their overall health.
Due to its focus on reconnecting with your body and its needs, intuitive eating can also support physical health and well-being. For example, research shows that individuals who eat intuitively are more likely to have healthier BMIs, lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower levels of inflammation.
Emotional Eating and Intuitive Eating
Emotional eating is the practice of using food to manage uncomfortable emotions. Due to the non-diet, weight-neutral focus of intuitive eating, it can be a great tool for managing emotional eating habits.
It teaches individuals to listen to their bodies, to identify hunger and satiety cues, and to use mindful eating practices to understand the emotional triggers which lead to eating. Mindful eating is a key part of intuitive eating and involves slowing down, being aware of the qualities of food, and noticing how your body feels while eating.
This practice helps individuals identify emotional triggers and cues which lead to eating and gives them the skills to become an expert in understanding their own body’s needs on an emotional level.
Not only can mindful eating practices aid in developing a better relationship with food, but they can also help individuals get in touch with their own bodies and be aware of their physical and emotional needs. This can help people establish a healthy sense of self-compassion and self-care.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Based on the work of dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, intuitive eating is based on 10 principles, which can help to improve your relationship with food:
- Reject the diet mentality – Focus on nourishing your body in a joyful and non-restrictive way.
- Honor your hunger – Eat regularly, avoid feeling overly hungry, and never deprive yourself of food.
- Make peace with food – Allow yourself to eat all types of foods, including “unhealthy” ones in moderation.
- Challenge the food police – Reject the guilt and shame associated with certain foods, and don’t allow food to dictate your moral value.
- Respect your fullness – Stop eating when you’re full and recognize the difference between physical and emotional fullness.
- Discover the satisfaction factor – Eat foods which are satisfying and nutritious, and remember that food should bring pleasure.
- Cope with emotions with kindness – Speak to yourself kindly and avoid turning to food to cope with stress, boredom, or any other negative emotion.
- Respect your body – Become an expert on your own body and its needs, and focus on movement which makes you feel good.
- Honor your health – Make food choices which make both your body and mind feel good, rather than focusing solely on weight loss.
- Feel your full self – Focus on health at any weight and accept that all bodies are healthy, regardless of size.
How to Start Intuitive Eating
While intuitive eating might sound intimidating, it’s actually quite simple to start. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad” – focus instead on nutrient-dense, satisfying food choices.
- Practice mindful eating – slow down, pay attention to the smell and texture of food, and take time to savor each bite.
- Check in with your body often – pause throughout the day to ask yourself how you are feeling physically and emotionally.
- Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full – respect your body’s hunger and fullness signals and never force yourself to eat.
- Honor your cravings – don’t deprive yourself of certain foods, and instead listen to your body’s cravings and eat accordingly.
- Trust yourself – allow yourself to make mistakes, and remember that making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure.
Intuitive eating is all about finding balance, respecting your own needs, and developing an intuitive sense of when, what, and how much to eat. With practice and dedication, this approach to eating can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and establish a positive relationship with your body.