What is Meant by Intuitive Eating?

Are you tired of restrictive diets that leave you feeling deprived and frustrated? If so, you're not alone. Many people are turning to intuitive eating as an alternative approach to nourishing their bodies and improving their overall relationship with food. But what exactly is intuitive eating, and how does it work?

Intuitive eating is a philosophy that encourages individuals to listen to their bodies and honor their hunger and fullness cues. Instead of relying on external rules and restrictions, intuitive eaters focus on internal cues to guide their eating choices. This means eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied, without feeling guilty or needing to strictly follow a meal plan.

The beauty of intuitive eating is that it promotes self-compassion and body acceptance, allowing individuals to eat for pleasure and nourishment rather than trying to meet some external standard. It's about tuning into your body's unique needs and preferences, and honoring them accordingly.

The Principles of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is based on ten core principles that help individuals develop a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. These principles include:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Intuitive eating begins with letting go of the diet mentality. This means recognizing that diets don't work in the long term and that they often lead to negative outcomes such as weight cycling and disordered eating. By freeing yourself from the diet mentality, you can start to embrace a more intuitive approach to eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger

One of the key principles of intuitive eating is honoring your hunger. This means recognizing and respecting your body's signals for nourishment. Instead of ignoring or suppressing your hunger, intuitive eating encourages you to respond to it by providing yourself with the food and nutrients your body needs.

3. Make Peace with Food

Intuitive eating emphasizes making peace with all types of food. Instead of categorizing foods as "good" or "bad," intuitive eaters view all foods as neutral and allow themselves to enjoy a wide variety of foods without guilt or judgment. This helps to eliminate the feelings of deprivation and promotes a healthier relationship with food.

4. Challenge the Food Police

The food police refers to the internalized voice or thoughts that dictate what you should or shouldn't eat. Intuitive eating encourages individuals to challenge these thoughts and beliefs by recognizing that they are often rooted in diet culture and societal pressures. By challenging the food police, you can create a more positive and empowering relationship with food.

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Intuitive eating emphasizes the importance of finding satisfaction in your meals. This means not only focusing on the nutritional value of food but also on the pleasure and enjoyment it brings. By savoring and truly appreciating your meals, you can enhance your overall eating experience and feel more satisfied.

6. Feel Your Fullness

Learning to listen to your body's fullness cues is another crucial aspect of intuitive eating. It involves paying attention to the physical sensations of fullness and stopping eating when you feel satisfied. By practicing mindful eating and tuning into your body's signals, you can avoid overeating and promote a healthier relationship with food.

7. Cope with Your Emotions Without Using Food

Intuitive eating recognizes that emotions often play a role in our eating habits. Instead of turning to food as a way to cope with emotions, intuitive eaters learn alternative strategies for managing their feelings. This might include engaging in activities that bring joy, seeking support from others, or finding healthy outlets for emotional expression.

8. Respect Your Body

Respecting your body is a fundamental principle of intuitive eating. It involves accepting and appreciating your body as it is, rather than striving for some idealized image. By practicing self-acceptance and body positivity, you can cultivate a healthier and more compassionate relationship with yourself.

9. Exercise - Feel the Difference

Intuitive eating encourages individuals to engage in joyful movement and exercise that feels good for their bodies. Instead of viewing exercise as a means to control weight or punish yourself for eating, intuitive eaters focus on finding physical activities that bring pleasure and enhance their overall well-being.

10. Honor Your Health

While intuitive eating emphasizes body acceptance and freedom from strict rules, it also recognizes the importance of nourishing your body for optimal health. This principle encourages individuals to make food choices that honor their health and well-being, taking into account their unique nutritional needs and preferences.

By embracing these principles, individuals can develop a healthier and more intuitive relationship with food, free from the restrictions and limitations imposed by diets and external rules.

