The Complete Guide to Intuitive Eating
Hi, friend. If you’re snooping around here we’re going to go ahead and assume that you’re Intuitive Eating curious. You’ve got an inkling deep down that maybe this is what you need. Because the whole dieting thing hasn’t been working out so well. So we compiled everything we possibly could in this complete guide to Intuitive Eating, so you can get all your questions cleared up and start putting this stuff into practice to heal your relationship with food and your body!
And at first glance, Intuitive Eating seems like it should be pretty straightforward and (please forgive me) intuitive, right?
Maybe you’ve read an article or two, or talked to a friend, and they were basically just like “You eat whatever your body wants. You eat when you’re hungry. You stop when you’re full. That’s it. Simple.” And sure, that is the gist of it but, after a lifetime of dieting and battling food and your body, I think we both know it’s gonna be a bit more complicated than that.
For instance, if you’re here, it’s likely that you’ve hit diet rock bottom. You know you can’t do this anymore. I mean, nobody comes to us for help when they’re killing it at dieting. If you’re here, it’s likely because dieting is either not working or it is working but costing you so much time, energy, mind space, money, confidence, presence and joy in life that it’s just not worth it anymore.
And if you’ve been dieting since you can remember, you probably don’t always know when you’re hungry. You might find you eat so ravenously that you have a really hard time stopping when you’re full. And there’s so much going on in your brain around food that it’s hard to know what your body actually wants or what’s an echo of your mother’s diet rules growing up or Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest, conflicting advice. You might be wondering how one even begins to ‘listen to their body.’
To make a long story short: getting started with Intuitive Eating after a lifetime of dieting is hard. Full stop.
But it also happens to be our passion around here. We help women make peace with food and their bodies so they can reclaim their joy, purpose, voice and confidence in life. All the things that a lifetime of food and body obsession has robbed them of.
Our hope is that The Complete Guide to Intuitive Eating helps to answer any questions you could possibly have about Intuitive Eating. And we also hope that it encourages you to dive in and get started. Because true food freedom and body acceptance is an unparalleled relief that we want all women to experience in life.
Read the complete guide to intuitive eating straight through, or click below to jump to the sections you want to read!
- What is Intuitive Eating
- What are the Benefits of Intuitive Eating?
- How Does Intuitive Eating Work?
- What Are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
- Is There Any Scientific Evidence that Intuitive Eating is Better than Dieting?
- How Do I Start Intuitively Eating?
- What You Should Look for in an Intuitive Eating Program/Coach
- FAQs of Intuitive Eating
- Great Books on Intuitive Eating
- Best Podcasts on Intuitive Eating
- Good Articles on Intuitive Eating
- Intuitive Eating Course
- Intuitive Eating Support
- Intuitive Eating Program Coaching Program
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is the antidote to the craziness you feel around food and your body. It’s the roadmap that will gently lead you out of the diet binge cycle that’s taken over your life and help you find peace with food, your body and ultimately, yourself.
It’s the game plan that will help you stop thinking about food all the time and return to the way we humans were always meant to eat and relate to food.
Intuitive Eating will show why you feel so out of control and obsessed and exactly what to do about it.
The technical definition, according to the two dietitians who literally wrote Intuitive Eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach Intuitive Eating in the ‘90s is:
“A weight-inclusive, evidence-based model and self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought.”
(The most important terms in that sentence are ‘weight-inclusive’ and ‘self-care eating framework.’)
Through the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, you’ll learn to take the focus off of your weight (which is where we all get into trouble to begin with) and start taking better care of yourself on a deeper, more holistic level.
We have to remember that our relationship with food is just as important (if not more important) as the food itself when it comes to being healthy. Because there’s nothing healthy about a chronically fraught, stressful relationship with food. Not to mention beating yourself up all the time and feeling like shit.
Through Intuitive Eating you’ll learn to silence all the noise and information overwhelm swirling around you thanks to diet culture and the wellness industry, and listen to your own body instead.
You’ll make decisions based on how you want to feel physically and emotionally and you’ll stop trying to follow a new diet every other week. In doing so, you’ll be able to relax and make peace with food and shift into a new paradigm of taking care of yourself. One that actually feels good and effortless and leaves with you more confidence instead of chipping away at it.
