WTF: Intuitive Eating

Have you seen #intuitiveeating on your social feed recently and wondered WTF it means? You’re not alone. But since we’re personally fascinated by it, we thought you might be, too!

The term intuitive eating was coined in the mid-90’s, based on a nutrition philosophy that dates back to the nineteenth century (aka, this is not a new trend or passing fad).

Before we dive into what intuitive eating is, let’s talk about what it isn’t: a diet. Intuitive eating is a way of eating (a way of life, if you will) that helps people establish a healthy relationship with food and body image. As a self-proclaimed diet-hater, this is something I can really get behind.

When you break it down, intuitive eating means that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. You don’t see food as “good” or “bad”—you listen to your body and eat what you want, when you want. Although the name suggests this should be an intuitive process, it’s actually very difficult for most people to achieve, as it essentially requires you to un-learn so many things you’ve convinced yourself to believe about food over the course of your life.

To get a better idea of what intuitive eating really entails, let’s consult the professionals. These are the 10 Key Principles of Intuitive Eating, according to the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D, F.A.D.A., C.E.D.R.D.:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality — Stop believing that there’s a magic diet out there that will finally give you fast, easy and permanent results.
  2. Honor Your Hunger —  Basically, eat when you start to feel hungry rather than waiting until you feel ravenous. This may be difficult at first. Start by having check-ins with yourself throughout the day to gauge your hunger/fullness and respond accordingly.
  3. Make Peace with Food — Telling yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings, and ultimately result in bingeing. Make peace with food by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Yup.
  4. Challenge the Food Police — Get rid of the rules and labels (good vs. bad) you associate with certain foods or eating behaviors.
  5. Respect Your Fullness — Just like honoring your hunger, you should also try to recognize when you feel comfortably full. Try to avoid the extremes of ravenous and uncomfortably full.
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor of Eating — Take pleasure in every meal. Eating should be an enjoyable, satisfying experience. Be present—if you make eating a mindless activity, it will be much harder to respect your fullness.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food — Understand the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Food should not be your main source of comfort or a vehicle for suppressing unwanted emotions. Explore new activities that bring you joy or help you deal with certain emotions that don’t revolve around food.
  8. Respect Your Body — Learn to embrace the things about your body that you previously criticized yourself for. Your body is part of what makes you you.
  9. Exercise—Feel the Difference — Don’t just exercise for the sake of burning calories or losing weight. Focus on how exercising makes you feel, and let that be your motivation. If you try this and find that the form of exercise you’ve been doing doesn’t actually make you feel amazing, explore other forms of exercise until you find something that does. Yes, you’ll still be burning calories, but you’ll also be happier and more likely to continue to exercise when you focus on the joy it brings you.
  10. Honor Your Health — This is where it all starts to make sense. Yes, intuitive eating encourages you to eat whatever you want, when you want. But this principle is key. As you start giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, you’ll notice that certain foods make you feel better than others. This is not to say that the foods that make you feel crappy are “bad” or “off-limits,” but you should strive to treat your body with respect, aka, eat the foods that taste the best to you or make you feel the best. Remember, these foods will be different for everyone.

See what we mean about this being difficult? Completely changing the way you think and feel about food is not an easy psychological feat. So let’s talk about the benefits of intuitive eating…

While intuitive eating doesn’t promise weight loss, it has been proven to result in better psychological health. Studies have linked intuitive eating to healthier psychological attitudes and lower body mass index (BMI). Participants in these studies reported improved self-esteem, body image and overall quality of life, while experiencing less depression and anxiety. (Can we get a “hell yeah!”?)

The bottom line is:


This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.


2 thoughts on “WTF: Intuitive Eating

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Love this. I always wondered whether there was a ‘label’. In May last year I unconsciously stopped thinking about food/diets/calories, I mean honestly, in hindsight, it steals your life. When I weighted myself one day (the only day last year in fact) I’d lost 44 pounds (sporadic myfitnesspal logger, here) and it’s still coming off. So liberating, I hope it catches on if only that we stop putting our lives on pause for “diets” and beating ourselves up over what we ate yesterday. Best wishes!.

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