Benefits of Intuitive Eating

Adopting an intuitive eating approach can have numerous benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. Here are some of the potential advantages of intuitive eating:

1. Improved Body Image

Intuitive eating promotes body acceptance and self-compassion, which can lead to improved body image. By focusing on honoring your body's unique needs and preferences, rather than trying to conform to external standards, you can develop a more positive and loving relationship with your body.

2. Enhanced Psychological Well-Being

Intuitive eating encourages individuals to let go of rigid rules and restrictions, which can reduce feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety around food. This can lead to improved psychological well-being, including reduced stress and improved overall mental health.

3. Improved Eating Habits

Intuitive eating can help individuals develop healthier eating habits by promoting mindful eating and tuning into their body's needs. This can lead to improved digestion, better energy levels, and a greater appreciation for the foods that truly nourish and satisfy you.

4. Freedom from Food Obsession

By letting go of restrictive diets and embracing a more intuitive approach to eating, individuals can experience freedom from constant thoughts and preoccupations about food. This can free up mental space for other aspects of life and improve overall well-being.

These are just a few of the potential benefits of adopting an intuitive eating approach. It's important to note that the benefits may vary from person to person, and everyone's journey with intuitive eating is unique.

Common Misconceptions about Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is often misunderstood or misrepresented. Here are some common misconceptions about intuitive eating:

1. Intuitive Eating Means Eating Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want

While intuitive eating promotes food freedom and the ability to enjoy all types of food without guilt, it's not about mindlessly indulging in whatever you want, whenever you want. It's about tuning into your body's cues and making food choices that honor your hunger, fullness, and overall well-being.

2. Intuitive Eating Leads to Weight Gain

Intuitive eating is not a weight loss or weight gain program. It's a philosophy that focuses on developing a healthy and sustainable relationship with food, regardless of your body size or shape. While weight changes may occur as a result of intuitive eating, they are not the primary focus or goal of this approach.

3. Intuitive Eating is Just Another Diet

Intuitive eating is the antithesis of dieting. It's about letting go of external rules and restrictions and instead trusting your body's innate wisdom. It's a way of nourishing yourself that focuses on self-care, body acceptance, and overall well-being, rather than trying to conform to a specific set of dietary guidelines.

How to Practice Intuitive Eating

Practicing intuitive eating may require some time and effort, especially if you've been accustomed to dieting or relying on external rules for a long time. Here are some steps you can take to start practicing intuitive eating:

1. Cultivate Awareness

The first step in practicing intuitive eating is cultivating awareness of your body's hunger and fullness cues. Start paying attention to the physical sensations in your body that indicate hunger and fullness. This may involve slowing down during meals, taking a moment to check in with yourself before eating, and tuning into how certain foods make you feel.

2. Challenge Your Beliefs

Question the beliefs and thoughts that have been ingrained in you by diet culture. Challenge the idea that certain foods are "good" or "bad" and that you need external rules to dictate your eating choices. Replace these beliefs with a more compassionate and empowering mindset that embraces the idea of self-care and body acceptance.

3. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a key component of intuitive eating. It involves paying attention to the sensory experience of eating, including the taste, texture, and aroma of food. Slow down during meals, chew your food thoroughly, and savor each bite. This can help you develop a deeper connection with your body's needs and preferences.

4. Let Go of Food Guilt

Guilt and shame have no place in intuitive eating. If you find yourself feeling guilty after eating certain foods, remind yourself that all foods can fit into a balanced and nourishing diet. Practice self-compassion and focus on the overall pattern of your eating habits, rather than individual food choices.

5. Seek Support

Embarking on an intuitive eating journey can be challenging, especially if you've been immersed in diet culture for a long time. Consider seeking support from a registered dietitian or therapist who specializes in intuitive eating. They can provide guidance, resources, and personalized support as you navigate this new approach to nourishing yourself.