Food just won’t be such a big deal anymore. You’ll be able to eat when and what you want, stop when you’re full and just not think about it so much anymore. And you’ll also be able to gently guide yourself to nourishing choices you actually enjoy, versus white-knuckling it through periods of restriction and deprivation followed by eating everything in sight.
The best part is that science backs this all up. Multiple studies over the past couple of decades show a wide range of benefits that Intuitive Eaters enjoy, that dieters, especially chronic dieters, do not. We’ll cover that too in this complete guide to intuitive eating.
What are the Benefits of Intuitive Eating?
The benefits of Intuitive Eating include both positive psychology and physical well-being. Many misunderstand it and criticize the paradigm for encouraging people to just ‘eat whatever you want, whenever you want.’ They question how that could possibly lead to better health outcomes. But rest assured, Intuitive Eating is much more complex than that, and the proof of the benefits is in the science.
We’d also argue that the proof is in waking up and looking around us to recognize that the diet paradigm hasn’t been doing anybody any favors. And if it was going to work for us, it probably would have worked by now. Our society, despite having an incredibly high per capita spend on care, isn’t exactly a pillar of excellent health. And if you’re searching for these answers to begin with, it probably hasn’t left you feeling amazing either.
What’s really cool to nutrition geeks like us though, is that researchers have done extensive work to create a scientific way to assess a person’s level of Intuitive Eating. And in doing so, have created a scientific way to assess the difference in health outcomes between those who score high on the Intuitive Eating assessment scale and those who score low.
Dr. Steven Hawks out of Brigham Young University and Dr. Tracy Tykla out of Ohio State University independently developed and validated different tools to assess Intuitive Eating characteristics.
In 2006, Tylka’s seminal study validated three key features:
- Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and what food is desired
- Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons
- Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat
In 2005, Hawk’s Intuitive Eating Scale had four components:
- Intrinsic Eating (eating is based on ‘inner cues’)
- Extrinsic Eating (eating is based on external influence such as mood, social and food availability)
- Anti-Dieting (eating is not based on diets, counting calories or desire for weight loss)
- Self-Care (body acceptance, taking care of body regardless of size)
Tylka’s Intuitive Eating scales are the most widely used in research to date. And based on those components, they’ve found that…
Intuitive Eaters Have Lower:
- Disordered Eating
- Emotional Eating
- Loss-of-Control Eating
- Binge Eating
- Weight bias internalization
- Blood pressure
- Body dissatisfaction
- Body mass index
Intuitive Eaters Have Higher:
- Well-being and optimism
- Variety of foods eaten
- Body appreciation and acceptance
- HDL (the good kind of cholesterol)
- Interoceptive awareness
- Pleasure from eating
- Proactive coping skills
- Psychological Hardiness
- Unconditional self-regard
- Life satisfaction
These are pretty amazing outcomes. And though it may seem counterintuitive to our dieting brains, letting go of the restriction and shifting into a dynamic, compassionate, respectful and unconditionally accepting relationship with your body leads to far better health outcomes and quality of life than scraping and clawing and driving yourself nuts to lose a few pounds on Weight Watchers or Whole30 or Keto ever could.
What makes Intuitive Eating so unique and impactful are the 10 principles. They are not rules. They are guideposts to help you heal from dieting and return to your body. But before we get into them, we have to discuss the two different ways that these principles work.
How Does Intuitive Eating Work?
To understand how Intuitive Eating works you first have to understand something called ‘interoceptive awareness.’ Interoceptive awareness is the ability to perceive the physical sensations that arise from your body. It’s a direct experience, a felt sense that happens in the present moment. And you have to tune in to this interoceptive awareness if you’re going to be able to start listening to your body. Growing research shows that it’s profoundly important for physical and mental well-being. We have to get to know our bodies and actively listen to them. Interoceptive awareness is the skill of actually feeling what your body is feeling in the present moment.
Intuitive eating is about honoring your health by listening to the direct messages from your body. Interoceptive awareness is the skill that helps you do it. So, unsurprisingly a 2017 study shows us the Intuitive Eaters have a higher level of it than non Intuitive Eaters.
