What is Intuitive Eating?

What is Intuitive Eating?

When I first heard of the concept of intuitive eating, believe me, there were major eye rolls. I thought, “Here we go … another diet to confuse people even more.”

After listening to the two dietitians who created intuitive eating present at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in 2019, I was pleasantly surprised ... it's not really a diet at all.

It’s actually the complete opposite of what most people consider a “diet.” No real restrictions.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Let's walk through the basics of intuitive eating, how to apply it, and explore if it's right for you!

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is the idea that you are the expert on what your body needs for fuel. That means you should listen to your body’s cues when choosing to eat.

What does that actually look like though?

Basically, it means that you eat when your body is hungry, stop when you are full, and eat what your body wants.

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That may sound awesome to some, and a little scary to others ... I get it. Some of us have lost touch with when we are really hungry or full, which can make intuitive eating difficult.

Another challenge of intuitive eating is knowing the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. For most people, this isn't obvious.

Physical hunger is when your body needs food to function and signals you to listen.

On the other hand, emotional eating happens when you're emotionally vulnerable. This can be stress, loneliness, anger, and many other emotions. When it’s impulsive and reactive, it can cause a disconnection with your hunger cues.

So, if you truly want to eat intuitively ... you need to listen to your body's physical hunger cues. You also need to actively make sure to replace emotional hunger with a different behavior.

Intuitive eating is all about eating with intention and paying attention!

What Are the Principles of Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating really came about in a book from 1995 that was written by dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

They explain that there are 10 principles of intuitive eating.

Let’s talk about each one:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

The first step to intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality.

But ... what do I mean by diet mentality?

Well, if you've ever heard someone tell you that a food is unhealthy and you need to cut it out ... that's a diet mentality.

A diet mentality will tell you that some foods are good and should be eaten ... while other foods are bad and should be restricted.

Intuitive eating rejects this entirely.

For intuitive eaters ... all foods fit. It's all about listening to your body and eating what it's telling you it wants.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Dieting tells you to ignore your hunger cues.

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It tells you that being hungry is helping you be healthy and lose weight.

Intuitive eating is much different. If your body needs fuel, you should honor it.

The idea is that your body is a tool, not a machine to be controlled.

Hunger isn’t your enemy ... it's just a physical cue your body sends to tell you it's low on energy.

So when you eat intuitively, you honor your hunger, and eat when you're hungry.

Intuitive eating claims that by eating right when you're hungry, and not starving ... you can keep from overeating.

It also claims that waiting too long to eat leads to a tendency to overeat, which intuitive eating can help with.

3. Make Peace with Food

Food can be complicated for many people.

Intuitive eating is about developing a good relationship with food. Instead of constantly fighting it, you seek to be at peace with it.

It's changing your mindset to "I can eat that" instead of "I can't eat that."

4. Challenge The Food Police

Speaking of good and bad foods, that’s the food police talking.

All our lives, we’ve been told that some foods are “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

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Intuitive eating is about challenging that mindset and instead, considering food as just ... food.

Food is fuel, and it’s neither good nor bad.

So when your body is craving fries, you'd give your body fries, without thinking about the carbs.

When your body craves quinoa, you'd feed your body quinoa without feeling good because you ate something that's generally considered “healthy.”

Instead, you give your body what it asks for, and leave it at that. Intuitive eating doesn't want you to dwell on the guilt of eating certain foods.

5. Discover The Satisfaction

When you are feeding your body what it wants, you can discover (or rediscover) the satisfaction that can be eating.

Eating can be an enjoyable experience instead of a painful one.

To do this, you need to seek out foods that will satisfy you.

If it does, then you should eat it.

6. Feel Your Fullness

Just like with honoring your hunger, your body will tell you when it’s had enough.

...and on an intuitive eating plan ... that's exactly what you're supposed to do. You have to feel the fullness of your body and listen to it.

It's also recommended that you eat slowly. But then again, I always recommend this! Eating slowly can help you really pay attention to your physical cues.

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When your body is full, you listen to your body and stop eating ... even if you haven’t cleared your plate yet.

This can really help with avoiding overeating.

7. Use Kindness to Cope with Your Emotions

Emotional eating won’t actually make you feel better. To put it simply, food can't fix your emotions.

When you're not feeling your best, try doing something you like or something soothing.

Eating when you're not hungry is the easiest way to sabotage any diet ... not just intuitive eating.

8. Respect Your Body

Bodies come in so many different shapes and sizes. Intuitive eating is about celebrating that.

