Intuitive Eating: What Is It and Does it Really Work?

By Stephanie Thomas – November 1, 2021

I’m sure many of you could agree that diets always seem to overpromise and under-deliver. Plus, all the rules that accompany these diet plans can cause a lot of stress and frustration. If you’ve been thinking it’s time for a different approach, allow me to introduce you to intuitive eating. It entails no calorie-counting and no forbidden foods. Yes, really! If you’re ready to break up with dieting for good, read on to learn what intuitive eating is and how it can benefit you.

We’re all born as intuitive eaters

Babies are naturally intuitive eaters. They cry to signal hunger, eat until they’re satisfied and then stop eating. As we grow up, however, rules and restrictions are set around food, causing us to lose touch with our inner intuition.

We’re told to finish everything on our plates whether we’re hungry or not. We learn that dessert is a reward that can be taken away if we misbehave. We’re told that certain foods are good and others are bad, leading you to feel guilty when you eat something on the “bad” list. Over time, we adopt these rules and follow them without questioning how they’re making us feel, physically and mentally.

A close up of a bowl of food.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is essentially the opposite of a traditional diet. It doesn’t impose rules, tell you to count points or calories or label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, it encourages you to re-learn how to eat outside the diet mentality, putting the focus on your natural internal cues like hunger, fullness, energy and satisfaction.

Learning to trust your body

Intuitive eaters give themselves unconditional permission to eat whatever they want without feeling guilty, whether they’re eating a salad or a pizza.

When many people hear that all foods are fair game, they think that they’ll surely just want to eat cake, pizza and cheeseburgers for the rest of their lives. While it’s normal to initially go a little overboard on foods that were previously “off-limits,” something really incredible happens if you continue to eat intuitively.

You’ll eventually notice that once you’re given permission to eat these taboo foods and truly don’t feel deprived of them anymore, they lose their irresistible pull. With time, you’ll settle into this sweet spot where your eating naturally becomes balanced, intuitive and stress-free.

The 10 principles of intuitive eating

Intuitive eating — as defined by its creators, dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch — is made up of 10 core principles:

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honor your hunger
  • Make peace with food
  • Challenge the food police
  • Discover the satisfaction factor
  • Feel your fullness
  • Cope with emotions with kindness
  • Respect your body
  • Feel the difference with movement
  • Honor your health with gentle nutrition

I recommend you read about each of the principles to gain a better understanding of the various pillars of this approach and how they relate to each other.

A man eating a meal.

Does this approach really work?

While it might seem a bit nerve-racking to give yourself permission to eat whatever you want after a lifetime of dieting, there are over 100 research studies that have demonstrated the benefits of intuitive eating. These include:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Better body image
  • More satisfaction with life
  • More optimism
  • Better coping skills
  • Higher HDL cholesterol levels
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Lower rates of emotional eating
  • Lower rates of disordered eating

The bottom line

Intuitive eating is about tuning into your body, listening to and trusting it to tell you when, what and how much to eat. When you adopt this approach, many people find that they’re also able to let go of the idea that you need to lose or gain weight to look a certain way. It’s pretty incredible what happens when you learn to trust yourself and your body. Are you ready to take a leap of faith and try something new?

About the Author

Stephanie Thomas smiling.

Stephanie Thomas is a certified personal trainer, health coach, and bridal fitness specialist living in Annapolis, Maryland. As the founder of Stephanie Thomas Fitness and creator of The Ultimate Home Workout Guide, she helps women develop healthy habits and a well-rounded workout routine they’re obsessed with. Her fitness philosophy is “you don’t have to work out, you get to work out. Take care of your body so it can take care of you!” When she’s not creating workouts for her clients, you can find Stephanie reading the latest health book, spending time in nature, or taking a walk with her two cavalier pups. You can grab her free Tight Core Mini Guide and sign up for her free wellness newsletter at her website, www.stephaniethomasfitness.com.

 
 

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