The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating work in two ways:
- The first is to improve interoceptive awareness. By honoring your hunger, respecting your fullness, enjoying your food and moving your body to feel good, you build your interoceptive awareness skill.
- The second is to remove the obstacles to interoceptive awareness. By rejecting the diet mentality, making peace with food, challenging the food police, coping with your emotions without using food, respecting your body and honoring your health with gentle nutrition, you’re removing those obstacles.
Combined, these 10 principles guide you back to a sane, healthy, more effortless relationship with food that results in all the benefits listed above.
So now let’s get into those 10 principles specifically. You know the complete guide to intuitive eating is gonna include ’em!
What Are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
- Reject the Diet Mentality. Dieting does not work. All the research to date shows us that in the majority of cases dieters wind up not only gaining back any weight they managed to lose but gaining back more. So the first principle is to reject this thinking. To get angry at the lies. And to throw out the idea of intentional weight loss for good. You have to let go of the great diet hope (that has proven false anyway) or it will prevent you from truly reconnecting to your body.
- Honor Your Hunger. You have to eat enough food to give yourself adequate energy. If you’re physically hungry, you’ll constantly think of food and trigger the primal drive to overeat. You have to first take care of your biological need to eat enough before you can work through any other layers of your relationship with food. To your body and brain, if you’re hungry, nothing else matters.
- Make Peace with Food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Get rid of the shoulds and shouldn’ts. Thoughts and feelings of deprivation lead to cravings and binges. Consciously stop fighting with food and allow all of it, forever.
- Challenge the Food Police. Identify, challenge and change the voices of diet culture in your brain. The constant hyper-vigilance and monitoring of yourself around food is creating guilt and shame and emotional turmoil. You have to notice them and get into the habit of combating these voices in order to shift your subconscious beliefs about food, health and morality.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor. You have to create truly satisfying food experiences in order to ever feel as though you’ve had enough. The way we eat, the environment, whether or not we enjoy the food, is all extremely important for feeling satisfied. Eating is more than just biting, chewing and swallowing. So actively seeking to enjoy food again satisfies a primal instinct that we’ve silenced through dieting.
- Feel Your Fullness. Listen to your body’s signals that you’re no longer hungry. Get familiar with the subtle ways it speaks to you when it’s had enough. Pause while eating to check in, eating slowly and mindfully when possible. Ask yourself how the food tastes, how satisfied you are as you eat. Notice what comes up.
- Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food. First understand that food restriction typically leads to loss of control while eating that can be mistaken for emotional eating. Once restriction is truly gone, and you find yourself eating when not hungry, ask yourself what you’re actually feeling and how you might help yourself to cope with and process that specific emotion. Food may comfort in the short term and eating is a benign coping skill but, it won’t fix the feelings. It won’t solve the problem. Or help you process negative emotions. Finding more effective ways to cope will help you deal with the source instead of adding to the angst.
- Respect Your Body. Accept body diversity. Recognize that genes play a larger role in body size and shape than food. Respect the body you have and take care of it in its current state. Meet its basic needs. Treat it with dignity. Make it comfortable. All bodies, regardless of size, deserve dignity and respect.
- Movement – Feel the Difference. Forget punishing exercise. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body rather than the calorie burning or ‘sculpting’ effect of exercise. Focus on how it feels to be in your body and appreciate how it can move instead of militant attempts to change it.
- Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your taste buds while making you feel good. Forget about the perfectionist mindset of diet culture and ease up on yourself. Recognize that a variety of high-quality, nourishing foods consistently over a lifetime is what really matters when it comes to nutrition and health.
It’s a lot to remember, we know. Download a free printable list of the principles to use in your daily life to get started and help you remember. Grab your list of the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating here.
Is There Any Scientific Evidence that Intuitive Eating is Better than Dieting?
Yes. Glad you asked. You can find a massive list of studies that you probably won’t feel like reading here: Scientific Evidence of Intuitive Eating.
From our perspective though and for the sake of this complete guide to intuitive eating, here’s the gist of it:
- The weight-normative approach is not improving health for the majority of individuals across the entire weight continuum.
- From the perspective of efficacy as well as ethics, body weight is a poor target for public health intervention.
