Intuitive Eating 101: 5 Tips to Get Started

Published on: 06/18/2022

Intuitive eating is a solution. It is a sustainable solution to health and nutrition that recognizes the individuality and uniqueness of you. It is a solution to stop yo-yo dieting, to break free from diet culture, to end calorie restriction, to mend emotional eating, and to halt the binge-restrict cycle for good.

Becoming an intuitive eater can have a major impact on your life – an impact for the better. It can help you heal from a destructive relationship with food. It can help you take better care of yourself and your body. It can help you reconnect with your body. It can help you learn to eat in a way that provides the nourishment that your body needs and the fun that your brain wants.

If intuitive eating seems intriguing to you, keep reading for a little intuitive eating 101. In this blog post, I’ll go into more detail about what intuitive eating is, who can be an intuitive eater, some benefits of intuitive eating, and some tips to help you get started with intuitive eating.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence based approach to food, nutrition, and health that emphasizes internal cues over external cues. It is a non-diet approach that puts the focus on behaviors that enhance health instead of focusing on a number on the scale. Intuitive eating is a process that guides and supports you as you get back in touch with your internal cues – like hunger, fullness, and how food makes you feel – and teaches you how to use these internal cues to guide your eating choices.

Intuitive eating is normal eating. We are all born as intuitive eaters. Think about babies – they cry when they are hungry, eat, stop when they are full, and repeat. They don’t have a schedule. They may eat more at one feeding and less at the next. They’re eating based on their own internal cues of hunger and fullness.

Intuitive eating is based on 10 principles which I cover in more detail in another blog post. The 10 principles of intuitive eating are…

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honor your hunger
  • Make peace with food
  • Challenge the food police
  • Respect your fullness
  • Discover the satisfaction factor
  • Cope with your emotions with kindness
  • Respect your body
  • Movement – feel the difference
  • Honor your health with gently nutrition

Who can be an intuitive eater?

The short answer – everyone!

The longer answer – Everyone but it depends. 

Intuitive eating is absolutely an approach that can work for everyone but, I won’t lie to you, it isn’t the easiest approach. You have to be ready to become an intuitive eater. You have to be in a mental space where it feels safe to connect with and listen to your body. You have to be willing to shift your focus away from how much you may or may not weigh. 

You can be an intuitive eater if you have food allergies. You can be an intuitive eater if you are training for a marathon. You can be an intuitive eater if you have dietary restrictions. You can be an intuitive eater if you are an athlete. You can be an intuitive eater if you have gut issues. You can be an intuitive eater if you’ve been dieting for years. You can be an intuitive eater if you have a medical diagnosis. Each of these things can be honored by the intuitive eating philosophy and framework.

The benefits of intuitive eating

There are a ton of research studies that discuss the benefits of intuitive eating. Some of the positive health benefits of intuitive eating include…

  • Lower triglyceride
  • Increased HDL cholesterol
  • Lower total cholesterol
  • Lower LDL cholesterol
  • Improved body image
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Increased well-being
  • Lower rates of disordered eating
  • Lower rates of eating disorders
  • Lower rates of emotional eating

If any of this seems intriguing, here are some tips to get you started on your own intuitive eating journey.

5 tips to get started with intuitive eating

Be done, absolutely done with diets! Rejecting the diet mentality has to happen before you can become an intuitive eater. This seems easy but can be pretty difficult. We live in diet culture. We are surrounded by diets. Being done with diets means being done with the promises (false promises) that they have provided. Being done with diets means that you may not have a latest diet trend to talk about with friends, family, or co-workers. Being done with diets also means that you have to recognize the harm that they have caused. On the other side of all of this is freedom – mental freedom, food freedom, self-care freedom, freedom!

Identify your food rules…and smash them. Dieting, whether long-term or short-term, means that a variety of food rules have entered your life. There’s a decent chance that you still abide by some of these food rules even if you’ve been away from a particular diet for some time. Start thinking about what guides your eating choices and what is the intention behind that guidance. Then start thinking about what truths, real truths, are behind these intentions.

Start paying attention to your hunger and fullness. What does your hunger – your physical, biological hunger – feel like? How do you decide when to stop eating? Diets disconnect us from our own internal cues of hunger and fullness. Diets teach us that we eat when the diet says to and that we stop eating when the diet says to. Because of this, it’s likely that you only recognize extreme signals of hunger and fullness but I promise you that your body is sending you more subtle signals. Start looking for these more subtle signals. Some early signs of hunger might be a slight headache, feeling like it’s harder to concentrate, thinking about food or what to eat, or your stomach growling. Some early signs of fullness include feeling satisfied or content about what you ate, a subtle feeling of fullness in your stomach, a more hunger neutral feeling – not quite hungry but also not quite full.

Think of food as self-care. Food is fuel but it is so much more. Food is comfort, it is happiness, and it is fuel. Food is a way to care for your body and viewing food in this way can help you get out of the “good food, bad food” mentality that diet culture has got you stuck in. Thinking of food as self-care allows you to eat the foods that your body wants and the foods that your body needs.

Eat what you really like. Do you know what you really like to eat? Have you ever thought about what YOU really like to eat? These can be hard questions and to be honest, getting to the answer can sometimes dredge up some uncomfortable food related feelings and memories. To get started here, think about the physical qualities of food. What tastes do you like? What food textures do you like? What temperature do you prefer for meals? How do you like you food to look? These – somewhat – factual questions can help you answer some basics about what you really like to eat.

If you’re ready to get started with intuitive eating and what to get moving beyond these 5 things, set up a free intro call today!

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About Jessica
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Jessica is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and trained FODMAP Coach. She started Friendly Nutrition to help you find balance, peace, and joy in eating, in your relationship with food, and in your relationship with your gut.

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