Overcoming Challenges in Intuitive Eating

While intuitive eating can be a liberating and empowering approach to food and eating, it's not without its challenges. Here are some common challenges individuals may face when practicing intuitive eating and strategies for overcoming them:

1. Fear of Weight Gain

One of the biggest fears individuals may have when starting intuitive eating is the fear of weight gain. It's important to remember that weight changes are not the primary focus of intuitive eating. Focus on the overall improvements in your relationship with food and your well-being, rather than solely on weight.

2. Feeling Out of Control

When transitioning from a dieting mindset to intuitive eating, it's common to feel a sense of loss of control. Remind yourself that intuitive eating is about trusting your body's innate wisdom and cultivating a healthier relationship with food. Embrace the idea that it's okay to let go of control and instead focus on nourishing yourself from a place of self-care and compassion.

3. External Influences

External influences such as diet culture, social media, and well-meaning friends and family members can sometimes make practicing intuitive eating more challenging. Surround yourself with supportive and like-minded individuals who understand and respect your intuitive eating journey. Consider detoxifying your social media feed by following accounts that promote body positivity, intuitive eating, and self-acceptance.

4. Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is a common challenge that individuals may face when practicing intuitive eating. Instead of turning to food as a way to cope with emotions, explore alternative strategies for managing your feelings. This might include engaging in activities that bring joy, seeking support from others, or finding healthy outlets for emotional expression.

Remember that intuitive eating is a lifelong journey, and it's normal to encounter challenges along the way. Be patient with yourself, practice self-compassion, and seek support when needed.

Intuitive Eating vs. Dieting

Intuitive eating and dieting are fundamentally different approaches to food and eating. Here are some key differences between intuitive eating and dieting:

1. Focus on Internal vs. External Cues

Intuitive eating focuses on internal cues, such as hunger and fullness, to guide eating choices. Dieting, on the other hand, relies on external rules and restrictions, often based on calorie counting or specific meal plans.

2. Body Acceptance vs. Body Dissatisfaction

Intuitive eating promotes self-acceptance and body positivity, encouraging individuals to embrace and honor their unique bodies. Dieting often perpetuates body dissatisfaction and the pursuit of an idealized body shape or size.

3. Sustainable vs. Unsustainable Approach

Intuitive eating is a sustainable approach to nourishing yourself, as it promotes a healthy and balanced relationship with food. Dieting, on the other hand, is often unsustainable in the long term and can lead to weight cycling and disordered eating.

4. Self-Care vs. Deprivation

Intuitive eating is rooted in self-care and nourishing yourself from a place of compassion and pleasure. Dieting often involves strict rules and restrictions, leading to feelings of deprivation and a negative relationship with food.

5. Overall Well-Being vs. Weight Focus

Intuitive eating prioritizes overall well-being, including physical and mental health, rather than solely focusing on weight. Dieting often revolves around weight loss as the primary goal, which can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.

Resources for Learning More about Intuitive Eating

If you're interested in learning more about intuitive eating and how to incorporate it into your life, here are some resources to explore:


  • "Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
  • "The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
  • "Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight" by Linda Bacon

Websites and Blogs:

  • Intuitive Eating website (intuitiveeating.org)
  • Health at Every Size website (haescommunity.com)
  • Christy Harrison's Food Psych podcast and website (christyharrison.com)

Registered Dietitians and Therapists:

Consider seeking support from a registered dietitian or therapist who specializes in intuitive eating. They can provide personalized guidance, support, and resources as you navigate your intuitive eating journey.

Success Stories and Testimonials from Intuitive Eaters

Here are some inspiring success stories and testimonials from individuals who have embraced intuitive eating:

Testimonial 1:

"I spent years yo-yo dieting and feeling miserable about my body. When I discovered intuitive eating, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I learned to trust my body's wisdom and nourish myself in a way that feels good. My relationship with food has completely transformed, and I now feel more at peace with my body than ever before."

Testimonial 2:

"Intuitive eating has given me the freedom to enjoy food without guilt or shame. I used to obsess over every calorie and felt like a failure if I deviated from my strict meal plan. Now, I listen to my body's cues and eat what truly sounds good."