- Traditional diet programs that encourage individuals to consciously restrict their dietary intake have not only been ineffective in terms of weight outcomes, but have also been counterproductive, promoting psychological distress and unhealthy eating behaviors.
- If you’ve been dieting, you will likely relate to the participant’s experience in The Minnesota Experiment and the effects of semi-starvation.
How Do I Start Intuitively Eating?
Alright so, dieting = ineffective and crazy-making. We’ve established that. So how do you get started with Intuitive Eating? The simple approach is to stop dieting, start eating and notice what happens non-judgmentally.
The more realistic approach is to get some guidance and support.
We provide free Intuitive Eating Breakthrough Sessions to anyone who’s Intuitive Eating-curious or who is just so exhausted with dieting and obsessing and spending all of their time thinking about food and beating themselves up that they know they need to find another way to live and relate to food.
If you’ve read the complete guide to intuitive eating this far, I’d encourage you to just grab a spot on our calendar and we’ll help you get started. I mean, it’s free.
Otherwise, you could read the book or one of the many books we list below. Or dive in a bit deeper with an Intro to Intuitive Eating self-study course.
The main idea here though is that Intuitive Eating is complex. And depending on how long you’ve been dieting, how deeply ingrained your diet thinking is, what your diet and body shame related traumas are, and how open and willing you are to not only put weight loss on the back burner for now but also to let go and trust yourself and your body, it could be a bumpy road and most people need some help to really move through the challenges that come up.
This is unlearning a lifetime’s worth of diet related bullshit and going a different way. It’s incredibly freeing and empowering and a massive relief. You reclaim so much time, energy, mind space, confidence, self-respect and all the good that comes with those things but, it will likely take some work to get there.
Plus, the changes in mindset and behavior that are required to actually heal your relationship with food and your body are countercultural, unfortunately. Meaning that most people in your life who are also living in diet culture likely won’t understand what you’re doing.
It can be tricky. There will be questions. You will have doubt. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. And probably moments of “Oh SHIT! What am I doing just eating this ice cream!?” And it’s in those moments when it’s really helpful to have guidance, accountability, support and community. Which is exactly what we provide (and more) in our Intuitive Eating group coaching program. If you’re interested in learning more about that, click here to read more about it, or just book one of those free Intuitive Eating Breakthrough Sessions we talked about.
The process of truly healing and overcoming your food and body woes through Intuitive Eating is made up of three parts.
- Learning – Building an intellectual understanding of Intuitive Eating
- Application – Putting it into practice and gleaning the highly personal and individualized wisdom that comes from practicing it in daily life
- Embodiment – Settling into this new way of living and relating to food and practicing until this habitual way of thinking and behaving becomes your automatic default setting
The application phase is definitely where the most stuff will come up for you. So if that’s where you’re at, or you’re just reading the complete guide to intuitive eating to gather info right now, you can definitely help yourself along and cut your learning curve by finding some guidance and support.
What You Should Look for in an Intuitive Eating Program/Coach:
If you are looking to get support and guidance around Intuitive Eating to heal your relationship with food and your body, there are a few things you’ll want to look out for in choosing a coach or mentor or program.
- Weight Neutrality – Can’t stress this enough. Intuitive Eating has become a very trendy phrase in the wellness industry. People are promoting weight loss programs with the term and it’s ass-backwards. If anyone promises you weight loss through Intuitive Eating, run the other way. One of the core tenets of Intuitive Eating is that you have to take the focus OFF of weight loss in order to practice it and heal. So be sure that whoever you choose to work with or whatever program or course you choose to enroll in is NOT in any way shape or form telling you you’re going to lose weight. Check out our blog on if you can lose weight with Intuitive Eating here.
- Personal Experience – Intuitive Eating is something that you must practice and embody to really ‘get it.’ So whoever is teaching it must be walking their talk and living it in their lives. And while no one is perfect and your coach or mentor doesn’t need to be, they should at least be in the 4th or 5th stage of Intuitive Eating.
- You Should Feel Like You Can Trust Them – When you’re talking to women about food, it’s never really about the food. It’s usually about what’s going on underneath the hood. And in order to move through this process you’ll have to move through some ‘stuff’ that comes up as a result. And if you’re working with someone, it will be imperative that you feel you can speak your truth and not be judged.
