A Guide to Intuitive Eating

How to make peace with food and other tips

Taylor Swope
Intuitive eating is a no-diet approach to food that's gaining popularity.

It can sometimes feel impossible to stay updated on the latest health and wellness trends, especially related to eating habits. An anti-diet philosophy called intuitive eating is gaining in popularity.

The concept is not new. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two registered dieticians, published “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach” in 1995. The book was intended to help people create a healthy body image while learning to make peace with food. Now in its fourth edition, the guide covers the 10 principles, which are the foundation of the intuitive eating movement. Newer editions address diet culture, weight stigma and baby-led weaning for breastfeeding mothers.

What does eating intuitively actually look like in practice?

“It is a non-diet approach to food. It is questioning some of the things that we have been taught about diets, health and weight,” says Lori Chong, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Chong says she became interested in incorporating this approach to eating in patient care because she has seen firsthand in her work the negative impact “yo-yo dieting” has on people’s physical and mental health.

“I see people who have been chasing one diet after another hoping it would be the magic solution,” she says. “It brings a lot of emotional toil to someone’s life to chase after these different diets.” Your body can be physically harmed when you lose weight and then rapidly regain weight. Chong credits the increasing body positivity movement for bringing more awareness to intuitive eating.

This type of eating helps people think differently about food, but it also challenges a common narrative that exercise is only for burning calories. “Exercise is about movement, because it just feels good to move your body,” Chong explains. “You don’t want to focus on an exercise that wears you out.”

Intuitive eating is ultimately about helping people make peace with food. “It is about giving yourself unconditional permission to eat,” she says. “You give yourself permission to eat a certain food and there are no limits.”

Chong says people eventually tire of a food they formerly punished themselves for eating once they give themselves permission to enjoy it. For example, someone could allow themselves to eat potato chips every day. Chong says research shows no one will continue choosing only that food every day. Once people release restrictions on certain foods, they can be open to understanding how various foods make them feel.

“There are certain types of food that help with energy and certain foods that zap us with that energy,” adds Chong. “When we start to listen to our bodies, we realize that.”

Intuitive Eating Principles

Intuitive eating can be summed up in these 10 rules:

  1. Reject the diet mentality.
  2. Honor your hunger.
  3. Make peace with food.
  4. Challenge the food police.
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor.
  6. Feel your fullness.
  7. Cope with your emotions by practicing kindness to yourself.
  8. Respect your body.
  9. Movement—feel the difference it makes.
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition.

Source: intuitiveeating.org