- The basic principle of intuitive eating is to listen to your body and only eat when you are hungry.
- Intuitive eating rejects any type of nutritional mentality – no type of food is prohibited, and instead you should better consider your relationship with different types of food.
- Research has shown that eating intuitively is a great way to maintain weight and develop healthier body image, and can help improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Check out Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more advice.
Intuitive eating is a great way to change your relationship with food without counting calories or removing certain foods from your diet. Intuitive eating is about listening to your body and eating according to your body’s needs. The focus of intuitive eating is not on weight loss, but on mindfulness.
Here’s what you need to know about intuitive eating, and how to do it.
Understand intuitive eating
Intuitive eating involves eating when you are physically hungry and stopping when you feel full. In essence, it encourages you to listen to your body to guide your eating habits, says Erin Holley, RD, a registered nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
“The principles of intuitive eating will help you reconnect with this innate ability without other messages tarnishing what, when and how much to eat,” says Holley.
The practice of intuitive eating comes from a book called Intuitive Eating, written by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch who are registered nutritionists. Originally published in 1995, the book is now in its fourth edition and the practice of intuitive eating is still recommended by dietitians and nutritionists.
According to the book, there are 10 principles of intuitive eating.
- Reject the diet mentality: Avoid diets that promote weight loss and diet culture.
- Honor your hunger: Listen to your body and eat when you are physically hungry.
- Make Peace With Food: Don’t feel guilty about eating less healthy foods.
- Challenge the Food Police: Ignore those who say certain foods are “good” or “bad”. even if that voice comes from within.
- Discover the satisfaction factor: Eat what sounds best to you and leave yourself feeling satisfied.
- Feel your fullness: Stop eating when you feel comfortable or full – and notice your fullness as you eat.
- Treat your emotions with kindness: Instead of eating emotionally, use healthy, friendly methods of dealing with negative emotions.
- Respect your body: Respect your body the way it is.
- Movement – feel the difference: Stop thinking of exercise as a way to burn calories and instead really notice what it feels like to move.
- Honor your health – gentle nutrition: Choose foods that make you feel good about yourself.
In contrast to a traditional diet, nothing is particularly forbidden in intuitive eating. There is no limit to certain foods or calorie counting.
“This is not a diet. It’s really about changing your relationship with food and becoming more aware and attuned to your own body and eating on it,” says Holley.
In addition, intuitive eating focuses on a more holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle.
“The basic idea behind these principles is that complicated and restrictive diets are prone to failure, and the primary goal is to focus on healthy eating and lifestyle,” says Artur Viana, MD, clinical director of the Metabolic Health & Weight Loss Program in Yale medicine.
For example, Viana says that intuitive eating enables you to appreciate foods that you enjoy and that you may not be allowed to “eat” while following a prepackaged diet or diet.
Also, Viana says that intuitive eating is really based on listening to your own body, especially the clues it gives you about hunger and abundance, how you react to emotions and the role food plays in your life plays.
The health benefits of intuitive eating
A 2014 meta-analysis of 26 studies found that eating intuitively was a great way to maintain weight and potentially improve health traits like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
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According to Viana, intuitive eating is related to better body image – and is also used to treat and prevent eating disorders such as binge eating.
Another review of 20 studies from 2014 found that eating intuitively was linked to positive psychological benefits, including better self-esteem and quality of life, as well as less depression and anxiety.
Important: Intuitive eating does not promise weight loss, says Holley. If someone promotes intuitive eating to lose weight, they say they are likely to promote a diet alongside it that violates the principles of intuitive eating.
How to practice intuitive eating
There are several actionable ways you can practice intuitive eating. Some tips are:
- Trust your body when it tells you it is hungry: Be careful when your body is hungry and feed your body appropriately and consistently, says Holley.
- Don’t dwell on numbers: Remember that weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) are just numbers and that you should focus on overall health instead, says Viana.
- Avoid placing moral emphasis on food: Remember, if you eat certain foods, you are not a bad person, says Holley.
- Don’t indulge yourself too much: Only eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are full, says Viana.
- Be sure to exercise: Viana recommends exercising moderately vigorously for at least 30 minutes five times a week.
- Don’t skip meals to leave room for a larger meal: Holley says this would make you overeat – and you won’t follow the principle of satisfying your hunger.
- Remember to examine your feelings: Viana says to think about why you eat what you eat and how it makes you feel.
- To enjoy food: Choose the foods that sound best to you, says Holley.
Insider to take away
Intuitive eating may not be for everyone. “Intuitive eating is just another way of thinking about lifestyle, and not necessarily the only or best approach to food,” says Viana.
If you’re not sure whether intuitive eating is the best approach for you, be sure to speak to your doctor to determine if intuitive eating is a good fit for you.