- Body Neutrality – One of the common mistakes people make in exploring Intuitive Eating is that they rely on it as the end-all of healing their relationship with food and their body. Body image also plays a massive role in our relationship with food. We put an enormous amount of pressure on how we look (trying to be thin) which puts an enormous amount of pressure on how we eat. Healing body image and working toward body neutrality is an integral step in overcoming this problem in your life. Be sure that whichever coach or program you choose has an extensive exploration of healing body image as well. Healing body image is phase two of our intuitive eating program for that exact reason. We believe Intuitive Eating and Body Neutrality work in tandem for healing on a deeper level.
Common Intuitive Eating FAQs:
While the complete guide to intuitive eating may not cover ALL the possible questions out there, here are a bunch of common ones that come up.
I always feel guilty after eating foods I know aren’t great for me, especially sweets. I eat them when I’m craving them, not because I’m hungry, and then I end up feeling guilty. How can I stop these cravings and stop feeling guilty?
There’s a lot to unpack here but, the gist of it is that the more you try to restrict certain foods the more power those foods will have over you. The guilt you feel is part of the psychological restriction that will need to be addressed. Restriction will always lead to cravings and binges. Allowing all foods and recognizing that there is nothing wrong with eating food for the sheer enjoyment of them, even when not hungry, is important. We are allowed to eat when we’re not hungry and enjoy any food we want. That guilt you feel is the “Food Police”, the internal enforcement arm of diet culture. Making peace with food and shifting the beliefs that some foods are “wrong” or “unhealthy” will be an important step for you.
So stop restricting the food and just enjoy it. And address the root belief in your brain that’s making that wrong in the first place. All foods are allowed in intuitive eating. And no food will make or break your health. Food choices are not character flaws or moral implications. That’s all diet culture brainwashing.
How long will it take me to become an intuitive eater?
Totally depends. It depends on how long you’ve been dieting, how deeply ingrained your diet mindset is, how willing you are to put weight loss on the back burner and really let go and trust your body.
Everyone’s dieting history and trauma is different. There is really no way to tell how long it will take you to heal and make peace with food and your body. Our Intuitive Eating Coaching Program is 4 months long and we’ve found for most clients, who are showing up fully and open and honest with themselves throughout the process, somewhere between that 3 and 4 month mark is where the major breakthroughs generally occur.
But really, there’s just no way to put a timeline on healing from a lifetime of battling food and your body. It’s not a linear process. It’s more like making your way through a labyrinth.
What if I have a chronic illness or food allergy?
This is a really common question. If you legitimately have Celiac Disease, for example, your body is going to be speaking to you very loudly if you eat a loaf of bread. So if someone suffering from Celiac Disease is eating intuitively, they’d be responding to the physical sensations of their body to get their need to not feel violently ill met. The shift is going from thinking “I have to go on a strict, gluten-free diet” to “I’m eating to take care of myself and feel good – and my body tells me it hates gluten.”
It can certainly be trickier to eat intuitively for those with chronic illness or legitimate food allergies (We’re not talking about the wellness industry’s food-anxiety-induced version of food sensitivities. Did you know that food anxiety and yo-yo dieting can actually cause a lot of the physical symptoms, like IBS, that the wellness industry then blames on things like the evil nightshade vegetables? Just some food for thought.)
If you’re suffering from a chronic illness or food allergy and are interested in intuitive eating, we’d encourage you to find a registered dietitian who is also Intuitive Eating Certified and HAES aligned.
Here is a great place to search for both: HAES Community Search
Do I need to be motivated?
I mean, motivated how? Do you need to be motivated to break free from the diet binge cycle and make peace with food and your body above all else? Yes. Do you need the motivation and willpower to control food? No.
You need to be motivated by the idea of feeling at peace with food and your body and willing to show up for yourself with compassion as you learn this new way of living and relating to food. The process involves eating and listening and feeling your feelings. It involves a lot of learning, applying and embodying. It’s not a start/stop, pass/fail or on the wagon/off the wagon thing where you have to get motivated and pumped and muster willpower. It’s a gradual paradigm shift. So, “motivation” doesn’t quite fit the vibe here.
