What is Intuitive Eating?

If you find yourself struggling with yo-yo dieting, emotional eating and obsession with food, Intuitive Eating just might be the answer you’ve been looking for.


Have you been hearing about Intuitive Eating lately and wondering what it means? Many clients that have started working with me over the past 6 months were asking the same question.

There is a significant change in thinking – a movement – when it comes to dieting and nutrition, and Intuitive Eating is playing a big part in the success people are seeing.

If you are curious, read on to discover how this approach could help you improve your eating habits, forever.

Intuitive Eating means learning to tune in to you and your body, and tune out external messages that tell you what, when and how much you should eat.


Simply put:

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to heal your relationship with food and help your body find its intended weight.


Intuitive Eating is based on the principle that we can eat whatever we want when we are hungry and stop when we are full.

Now, usually when I explain that element to people, I inevitably get what I call ‘the eye roll.’ Then I hear something like this:


‘Well that’s what I’ve been doing my entire life and look at me now!’


If you are thinking the same thing, I challenge you to really think about your relationship with food.


Ask yourself these three questions, and make note of your answers:

  • Do you really give yourself permission to eat whatever you want?
  • Or do you have lots of food rules about what, when and how much you can eat?

NOTE: Food rules are actions and statements like this:

  • I’m addicted to sugar so I can’t eat anything with sugar in it.
  • I shouldn’t eat anything after 8pm because it will make me gain weight.
  • I’m not eating carbs.

You may not think you’re on a diet, but if you are restricting yourself in some external way, you are NOT giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Having ‘forbidden foods’ means that you are entrenched in the diet mentality, even if it is not technically a diet.

  • Do you eat to respect your body, eliminating distraction and taking advantage of the full sensory experience of eating?

For example:

  • Do you sit down to eat your meals without the TV or other electronics as a distraction?
  • Do you spend more than 10 minutes eating your meals?
  • Can you recognize what fullness feels like in your body and are you able to stop eating when you feel comfortably full?


If not, then you really have been doing something completely different.

You have not been eating intuitively.


Let’s go back to that definition of the term, Intuitive Eating:

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to heal your relationship with food and help your body find its intended weight.


Intuitive Eating is based on the work and book of the same name by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating has been scientifically validated in peer-reviewed journals and has helped many people break free from restrictive diets to find true health.


Becoming an intuitive eater involves curiosity and experimentation. It’s a highly individual process. Its rewards are great.


One of my clients struggled with repeated yo-yo dieting, bingeing and poor body image. After working together to change her approach to food and to eat more intuitively, she finds that she has a “major improvements in body acceptance and body love….eating more intuitively, …less struggles with guilt. No more bingeing!”



Intuitive Eating is based on 10 basic Principles and they are:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Feel Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
  10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition


When you begin to eat intuitively, you will use these 10 principles to guide you as you develop this new skill. Once you understand how these principles can change your approach to eating and food, you will see improvements like:

  • no more obsessing about what and when you are going to eat, and
  • eating the foods you love and being able to stop when you feel satisfied, even if your plate still has food on it!


Many people ask me what is the best way to get started on their Intuitive Eating journey.

My answer always starts with four initial steps:

  1. Do a media detox:  It’s really hard to start paying attention to YOUR body when your inbox, social media feeds and magazines are all displaying #fitspo images and promising quick fixes that often include rigid eating plans and an overabundance of exercise.  Consider unsubscribing to emails, and unfollowing those on social media that feature unrealistic body images, or that promise to fix you through their rules.  Evaluate your magazine subscriptions and weed out the ones that make you feel worse about yourself and your body.
  2. Identify your forbidden foods.  If you’ve been dieting for a while, you probably have a big list of forbidden foods. These are the foods that diets don’t allow so you think about them all the time.  They’re the foods that you don’t think you can even have in your house because you fear you would eat the entire package! Before you start an Intuitive Eating journey, it’s important to identify these foods and examine the power that they hold over you.  You could even try eating them, in plain sight, while sitting down at your kitchen table!
  3. Let’s talk about your scale. While I’d love for you to consider tossing it in the trash, I know that might seem too drastic for many people.   If you still weigh yourself frequently, focus in on how you feel and act afterwards.  Let’s say the scale gives you a number higher than you expect: Do you move the scale around your bathroom a few times in the hopes that you can get a lower number? Do you curse the restrictive plan you’ve been following ALL week and grab a “junk food” breakfast on your way to work? Do you continue to splurge all day out of frustration? Chances are, the ripple effects continue, as the memories of that number on the scale cause your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth to plummet too. See if you can make some connections between the number on the scale and the way you act afterwards. You might just decide that the number really doesn’t do much to promote healthy behaviors after all.
  4. Define what exercise means to you.  If you find yourself putting in hours daily at the gym, working out while you are injured, feeling anxious when you have to take a day off, or stressed because you don’t feel like your yoga class burned enough calories, these are signs that your relationship with your body has entered the unhealthy zone.  Don’t get me wrong. I love exercise. It’s a wonderful part of a healthy life and is great for stress relief. But so many diet regimens have taken the joy out of exercise and have made it something we just need to get through. Take a look at your exercise practices and see if you can up the joy factor.

These four steps will get you started on the road to Intuitive Eating. Once you are there, you will see changes.


Imagine how you would feel:

  • eating all the foods you love, while feeling great in your body?
  • enjoying social situations without obsessing over what you can eat and drink?
  • being able to eat one brownie and stop when you are satisfied?
  • freedom from the restriction that dieting brings?
  • being able to handle your emotions around food?
  • finding true joy in exercise, rather than just a means to burn calories?

Sounds great, doesn’t it! That’s what Intuitive Eating does….it changes everything when it comes to food and eating and body image.


Are you thinking it might be time to start your Intuitive Eating journey? But worried you cannot go it alone? It can be difficult at first and some people need help along the way.

Contact me to schedule a complimentary call so I can guide you on the best way to move ahead so that your needs get met.


If you’d like to read more about Intuitive Eating, check out my next post, where I cover Principle 1 of Intuitive Eating – Reject the Diet Mentality.


If you’re looking for additional ideas to help your eating habits, please click here to download my free e-book with suggestions to help you manage emotional eating.

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