Instead of thinking about your body negatively, the goal is to feel neutral.

Intuitive eating advocates say that accepting your body and "respecting it" can be much easier than loving it.

So really, intuitive eating seeks to help you find peace in your body as well.

9. Movement

Equating movement and exercise has led to many people stressing about exercising.

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Intuitive eating instead asks you to just enjoy moving for the sake of moving.

You choose movements that you love and that sound enjoyable to you!

For example, if you hate running ... try going for a walk instead. Doing what you like to do vs what you have to do can help you stay consistent long-term.

10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition

Intuitive eating isn’t asking you to throw everything you’ve learned about biology out the window ... even though it may seem that way so far!

You should be fueling your body with foods that both make you feel good and feel full.

One meal isn't going to make or break anything. The pattern of your nutrition is what really matters.

What Are the Benefits of Intuitive Eating?

There may be some physical benefits of intuitive eating...

For one, research shows that intuitive eating is associated with weight maintenance and lower BMIs. [1]

But I highly recommend you take that with a grain of salt ... eating intuitively doesn't always result in weight loss or better health.

A lot of people may stay the same weight or even gain weight.

Most of the benefits intuitive eating has to offer are actually mental.

Research has found that intuitive eating can boost self-esteem, body image, and quality of life.

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Women who eat intuitively may also be less likely to display signs of disordered eating [3].

Overall, intuitive eating may help you feel better about yourself and your eating.

But the truth is, nothing is guaranteed.

Should You Try Intuitive Eating?

So I'm sure you're wondering ... should I try intuitive eating?

Well ... if you're looking to get healthier, build muscle, lose body fat, or really manipulate your body in any specific way ... I would not recommend intuitive eating.

The only way you can guarantee results is with a combination of exercise and monitoring your food intake. Intuitive eating doesn't allow you to do this. In fact, intuitive eating itself is a non-diet approach to nutrition that is not meant to be used as a weight loss tool.

The two dietitians that created the intuitive eating have been very open about the fact that it is not a tool to be used for intentional weight loss. Technically, any change to your lifestyle with the intention of weight loss is considered a “diet,” which is against everything they stand for. While some of these concepts are great, you can’t just pick the ones you like and call it intuitive eating.

Weight loss and weight gain are all about balancing your body's energy. If you're consuming more calories than you're burning ... you'll gain weight. If you're burning more calories than you're consuming ... you'll lose weight.

But if you just eat whatever you want, whenever you feel like it ... how will you ever know if you're in the calorie range you need to be in?

You won't ... it's not possible. In addition to that, it also means you won't be able to keep track of your protein intake in order to preserve or build lean muscle tissue effectively.

Plus, intuitive eating completely discounts the fact that some foods truly are better for you than others.

If your main goal is just to be healthy, you have to eat nutrient-dense foods and maintain a healthy weight.

Ignoring the difference between french fries and broccoli doesn't really sound like a winning strategy to reach your goals ... don't you agree?

How Can We Help?

The truth is, intuitive eating can't guarantee you the results you're looking for.

There is no way to avoid the hard work and commitment to a solid nutrition and exercise program. You also wouldn't want to ... nothing will make you feel better than putting in the work and earning the results you'd kill for!

The good news for you is this ... yes, you have to track your food and put in the work. However, when you have the tools, resources, and reps to build healthy habits and make it a lifestyle ... it gets a lot easier.

Download the 1st Phorm App

Plus, we're here to help you make that change. In fact, that's why we developed the 1st Phorm App.

Inside the app, you'll get access to:

• A custom meal plan with macro tracking
• A full library of custom workout programs
• 1-on-1 messaging and assistance from your own personal advisor
• Body metrics and progress tracking
• Daily educational livestreams and content
• Instructional workout videos
• Join challenges for your chance to win $25,000

...and so much more

If you have questions, need help, or you're trying to get started ... reach out to us! We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Nutrition Coaches who are here to help you for FREE.

Just send us an email at CustomerService@1stphorm.com or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732.


[1] Van Dyke N, Drinkwater EJ. Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1757-66. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139. Epub 2013 Aug 21. PMID: 23962472.

[2] Lauren J. Bruce, Lina A. Ricciardelli, A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women, Appetite, Volume 96, 2016, pages 454-472, ISSN 0195-6663, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.012.

[3] Julie T. Schaefer, Amy B. Magnuson, A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 114, Issue 5, 2014, 734-760, ISSN 2212-2672, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.024.