If I give myself permission to eat everything I’m afraid I’ll just eat junk food, how will I ever stop?
The only reason food has so much power over you right now is because you’ve been trying to control it, depriving yourself psychologically or physically as a result.
When you remove the restriction and allow all foods, you may feel out of control for a while (this is what we mean when we say ‘the pendulum needs to swing before it finds balance’). You might have to eat more than dieting ever led you to believe was acceptable. But then something called “food habitualization” will occur.
This means that the more we’re exposed to a food, the less our brains care about it. Case and point: Halloween candy. If you are only exposed to certain foods for a limited amount of time AND you’re restricting and depriving yourself of those foods, you’re likely going to feel out of control once you do start eating them. But if you continue to eat the Halloween candy for a week straight, you’ll eventually get sick of it and want a salad or something. That’s just how our bodies work.
So yes, you might eat “junk food” for a while because you’ve likely been restricting “junk food” while dieting. But once the novelty of it all wears off, you’re going to crave a balanced, variety of foods just like all others who score highly on the intuitive eating assessment scale. Food will lose its power. Chocolate and green beans will have an equal emotional charge and moral implication. Sometimes you’ll want cookies. Sometimes you’ll want kale. As my toddler says “No biggie, no bonky.”
Is the intuitive eating program a diet?
No. A diet is any intentional attempt to control food as a means for changing your body.
Intuitive eating is a weight-inclusive framework that helps you reconnect to your body so that you can listen to internal cues in order to take care of yourself and meet your needs on a holistic level. The principles are guideposts to healing your relationship with food and your body.
What’s the difference between intuitive eating and mindful eating?
Intuitive Eating is “weight-inclusive, evidence-based model and self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion and rational thought.” There are 10 principles in intuitive eating that help to either fine tune your ability to hear and respond to the physical sensations of the body in order to get your needs met or remove obstacles to doing so.
Mindful eating is the process of actively and purposefully paying attention to eating without judgement and is a helpful practice used within the intuitive eating framework.
What do I do if intuitive eating doesn’t work for me?
First: I’d encourage you to take a step back and get honest about your intentions going into it. Did you think you’d just magically start eating like a bird? Were you hoping you’d find that you weren’t really that hungry after all? Did you think you’d just start to see weight naturally melting off? Did you think it would be … easy?
If you answered yes to any of those questions you’re definitely not alone but, could be what’s going on.
Remember that “working” means making peace with food and your body. So going back to unpack what that really means for you would be helpful.
Second: I’d ask if you’re familiar with the 5 stages of intuitive eating. Because “working” can look very different depending on which stage you’re currently in.
Third: I’d ask what type of guidance and support have you received? Did you read a couple of articles and then just stop dieting? If so, that probably won’t work. Did you read the actual Intuitive Eating book? If so, you’re getting closer. What about the Intuitive Eating workbook? (Yes, there are actually exercises and assignments that can help you along your path.) And did you sign up for any type of Intuitive Eating program or coaching?
All of those things would be really helpful. If it’s not clear by now, the benefits of intuitive eating are well worth the work but it’s not easy. So before you decide that it’s not working for you, get honest about how serious you’ve committed to learning and implementing it into your life. Casual dabblers will have a harder time than most.
Additional reading: We answer this FAQ in far greater depth on our blog. This piece is definitely worth a read: Why Isn’t Intuitive Eating Working?
Will intuitive eating help me stop binge eating?
Most likely. Binge eating in most cases is a direct response to restriction and deprivation, whether physical or psychological. When you remove the restriction and deprivation most binge eating will subside on its own. Of course, binge eating is a spectrum and in severe cases may need a clinical diagnosis and treatment. (If you believe you may have an eating disorder please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to refer you to a trusted specialist.)
But for the average dieter, binge eating is mostly uncomfortable physically and emotionally. But once you start feeding yourself enough, regularly, and no longer restricting any foods you enjoy, you should see a rapid decrease in bingeing. It can sometimes happen overnight.
There’s also a lot of confusion around binge eating. Eating ravenously past the point of being full when you’ve been restricting and depriving yourself is actually a healthy, natural response from your body while it’s trying to keep you alive. And diet culture has led us to believe we’re supposed to eat far less than our bodies actually need.
