How to Start Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is the practice of understanding the delicate balance between your body and your mind. It emphasizes being aware of your hunger and fullness cues so that you can nourish your body well without overeating or eating in an attempt to fill an emotional void. Intuitive eating emphasizes listening to internal body cues around food and hunger rather than falling into traditional patterns of dieting. If you’re looking for some ways to practice intuitive eating, trying some of the tips below can be a good place to start.
Pick one step to focus on at a time.
There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, which have to do with honoring your health and hunger, respecting your body, and allowing yourself to have a healthy relationship with food.1 It’s easy to make the decision to start eating differently, and quickly become overwhelmed with your goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
Instead, pick one thing at a time to focus on, and base your habits and decisions around that principle or step. Some of the steps may be more challenging than others. In fact, many women report the idea of giving yourself “unconditional permission to eat” is difficult.2 There’s no right or wrong way to approach intuitive eating. It’s a personal endeavor that should be done on your own timeline.
Shift your focus away from “good” versus “bad” foods.
Our cultural tendency has a way of putting food into two categories: good and bad. With those categories comes many misconceptions and wrongly placed focus. Instead, think about food as fuel for your body and how well different foods are going to do their job to nourish you. One positive approach could be thinking about how you’ll incorporate more fruits or vegetables into your day, or try a healthy food you perhaps don’t eat often.
Allow yourself to eat on a regular basis.
Many diet programs have you eating on a schedule, like three meals with two snacks per day. Instead, think about fueling yourself with smaller, but nutrient-rich meals or snacks every 2-3 hours. This will help maintain your blood sugar and energy levels, provide a steady supply of nutrition throughout the day, and even boost your mood. This can also help reduce the feelings of deprivation that often result from following scheduled diet plans.
Do things that show respect for your body.
Respecting your body is one of the main ideas behind intuitive eating. This means seeing your body as the important and amazing thing it is, and honoring what it does for you by fueling it and treating it well. Exercise for the sake of keeping your body healthy, your mind happy, and doing activities that you enjoy. Choose foods that make you feel good and replenished. These perspectives shift our societal focus from weight loss and disordered eating patterns to honoring our bodies and our health.
Many people are methodical in choosing a specific starting date to change a lifestyle habit like their diet - like the new year, the first of the month, or the following Monday after the weekend. Intuitive eating can start right now. The sooner you start, the sooner you can experience the benefits.
If you’re wondering how to start intuitive eating, give some of the ideas above a shot. You might be surprised at how quickly you notice a positive shift in your relationship with food and your body.
Yours in Health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian
- 10 principles of intuitive eating. IntuitiveEating.org. Available from: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
- Barraclough EL, Hay-Smith EJC, Boucher SE, Tylka TL, Horwath CC. Learning to eat intuitively: A qualitative exploration of the experience of mid-age women. Health Psychol Open. 2019;6(1):2055102918824064. Published 2019 Feb 1. doi:10.1177/2055102918824064