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You may have heard of Intuitive Eating from a friend, or read about it in a recent article and wondered whether it’s worth your time. Intuitive Eating is a evidence-based approach established by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch focused on making peace with your body and food and ditching dieting. 

In short, it’s based on the following 10 principles designed to break up from dieting and reconnect to your body’s natural signals around food:

  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 – Gentle Nutrition

At its core Intuitive Eating is about trusting your inner body wisdom to make choices around food that feel good to you, without judgment or influence from diet culture. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. We were born intuitive eaters, connected to our bodies needs, but along the way as we grew older societal conditioning taught us not to trust our bodies or our hunger. 

Unfortunately, Intuitive Eating can often be misunderstood, especially when it’s being promoted on social media as a “fad” diet or wellness change. This is the exact opposite of its intent. As such, when talking about Intuitive Eating it’s also important to emphasize what it is not.

Intuitive Eating is NOT:

  • A diet or tool for weight management. Your your weight may go up, down or stay the same while applying Intuitive Eating principles and a key part of the approach is accepting where your weight naturally settles.
  • Simply eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Intuitive Eating honors that there may be times where you eat out of practicality, celebration or emotional reaction rather than purely hunger and recognizes the flexibility of eating patterns in everyday life.
  • “Giving up.” While Intuitive Eating encourages unconditional permission to eat it does so through the lens of curiosity and non-judgment to make peace with food and remove negative emotions and morality, such as guilt and shame, that can be attached to food. 

Now that you have a better idea of what Intuitive Eating is and is not, you may be interested in starting your own intuitive eating journey. If so, here are three simple steps to help you get started:

1, Read Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Starting at the source is a helpful place to begin, with the recently released, fully updated and revised (their first publication was in 1995) Intuitive Eating book that lays out the science behind the framework as well as each of the 10 principles in detail. I’d also recommend checking out the accompanying Intuitive Eating Workbook to encourage further personal reflection throughout the process and application of the IE principles in your everyday life. 

If you’re looking for more literature about applying the IE approach in your day-to-day as well as the systemic hurdles that keep us stuck in the diet cycle, check out related books such as Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison and Health at Every Size by Lindo Bacon.  

2. Follow social media accounts by registered Intuitive Eating specialists

What you consume on social media shapes a lot of your worldview, perceptions, opinions and understandings. When it comes to Intuitive Eating, it can be helpful to see how it applies in the everyday and receive encouraging reminders as you explore your own journey with Intuitive Eating. However, it can be important to follow accounts by practitioners who are certified in Intuitive Eating and not hawking some “half-baked” version of the approach designed to change your body. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if someone is authentically representing Intuitive Eating, but if they’re advertising a “lifestyle” or wellness approach it typically does not fully align with and respect the Intuitive Eating principles. Check out our website for some recommended accounts and follow @drcolleenreichmann to see her posts and the content she shares from other like-minded Intuitive Eating professionals in the field.

3. Work with a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

If you’re looking for further support in your Intuitive Eating journey, it may be helpful to seek the services of a registered, certified IE counselor. These counselors often offer 1:1 coaching and advice to break down the process as well as group sessions to discuss the Intuitive Eating principles and incremental approaches to applying them in your life within the community, encouragement and support of a group environment. 

These three tips are suggestions for kick-starting your intuitive eating journey but are by no means exhaustive or prescriptive. I also want to caveat that if you’re currently in treatment for an eating disorder or working on recovery, you may require a different level of care or approach before diving straight into Intuitive Eating. There is no one size fits all when it comes to improving your relationship with food and your body. The journey is unique to you and your curiosity and open-mind is a fantastic first step.

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image