Either way, binging, in most cases, is the body’s natural, healthy response to restriction and deprivation. So intuitive eating should help you stop naturally, without any willpower needed.
Additional reading: This may be a helpful read if you’re struggling with more severe binge eating episodes.
Can I still try to lose weight while I learn intuitive eating?
You can. But it won’t ‘work’.
The goal of intuitive eating is to break out of the diet cycle and make peace with food and your body. If you go into it focused on weight loss, you’ll never truly be able to listen to your body. Your thoughts and decisions will always be rooted in weight loss deep down and that will dictate your behavior. The goal here is to let go, trust your body and let it take over. Doing so is how you get all those wonderful benefits we talked about before, like no longer feeling like a lunatic and obsessing about food all day. Or starting new diets every other week only to wind up face down in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s late at night hating yourself and hoping nobody walks into the kitchen to expose you for the absolute freak you feel like inside around food.
If you try to lose weight with intuitive eating you will turn it into another diet rendering it totally useless and ineffective.
That being said, we’ve never had a client who wasn’t somewhat interested in losing weight. Wanting to lose weight in our culture is totally normal and common and we ourselves are not immune. But, the ability to put that desire on the back burner, to just allow it to ride alongside but not be in control on this journey is absolutely necessary. The desire to lose weight may remain but, it cannot be the reason you want to learn intuitive eating. Feeling at peace with food and your body for once in your life has to be more important. That has to be your North star, otherwise it’s not going to work.
Do I really need a coach to just eat intuitively? Shouldn’t it be intuitive?
I mean, no, of course not. But even Serena Williams has a tennis coach. The best way to shrink a learning curve and accelerate and amplify results is to get guidance and support in whatever you’re doing.
And for this particular issue, we’ve honestly never seen someone succeed who didn’t get some sort of support, guidance and community around it. Intuitive Eating is countercultural. And the head of the trail is rocky and misleading. You’re going to have questions. It’s going to feel awkward. There are going to be times when you feel even crazier and doubt yourself and want to quit. And it’s likely there aren’t many people in your personal circle that can help.
Most people you know are probably dieting in some way themselves or at least talking about it. Weight is on everyone’s minds. Our culture is obsessed with its narrow definition of “wellness.” Women connect over points and calories and body bashing. Charting this new course can be lonely and confusing. You can 100% try to do this on your own but our question would then be: why?
There’s a growing army of women busting free from the shackles of diet culture, making peace with food, healing their body image and reclaiming their confidence, so why go it alone? It’s so much more fun and impactful to get support.
If you’d like to talk to us about that, book a free Intuitive Eating Breakthrough Session now. It’s a 45 minute call where we’ll dive into exactly what’s not working for you in terms of food and your body, what you’re missing in order to fix it, and a plan to get you moving in the right direction. Here’s that link again.
Is intuitive eating healthy?
Yes. Lindo Bacon’s groundbreaking work in their Health at Every Size research proved that those who eat in a flexible, individualized way based on internal hunger and satiety cues, keeping in mind nutritional needs and pleasure, have better health outcomes than those who eat in a regulated, restricted way focused on weight control.
TeriSue Smith and Steven R. Hawks’ research in 2006 showed us that those scoring high in intuitive eating indicators ate a more diverse diet and had lower body mass. Furthermore, there was no association between intuitive eating and the amount of “junk food” eaten in the diet. Intuitive eaters were not eating an unbalanced diet and they were enjoying their food more.
Additional reading (that you probs won’t want to do): Intuitive Eating Studies
Will I lose/gain weight with intuitive eating?
Short answer: nobody knows what’s going to happen with your body. (And if they tell you otherwise they’re full of sh*t.)
The long answer: for some, a lifetime of dieting may have resulted in a body weight that’s higher than their natural, weight set point. For others, severe restriction may have left them underweight. Depending on too many variables to predict, you may gain, you may lose, you may stay the same.
At the end of the day though, intuitive eating is about healing your relationship with food and your body so that you can exit the painful, all-consuming diet cycle and embrace true, lasting well-being instead. It’s about ending the craziness you feel and finding peace. It is not about the weight. What typically happens is that eating intuitively for some time, weight will stabilize and settle at a natural, healthy place for your body.
