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Intuitive eating: How to ditch dieting and trust your body more

Woman standing by her fridge

Article written by: Sara Friedrich, Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor.

How often do you describe a bowl of chips as “junk food” or call a carrot “healthy” food? Many of us think in these terms that are rooted in diet culture. There is another way to consider our relationship with food known as intuitive eating — and it’s changing how many people eat.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a weight-inclusive mind-body approach rather than a diet. The approach, created by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, prioritizes trusting internal body wisdom over external influences on food decisions, such as time of day, the number on the scale, or calorie amounts in order to meet your unique physical, mental and emotional needs.

We are all born ‘intuitive eaters.’ Babies and toddlers choose when, what, and how much to eat based on hunger, fullness and taste. They are blissfully unaware of their body shape and size so it does not influence their eating decisions. 

As we get older, diet culture messaging begins to influence eating decisions and erode our trust in body cues, which creates an increasingly complicated relationship with food. You may have a list of foods you avoid, which impacts enjoyment and variety in your food choices. You may spend a large portion of your day thinking about food or your body, preventing you from being present in your life. For some, eating certain foods may elicit strong feelings of guilt, shame or stress. Unlike a toddler, we need to work to reduce thoughts, beliefs, and rules from diet culture that prevent us from being able to listen, trust, and support our bodies.

Intuitive eating uses 10 guiding principles to help you attune to your body and be more aware of sensory information. They include:

  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 with kindness
  8. Respect your body
  9. Movement – feel the difference
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

Overall, this approach can radically change food relationships and support health for those living in any body shape or size.

Benefits of taking an intuitive eating approach:

In over 125 studies to date, research has shown that taking an intuitive eating approach to health is associated with:

How to begin repairing your relationship with food:

  1. Rethink your language around food. Avoid black and white labels when describing foods such as good or bad, unhealthy or healthy, junk, cheat, or clean. Instead, use more neutral terms such as the name of the food (ie: cookie or chips) or “fun food.” Different foods are made up of different nutrients; some provide more nourishment, some offer more pleasure, and some do both!
  2. Allow for pleasure and joy in eating experiences. When making meals or snacks, consider not only nutrition but also taste, textures, and aromas you enjoy. This might look like trying a new dip or sauce to make vegetables more enjoyable or adding granola or some roasted nuts on top of peanut butter toast for crunch.

Want to learn more?

Request an appointment with a registered dietitian trained in intuitive eating.

Read the Intuitive Eating 4th Edition Book