A baby trying to reach for a spoon with noodles and meat balls

What is Intuitive Eating?


You may or may have not heard of intuitive eating before. It is a “newer” approach in relation to food around understanding your body, understanding what foods serve and do not serve you and finally eating and living in peace with your body. So let’s dive in and discover what is intuitive eating and how you can you serve that approach (if you want to). A word of warning: You cannot talk about intuitive eating without talking about diet culture. If this is triggering for you, you may want to skip this post 🙏🏻.

People enjoying muffins over coffee
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What is Intuitive Eating?

As said above, let’s start with what is intuitive eating. It is a self-care eating framework, which combines instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It was developed by two dietitians – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive eating has numerous studies attached to it by now. It focuses on weight-inclusivity. Intuitive eating is meant to put you back in alignment with your body and honors both your physical and mental health.

The approach focuses on health at every body size. The original founders (as well as the approach itself) do not believe in intentional weight loss. Studies show that 95% of people who lose weight put it back on in the span of a five year window. In addition, weight loss usually comes with weight stigma, weight cycling, and eating disorders. The idea of intuitive eating is to treat your body with both dignity and respect.

A woman enjoying Asian food at a restaurant
Nate Johnston on Unsplash

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Feeling intrigued about intuitive eating. Tribole and Resch developed 10 principles that they apply to their method, which we will review now. They are geared towards allowing you to work in line with your body to get your physiological meets met, but also to remove any mental blocks around food and what eating should look like.

Reject the Diet Mentally

Ahhh — those words. For anyone who has done more than one (or even) diet in their life (🙋🏼‍♀️). You know how hard that thought has to be. Diet culture is a myth – and a false one at that. Actually, it is an industry that is out to make big money. Think about it: If you had been successful at dieting you would not need to diet again, restrict, feel the need to control, and then also feel like a “failure” if said diet did not work. The main reason why dieting does not work is because it is a blanket approach to what we need. Of course you can lose weight fast if you are only eating cabbage soup for a week. But your body will be missing certain nutrients and crave other foods that provide you your need of vitamins and minerals. You have to ditch the “fast lose weight” mentality in order to embrace intuitive eating.

Honor Your Hunger

Trust your body and its hunger cues. You do not want to get to a point where your blood sugar is super low and you are hangry. All approaches of mindful eating, understanding what your body needs and honoring it with the food it needs and deserve are usually then too late. So honor your hunger cues and follow them in order to adequately feed your body.

Feel Your Fullness

Trust that you give yourself the foods that you deserve and need and honor your fullness. Recognize when you are full, rather than when your plate is empty. You know that you will honor your next hunger cue, so there is nothing stopping you from being full.

Make Peace with Food

No more “good” and “bad” foods. Every food serves a purpose and you should not limit yourself to not eating one particular food (or food group). Usually, that leads to such intense cravings and bingeing. Not to mention that mentally, we can usually think about little else once we limit one particular food. Give yourself the freedom to mentally not think about the food and physically enjoying it when you are having it. Now that there is no more restricting you may realize that the craving did not hold the armor over you like you thought it might.

Challenge the Food Police

You know that voice in your head that tells you – “well done, you totally restricted yourself and only ate minimal calories” or “well done, you had a salad whilst everyone else enjoyed a slice of pizza”. Challenge that inner critic and let it go. It does not serve you any longer.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

In Japan, being satisfied as part of their meal is one of the main goals. Or as someone once said to me: “A burger enjoyed in company has less calories than a salad eaten alone.” Now, obviously this is only the metaphorical sense, but once you start enjoying your food, your eating experience, and the surroundings it will allow you to respect and understand your hunger and fullness cues a lot better without a potential need for overcompensation.

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Anger, loneliness, boredom, anxiety. We have all experienced those feelings and sometimes food helps us to work through these emotions. For the moment, that can be a great relic of comfort. However, in the long run it probably will not serve you. You have to get to the bottom of the reasons for your emotions and understand them in order to heal them. Act with kindness here, and of course where possible and needed, please seek professional help.

Respect Your Body

This one is a powerful one for me, and very candidly speaking, something I still struggle with from time to time. We all have a genetic blueprint that we cannot change, just like you would not put your feet into shoes that are far too small, you would also not want to do the same to your body. It has been ingrained in us to not be happy with who we are (from a body-size perspective), but your body is the only home you have. And it allows us to carry through the day, experience new thoughts and feelings, and life. Yet we spent most of the time being critical of it. Be kind to yourself.

Movement – Feel the Difference

Most often, we workout because we want to lose weight. But there are so many more benefits to exercise that are actually completely independent of weight loss but excellent for our health. Once you remove the thought of “you have to exercise in order to lose weight”. Explore. What is it that you actually enjoy and how do you want to move so that it is fun and enjoyable to you?!

Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

The last approach focuses on honoring your health and making food choices that make you feel good and allow you to overcome nutritional deficiencies. Balanced meals containing veggies, protein, fiber, and carbohydrates are possibly the best approach here.

People standing around a picnic place laughing and drinking wine
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The Take Away From this Post

Now you know what intuitive eating is all about and also the principals that stand behind it. Personally, I like the approach of finally telling the diet industry “goodbye”. I truly do think that the more we think about food and regiments around food the more complicated our relationships become with it. Once we honor our gut and health, we will know fairly quickly what our bodies need and what. If you have been stuck in a cycle of dieting forever – perhaps give this one a go?!

A grocery net with veggies and food falling out of it
No Revisions on Unsplash

Similar Posts on the Blog

Truthfully, I am quite passionate about not believing in the diet culture, so here are some more posts to dig into, should you want to read further on this subject:

Beautiful cover photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash.

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