Kiss diets goodbye: A beginner’s guide to intuitive eating
March 21, 2022

Kiss diets goodbye: A beginner’s guide to intuitive eating

Rachel Wadsley, PhD

We’re all born intuitive eaters. A baby cries when it wants food and stops eating when full. As we get older, it’s easy to shift away from this eating style. It could be from family values (ever been told to clear your plate), societal messages around calorie counting, good foods, and bad foods, or associating food with emotions.  

If you’re tired of fad diets, calorie counting, or feeling guilty about eating foods you enjoy, then you’re going to love intuitive eating. 

10 Principles of intuitive eating

In their book, Intuitive Eating a Revolutionary Program that Works, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch outlined the principles of intuitive eating. You can take a deeper dive into each one in our other article here. 

  1. Reject diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Feel your fullness
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor
  7. Cope with your emotions without using food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise - feel the difference
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

What are the benefits of intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating has a wide range of benefits. Below are just a few of them. 

  • Eat without guilt:There are no good foods and bad foods. Foods are both a source of fuel and pleasure. 
  • Reduce the power of food: Emotions can influence what we eat and how much. Tapping into your body and mind lets, you recognize why you’re eating or craving foods. Then you can decide if ice cream (for example) is something you want or if you’re using food to cope with or mask an emotion. 
  • Increase self-compassion: Dieting and calorie counting can be an all-or-nothing game. With intuitive eating, there is no failure or going over budget. With failure out of the picture, you can toss your inner critic out the door.  
  • Identify food sensitivities: Once you pay more attention to body cues and how foods make you feel, it’s easier to recognize how foods truly affect you. Maybe you’ve been trying to eat more apples because that’s the “healthy” thing to do. But now, you might notice you’re constantly feeling bloated after eating them.  
  • Recognize hunger: Foods you choose to eat and emotions can cause fake hunger pangs or create cravings. When you slow down and pay attention to those physical sensations and your emotions, it’s easier to see if you're eating out of habit, from cravings, or emotions. Then you get to decide if you want to eat and how much what instead of being on autopilot. 

3 Intuitive eating myths

Intuitive eating is for weight loss

While intuitive eating can help you reach your body’s set point weight, it’s not designed for weight loss. People use intuitive eating even if they are at their ideal weight or want to gain weight. The purpose of intuitive eating is to have a neutral or positive relationship with food and your body.

Intuitive eating means you can eat anything you want

Are you nervous that you’ll go a little wild and indulge only in “bad foods?” Intuitive eating helps you tune into what your body wants, not necessarily what your mind wants. It’s a subtle difference, and sometimes they overlap. 

Intuitive eating doesn’t consider nutrition

Again, not true. Your body is intelligent and wants food for a reason. Today, you might crave a plate of pasta to restore energy from a workout. Tomorrow, you might enjoy a salad with proteins since you sat most of the day. 

What we do each day, seasons, metabolism, health, and even our mood impact our body's need. Eventually, you’ll reach a closer state of balance where your body wants more whole foods, but you still enjoy (guilt-free) what used to be considered forbidden foods. 

Quick start guide for intuitive eating

Diving all in on any habit or lifestyle change is a recipe for disaster. Instead, try a slower pace where you feel more in control and confident. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Use a nonjudgmental mindset to observe what you eat 
  • Pause before eating to consider why you’re eating (hunger, craving, or emotion)
  • Reflect on how you feel before, during, and after eating 
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues
  • Slow down during meals and use mindfulness
  • Start viewing food as neutral instead of labeling it as good/ bad
  • Pick any of the 10 principles of intuitive eating to try

Intuitive eating is about paying attention to what you eat, why you eat, and how you feel before, during, and after eating. Becoming more connected to your body and emotions can be powerful and lead to changes beyond nutrition. 

Making changes, no matter how small, can feel overwhelming or lonely. Trainwell (formerly CoPilot) fitness trainers are certified personal trainers and certified nutrition coaches who are there to support you in a judgment-free space.  

Dip your toes into the pool of intuitive eating with a friend and partner at your side! Click here to start your free trainwell trial today. 

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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