Everything You Need to Know About Intuitive Eating

Skip the fad diets and start listening to your body with intuitive eating. This mindful practice could help you balance your weight while lifting your self-esteem.

Avocado and beet humus on toast with cherry tomatoes and arugula

Intuitive eating has been popping up recently in the wellness world, and while some might assume it’s a new concept, the approach was introduced by Evelyn Tribole RD, and Elyse Resch RDN, back in 1995 with their ground-breaking book, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.”

While research was hard to come by in the ’90s to prove its validity, since then science has recently taken notice and now there is significant research confirming intuitive eating works. Multiple studies have found that more people enjoy food and accept their body shape and condition while lowering their BMIs when they intuitively eat.

It’s no wonder the concept has been adopted by a number of nutritionists and dieticians since then. Curious about intuitive eating? Here’s why you might want to give it a try.

What Does ‘Intuitive Eating’ Mean?

Cassie Brown, a plant-focused nutritionist, tells Organic Authority that we are all born intuitive eaters but we are heavily influenced in our culture by various rules and restrictions around food, which halts our natural impulses around food.

“Intuitive eating is relearning how to eat by listening and trusting what’s going on in your body and the messages it’s sending you,” says Brown. “You do this by avoiding diets, meal plans, etc., and replacing those with positive forms of self-care and compassion to meet your physical and emotional needs.”

The 10 Key Principles

While there isn’t a structure to intuitive, there are 10 key principles that make up the foundation of the practice.

  1.  Rejecting the diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge to 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
  10. Honor your health

“All of these principles help heal and remind you how to be conscious of the physical sensations of your body, like the biological cues of hunger or being full,” says Brown.
As well as help to eliminate – or be more aware of – the obstacles that keep you from being in tune with your body.”

How Intuitive Eating Works

“Someone new to intuitive eating would, first, start fresh by leaving every thought and feeling about diets behind because it’s all about trusting themselves at this point,” says Brown. “Next would be to food journal; really start listening to their body and taking note about what they eat. This is going to allow them to tune into why they’re craving a certain food and how a specific food made them feel afterward, both, physically and emotionally”.

Then, while eating, you take the time to chew and taste your food. After that, Brown says you’d begin to slowly incorporate the other principles.

While Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN tells Organic Authority there’s no ‘right’ way to eat intuitively, she believes approaching intuitive eating lies in your intentions and how you feel. You’ll know it’s working when you’re becoming more mindful and loving when it comes to what you’re eating, or not eating.

“When you are choosing to eat or not eat something because you want to, not because you must. When eating or not eating is no longer based on ‘what it will do’ to your body shape or weight,” she says. “When you make choices from a place of self-care, not self-control. When you approach life with curiosity, not judgment. When thoughts about food and your body take up less real estate in your brain. Those are some of the things you might feel as you build a better relationship with food and with your body.”

What Are the Benefits?

Both Brown and Aguirre cite weight control, boosted self-esteem, and an overall improved outlook on life as benefits of intuitive eating.

“Eating intuitively means trusting your body, which will cue you to eat the right amount,” says Aguirre. “You’ll end up consuming appropriate amounts of healthy food and exercising because it feels good versus simply for calorie burning. This results in a sustainable healthy lifestyle.”

Plus, “Healthy eating feels great,” says Aguirre. “One will focus on foods that promote physical and emotional wellness, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains, as you grow more in touch with your body. This will allow for improved immune function, cardiovascular health and positive moods.”

How It Helps With Cravings

“Cravings come from a place of imbalance,” says Brown. “Whether it be healthy food or not. Do we have to be in tune as to why we’re craving it? Are we tired? Stressed? Lacking certain nutrients? Dehydrated? Once you’re in tune with why you’re craving something, you can manage them more effectively.”

When it comes to junk food, Brown says that most times we eat not-so-great food is because we’re experiencing emotional hunger; whether it’s boredom, stress, tiredness, loneliness, etc.

“However, when you’re in tune, you’ll know how to cope with your emotions without food and know what your body needs to feel nourished and satisfied,” she says, adding that being mindful about eating isn’t about not enjoying your indulgences, but “it’s about being satisfied about not needing to have a full bag of chips or three brownies at one time.”

According to Brown, you’ll recognize this feeling because “your body will communicate that it’s not feeling that great. Whether it’s by weight gain, high blood pressure, skin issues like acne, fatigue, etc.”

The Takeaway

With the number of diets and meal plans telling us what to eat and what not to eat, being in tune with your body and emotions, and eating from that intuitive place, does sound freeing and fulfilling.

“As adults, we’re faced with several social and emotional eating triggers daily, especially today more than ever,” says Aguirre. “It can be difficult to differentiate which messages are coming from our bodies versus our brains or outside sources such as peer pressure or the media. I believe that a combination of intuitive eating and nutrition education can work very well together, for a long-lasting healthy lifestyle.”

Adds Brown, “We have so much going on in our lives, the last thing we need to be worried about is having a negative relationship with ourselves and food. Food a beautiful part of our lives and we’ve lost control of how to eat for our bio-individuality. At the end of the day, when we respect our bodies by listening to what they need in order to optimally function, filling them with nourishing foods and coping with our emotions without the use of food, we’re more balanced and happy.”

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Brianne Hogan is a Canadian writer, currently based in Prince Edward Island. A self-proclaimed "wellness freak," she has a... More about Brianne Hogan