The Basics of Intuitive Eating 

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Intuitive Eating plays a central role in my approach to helping individuals make peace with food and their body.

What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based process that teaches you how to become the expert of your own body and have a healthy relationship with food and movement.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles that either help you gain body attunement (i.e., the ability to hear and respond to your body’s cues) or remove obstacles to body attunement. The 10 principles include:

  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 Feelings Without Using Food

  8. Respect Your Body

  9. Exercise: Feel the Difference

  10. Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition

In short, according to its originators, Intuitive Eating is about “honoring your body’s cues (e.g., hunger, fullness); choosing foods that are both pleasurable and nourishing; removing morality and judgment from eating; rejecting the diet mentality; and respecting your body, regardless of how you feel about its shape."

Why does Intuitive Eating include rejecting dieting?
Dieting disconnects you from your body's wisdom, including your own internal cues that tell you what, when, and how much to eat. Focusing on a number, such as your weight, interferes with your ability to listen to your body and reinforces problematic eating behaviors.

When you diet, you eat according to a set of external rules (e.g., calories, points, grams, forbidden foods, pre-determined schedule, etc.) rather than honoring your body’s needs, desires and preferences.

Restricting the timing, amount, and type of food eaten is not sustainable, flexible, pleasurable or empowering. Dieting erodes your ability to trust your body and your instincts, and negatively impacts your physical and psychological wellbeing.

While almost any diet can result in initial short-term weight loss, the most predictable outcome of dieting is weight cycling (yo-yo dieting), which can have a detrimental impact on your health. The majority of dieters are unable to maintain their weight loss and an estimated two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost.

When dieters “fail” a diet, the natural response is to try another diet. The only winner in this vicious cycle is the $66 billion diet industry—an industry that has a 95 percent failure rate yet thrives on repeat customers.

Rebound weight gain is not due to a lack of willpower or self-discipline. When you deprive your body of food, it thinks it’s being subjected to a famine and will do everything it can to survive. This includes triggering numerous compensatory processes, such as hormonal changes that increase appetite and decrease metabolism

Not only can dieting lead to weight cycling, it can also lead to food and body preoccupation; body dissatisfaction; intense food cravings; feelings of deprivation; emotional eating; overeating; binge eating; disordered eating; eating disorders; anxiety; depression; low self-esteem; feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness; increased weight stigma; reduced metabolism; elevated blood cholesterol; increased cardiovascular risk; and more adverse conditions.

What is an Intuitive Eater?
An Intuitive Eater is guided by internal cues versus external rules.

Being an Intuitive Eater means you trust your inner body wisdom to guide you toward the foods and forms of movement that make your body feel good, without internal judgment or influence from external “authorities” and diet/weight-loss culture.

Intuitive Eating includes giving yourself unconditional permission to eat—with attunement. This means making food choices based on messages from your body, such as hunger, fullness, desire and how different foods impact you (e.g., energy, mood, focus, etc.). It also includes choosing foods based on their satisfaction factor and your personal preferences, values and nutritional needs.

With Intuitive Eating, no foods are off limits (unless medically necessary). There are no good or bad foods, and you are not a good or bad person based on your food choices. All foods are emotionally equivalent regardless of their nutritional value. A carrot is equal to carrot cake; eating one or the other doesn’t make you good or bad.

An Intuitive Eater consumes a healthy balance of foods and has a healthy relationship with food. Nonjudgmental attention is given to your body's nutritional and fuel needs with an eye toward balance, variety, moderation, satisfaction and pleasure.

What are the benefits of becoming an Intuitive Eater?
First and foremost, Intuitive Eating helps you make peace with food and your body. By doing so, you can shift all the time and energy you’ve spent warring with food and your body toward more fulfilling, meaningful endeavors.

Research shows that Intuitive Eating decreases:

  • food preoccupation

  • food-related guilt and anxiety

  • emotional eating

  • overeating

  • binge eating

  • eating disorder risk

  • body dissatisfaction

  • drive for thinness

  • depression

  • cholesterol and triglycerides

  • blood pressure

  • blood sugar

Studies have also found that Intuitive Eating increases:

  • interoceptive awareness (the ability to perceive bodily sensations)

  • body image, appreciation and satisfaction

  • self-esteem, self-respect and self-compassion

  • emotional awareness and acceptance

  • emotional coping skills / psychological hardiness

  • emotional well-being

  • general life satisfaction

How long does it take to become an Intuitive Eater?
Becoming an Intuitive Eater is a process that unfolds differently for each individual. How long this process takes will depend on multiple factors, including how many years you’ve spent dieting, following food rules, and being disconnected from your innate body wisdom.

Changing your relationship with food and your body takes time, patience and practice. It requires a willingness to release the beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving you as well as the courage to experiment with new ways of being.

Trust that it is possible to return to the Intuitive Eater you came into this world as, before cultural messages regarding weight, dieting, good/bad foods, etc. infiltrated your mind and caused you to mistrust your body.

Will I lose weight by becoming an Intuitive Eater?
The most honest, ethical answer I can give you is, I don’t know.

Intuitive Eating is not a weight-loss program. Whether or not you experience weight loss as a result of becoming an Intuitive Eater is not something anyone can predict.

What I do know is that by committing wholeheartedly to this process, you will cultivate a more nourishing, trusting, peaceful and relaxed relationship with food and your body—and thus experience greater overall wellbeing—regardless of the number on the scale.

Who developed Intuitive Eating?
This model was developed in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, after years spent witnessing their clients struggle with food, body image, weight cycling and diet culture. To date, more than 70 studies have been published demonstrating the numerous benefits associated with Intuitive Eating.