What is Intuitive Eating?
Written by Kelsey Schaffstall MS, RDN, CDN
You’ve probably heard of Intuitive Eating (IE) – on social media, in the news, or from someone you know. Put simply, IE is a framework that helps people to reject dieting, repair their relationship with food and their body, and pursue health behaviors that feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally. At first, it sounds too good to be true. You might have some questions like “How could eating whatever you want be healthy?” or “Why would any health professional endorse this?” or “If I ate this way, would I lose control?”. All of these questions are understandable, especially because generations of diet culture have had a major impact on our beliefs. Many of us have been conditioned us to distrust the body’s natural instincts and sacrifice nourishment in pursuit of the mainstream beauty standard. However, if you take the time to understand the purpose of each of the ten principles of Intuitive Eating, it becomes clear that this holistic approach to nutrition can result in better health outcomes than restriction and dieting.
The foundation of Intuitive Eating
Despite its current popularity, Intuitive Eating has existed for over 25 years. The self-care framework was developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Registered Dietitians who published the original book Intuitive Eating in 1995. The ten foundational principles have evolved over time and are listed below:1
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement—Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
The evidence-based benefits of Intuitive Eating
As society is beginning to challenge problematic norms such as the female beauty standard, gaps in healthcare, and the devastating effects of poor mental health, a new generation of nutrition professionals is breathing life back into Intuitive Eating. Not only is it a poignant topic for the moment we are in, it is also supported by the outcomes of over 125 studies that have been conducted since IE was introduced.
This research has shown a myriad of subjective benefits of IE including greater body appreciation, greater life satisfaction, unconditional self-regard and optimism, greater motivation to exercise for enjoyment, and greater psychological resilience.1 Objective health benefits of IE include healthy emotional functioning, reduced risk of eating disorders, weight stability, improved blood pressure, blood lipids, and dietary intake.1 For more on practicing Intuitive Eating while managing diabetes check out the article, “What is Intuitive Eating and How Does It Fit Into Diabetes Management”.
How to practice Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating is more than just knowing the ten principles. It also requires integrating them into your daily life. Moving through the ten principles requires addressing limiting beliefs surrounding your body and health. You will also learn to reconnect with your body and its signals so that you can respond appropriately to your physiological needs. Mindful eating and movement practices will help you make choices that simultaneously honor your tastes, your preferences, and your overall health. When Intuitive Eating is mastered, it results in consistent and sustainable self-care practices fueled from a place of body appreciation. If you are interested in immersing yourself Registered Dietitian trained in Intuitive Eating will have the resources and expertise to help you master the ten principles at your own pace. A number of resources, including a self-guided Intuitive Eating workbook, are also available at https://www.intuitiveeating.org/ for those who would like to learn more about this approach to wellness.
- Evelyn Tribole M, RD, Elyse Resch M, RD, FADA. Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. St. Martin’s Publishing Group; 2020.