What is Intuitive Eating?

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

All you have to do is stroll down the magazine aisle at the grocery store to know there is still societal pressure to be thin. The pressure may not be as intense as it was 25 years ago, but it’s still there. And with that pressure comes the notion that you have to eat a certain way and restrict yourself from certain foods to be thin. 
Intuitive eating rejects all that.
Intuitive eating is an anti-diet, self-care concept that empowers you to listen to your body and trust it to make food choices that make you feel good. It’s an exercise in body positivity, one that encourages a healthy relationship with food. 
When you eat intuitively, you’re not adhering to the new fad diet of the month. You’re not cyclically binge eating or depriving yourself. You’re also not labeling foods as “good” and “bad.” You’re relying on your body to tell your mind what it craves, when it’s hungry and when it’s full. Instead of feeling guilty about foods, you enjoy them when you intuitively eat.
Check out A Healthier Michigan Podcast's discussion on intuitive eating: Intuitive Eating – What to Know Before Trying

How to eat intuitively

Reject dieting: One of the core principles of intuitive eating is to ignore diet culture and TV and Internet ads that try to project a certain body image onto you. Don’t let diet trends influence which nutrients you cut out or load up on. Intuitive eating is about approaching your meals with a free and open mind and shooing away the judgment that can run rampant within diet culture.
Honor your hunger while respecting your body: If you’re craving a cheeseburger at lunch one afternoon, grab a cheeseburger. Intuitive eating is about honoring your hunger cues and cravings. It’s not about setting strict parameters that could lead to deprivation and unhappiness. In many cases, restriction is the culprit of disordered. Stop chasing the “perfect” body image and instead start focusing on loving and respecting your own body.
Eat mindfully: Slow down and let your mind process food as your body does the same. A core principle of intuitive eating calls for you to savor every bite. Chew slowly and recognize the textures and flavor profiles of your meal. Eating too fast can lead to consuming excess food before you’ve even realized you are full. 
Eat until you are full and satisfied: Eating mindfully goes hand and hand with eating until you are full and satisfied. Have you ever cleared your plate and instinctively thought to go for seconds, or to grab a snack? If you can eat mindfully and recognize that you are full, you could naturally nix that instinct and in turn, cut calories. 
The co-creators of the intuitive eating concept – Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole – outlined a list of 10 intuitive eating principles in full. Remember, the goal with intuitive eating actually isn’t weight loss; you might lose weight, your weight may stay the same or you might gain weight. The goal is to make peace with yourself and not allow diets to become a life thief.

Risks and considerations for intuitive eating

More studies need to be done on intuitive eating, but over the years researchers have found physical and mental benefits associated with its methods, including subjects who achieved lower psychological distress and a healthier weight.
However, intuitive eating is not for everyone. If you have health conditions or are recovering from an eating disorder, you should think twice about this approach to eating. For example, people with Celiac Disease who would like to adopt some intuitive eating principles should continue to restrict themselves from gluten.
If you are thinking about trying intuitive eating, you should first consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian for guidance. If any particular eating habits led you to the intuitive eating concept, it could be helpful to engage in some self-reflection. Ask yourself questions and sort out the eating habits that led you to intuitive eating. You could achieve this through journaling, or, if it’s suitable for you, consult a mental health professional to help you talk through your thoughts and feelings.
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.