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Intuitive Eating 101

by Dana Bean, RD

You’ve heard about it, probably seen misrepresentations on social media, and wondered about it, but what IS intuitive eating? And how do you start? I am a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor and I’m here for ya on this one. Let’s start with the basics. Welcome to intuitive eating 101!

Intuitive Eating 101 the basics text with person eating joyfully

What is Intuitive Eating?

It’s an approach to nutrition and health that includes getting in tune with your body and its needs rather than relying on outside sources to dictate when, how, and how much you eat. Recognizing and responding to hunger, fullness, and satisfaction while simultaneously detaching from diet rules are some of the main elements of intuitive eating.

This approach acknowledges that you can be the best expert of your body and what it needs (though this can take some time and practice)!

Where Did it Come From?

Though it may seem new, the intuitive eating framework has been around for nearly 30 years and was created by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It is also researched based, having over 100 research studies analyzing intuitive eating and its effects on health, behaviors, and happiness.

10 Intuitive Eating Principles

The framework of intuitive eating is comprised of 10 principles. Here are all of them with a little explanation. Remember, this is intuitive eating 101, so we won’t go super in depth here.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Recognizing what has drawn you away from being able to listen to your body’s cues is crucial for being able to listen to them again! Diet culture provides a plethora of rules, guilt, and expectations that detract from our body’s needs.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Listening and acting on our hunger when it is manageable prevents “primal hunger” and increases trust with our bodies.

3. Make Peace with Food

When we restrict certain foods, we will eventually get access again and feel guilty for eating them. The key is unconditional permission to eat all foods to lessen the emotional impact of them and allow food freedom.

4. Challenge the Food Police

The food police is basically the mean girl in our minds that reinforces all of our diet rules. Changing the inner dialogue helps us become more in tune with our needs, have more compassion for ourselves, and overall feel more empowered and less bullied.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Eating restrictively often takes away the ability to enjoy and feel satisfied by food. Learn to notice satisfaction and when it starts to diminish.

6. Feel Your Fullness

The ability to trust fullness cues comes with knowing you’ll have access to enough food and food that is satisfying.

7. Cope with Emotions with Kindness

Eating is sometimes used as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotion, and there are many more effective and useful coping mechanisms to use. Learn how to recognize using it as a coping mechanism and how to try a different one.

8. Respect Your Body

You do not have to love your body all the time, but you can still show respect for it regardless of how you feel. Part of rejecting diet culture is learning to accept that bodies come in varying sizes.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

Just as we can eat intuitively, we find ways to move that feels great for our body. Find reasons to move apart from shrinking your body (endorphins, mental health, bone health, disease prevention, strength, the list could go on)!

10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

When we’re able to take the worry, guilt, and fear out of food, we are also able to make food choices that are healthful for our bodies without damaging our relationship with food.

What Intuitive Eating is NOT

Now that we know the basics of what intuitive eating is, let’s talk about the misconceptions that are out the about this way of eating.

Intuitive Eating is Not a Weight Loss Program

Intuitive eating takes a weight neutral approach, meaning someone might lose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight while implementing intuitive eating and that is ok. The focus is not on weight, but on the behaviors and relationship with food. Check out the Health at Every Size® principles if you’d like to learn more about this. An intuitive eating provider, program, or resource that promises or promotes weight loss is not true intuitive eating!

Intuitive Eating is Not Just “Eating Whatever You Want”

As you can see from above, there is so much to intuitive eating! While this way of eating allows for us to eat foods that are satisfying, our taste buds are not the only factor here. We will consider how our body feels before and after eating a food, where our hunger/fullness levels are, gentle nutrition (when we’re ready) and many other nuances.

Intuitive Eating is Not Anti Health

When intuitive eating is misunderstood as “eating whatever”, the question arises: How could this be healthy? Numerous studies show that intuitive eaters can have better health and psychological outcomes than those who diet or use external rules to dictate what they eat. Our body is smart. It knows what it needs to be healthy, and we just need to relearn how to listen to it.

How Do I Start?

If you want to try intuitively eating there are a few ways to get started! It can be very helpful to find a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor (like me!) who is trained in this framework, or a provider who is familiar with intuitive eating and uses a HAES® approach. I also would recommend reading Intuitive Eating (4th Edition) by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Just remember, it can take time to re-learn to become an intuitive eater. Try to have patience and compassion for yourself while embarking on this new journey!

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4 comments

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken | No Guilt Nutrition July 21, 2023 - 11:40 pm

[…] are definitely not the only thing you can eat if you are eating intuitively (really, you can eat anything that you want/feels good to your body!), but I noticed there are way too many diet culture entrenched recipes out there. These recipes […]

Tuna Salad with Vegetables | No Guilt Nutrition July 24, 2023 - 9:57 pm

[…] are definitely not the only thing you can eat if you are eating intuitively (really, you can eat anything that you want/feels good to your body!), but I noticed there are way too many diet culture entrenched recipes out there. These recipes […]

Chimichurri Salmon | No Guilt Nutrition July 31, 2023 - 9:46 pm

[…] are definitely not the only thing you can eat if you are eating intuitively (really, you can eat anything that you want/feels good to your body!), but I noticed there are way too many diet culture entrenched recipes out there. These recipes […]

Peanut Butter Granola (No Bake) - No Guilt Nutrition August 8, 2023 - 3:18 am

[…] are definitely not the only thing you can eat if you are eating intuitively (really, you can eat anything that you want/feels good to your body!), but I noticed there are way too many diet culture entrenched recipes out there. These recipes […]

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