(And if anyone suggests using intuitive eating for intentional weight loss, run in the other direction. They are co-opting the term for marketing purposes.)
Additional reading: Bridget wrote an awesome piece on this here if you’d like to read more (and get a little bonus coaching as well): Can I Lose Weight with Intuitive Eating?
Great Books on Intuitive Eating (& related content):
While the complete guide to intuitive eating doesn’t include every single book on the subject out there, here are many awesome resources and some of our all-time favorite books!
- Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition: A revolutionary anti-diet approach by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND
- Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND
- Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD
- Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors and Storytelling by Anita Johnston, PhD
- Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker
- The Fuck It Diet: Eating should be easy by Caroline Dooner
- Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Lindo Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD
- Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Lindo Bacon, PhD
- The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole-Smith
- Eat to Love: A Mindful Guide to Transforming Your Relationship with Food, Body and Life by Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RDN, CDN
- Just Eat It: How intuitive eating can help you get your shit together around food by Laura Thomas, PhD
- Healthy Eating for Life: An Intuitive Eating Workbook to Stop Dieting Forever by Cara Carbstreet, MS, RD, LD
- Beyond Beautiful: A Practical Guide to Being Happy, Confident and You in a Looks-Obsessed World by Anuschka Rees
- Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out – and Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield
- Making Peace with Food: Freeing Yourself from the Diet/Weight Obsession by Susan Kano
- Why Diets Make us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession with Weight Loss by Sandra Aamodt, PhD
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff
- The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
- The Religion of Thinness: Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers Behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight by Michelle M. Lelwica, ThD
- Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller
- The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
- This Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
- Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown
Best Podcasts on Intuitive Eating (& related content):
Again, not every podcast out there is included in this complete guide to intuitive eating, but here are some of our favorites!
- Wellness Lately Podcast with Bridget Shannon & Dana Barron
- Food Psych with Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN
- The Fuck It Diet with Caroline Dooner
- The Food Heaven Podcast with Wendy Lopez & Jessica Jones
- More Than What You Eat with Rachel Goodman
- Going Beyond the Food with Stephanie Dodier
- Intuitive Bites with Kirsten Ackerman, MS, RD
- Nutrition Matters by Positive Nutrition
- RD Real Talk with Heather Caplan, RD
- Love, Food with Julie Dillon
- Don’t Salt My Game with Laura Thomas PhD, RNUTR
- You Can Eat with Us with Libre Connections
- Nourishing Women with Victoria Myers
- Intuitive Eating for the Culture with Christyna Johnson, MS, RDN, LD
- Food Confidence with Andrea Paul and Jenna Brave
- Comfort Food with Amy Palanjian & Virginia Sole-Smith
- Every Body with Daria Matza
Some Good Articles on Intuitive Eating (& related content):
If you haven’t quite read enough after getting through the complete guide to intuitive eating, here are a few great articles.
- Smash the Wellness Industry
- The Latest Diet Trend is Not Dieting
- What the Dietitians Who Invented Intuitive Eating Think About Diet Culture Today
- Why Emotional Eating Isn’t as Straightforward as You Think
- The diet industry cost me time, money and happiness
- You don’t have to earn your food
- How Neuroscience Can Help You Become an Intuitive Eater
- Do I Need to Be Thinner to Be Healthy?
- I Tried Intuitive Eating and It’s Definitely Not as Intuitive as It Sounds
- Intuitive eating: The anti-diet, or how pleasure from food is the answer, say its creators
- Just eat it: How to have a healthy relationship with food this January
- Intuitive eating leads backlash against diet culture
- New wellness approach that focuses on mindfulness and intuitive eating is more effective than traditional weight-loss programs
- Why Intuitive Eating Could Change the World
Intuitive Eating Course:
Intuitive Eating Support:
Intuitive Eating Program Coaching Program:
We hope the complete guide to intuitive eating is helpful as you begin the process of unlearning all of dieting’s rules and restrictions, and start embracing your body’s innate wisdom in order to feel your best and end the battle with food once and for all. Remember this is a practice, and takes some time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us anytime with questions at email@example.com or on Instagram at @wellness_lately!