Are you new to intuitive eating and want to learn more? This Intuitive eating guide for beginners takes you through the basics of intuitive eating including what it is, who it’s for, and how you can start your journey to food freedom and never go back to dieting again.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is the ultimate non-diet way of eating. It helps you connect to your body’s internal signals and truly honor your own health and wellbeing.
While not dieting may seem like a radical concept, intuitive eating takes us back to our roots. This philosophy of eating will teach you how to nourish your body and your life the way you need, not the way a diet or rule is telling you that you should.
Intuitive eating was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995. Since then, there have been over 100 studies supporting intuitive eating as beneficial to physical and mental health.
Dieting, on the other hand, is a risk factor for a number of physical and mental health conditions and can really take a toll on your quality and enjoyment of life.
If you’ve ever beat yourself up over eating an extra cookie, binged on ice cream then vowed that tomorrow your diet would start, or skipped out on dinner and drinks with friends to stick to your diet, then you know what I mean.
Intuitive eating is centered around two core concepts.
Tune out external rules
Learn to identify and reject the diet mentality and food rules that have held you hostage. All the diet rules and laws you’ve learned over the years and held onto as truths are challenged as you learn to turn off the judgemental food police in your head and invite curiosity and compassion into your life.
Tune into internal cues
Did you know that your body sends you clues as to when it’s hungry and when it’s full? You’ll regain these cues if they’ve been lost and learn how to recognize and honor them using tools like the intuitive eating hunger scale and identify the different types of hunger you experience. You’ll learn how to make movement enjoyable, and eat for satisfaction as well as nourishment.
You’ll start to live by these concepts as you work through the 10 principles of intuitive eating, which take you through, step by step, the process of ditching the chains of diet culture and becoming an intuitive eater.
What are the benefits of intuitive eating?
Besides the obvious of never having to deprive yourself on another diet again, intuitive eating has a number of proven benefits that you’ll feel in every part of your life:
- Improved body image & body appreciation
- Higher self-esteem
- Lower risk of eating disorders and disordered eating
- Greater sense of wellbeing
- Improved blood sugars
- Lower triglycerides
- Improved LDL and HDL cholesterol
While these benefits have been studied at a research level, think about how your everyday life will change when you’re in tune with your body and not wasting energy trying to control it.
- How will nights out with friends, date nights, or Sunday outings with your kids change?
- How will it feel to be comfortable in the body you have and feel compassion and respect for yourself? To appreciate the body that allows you to be here in the present moment?
- How will it feel to eat what you want, when you want to eat it, in a way that feels good and is respectful towards yourself and your body?
When you go from dieter to intuitive eater, you’ll find that your personal, social, and professional lives improve as you gain confidence in your eating, your body, and your worth.
Who can Practice Intuitive Eating?
Anyone can learn to practice intuitive eating. Anyone.
If you’re currently counting every macro you eat, you can become an intuitive eater.
If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, food allergies, or a GI condition, you can become an intuitive eater.
It doesn't matter what size your body is, what your health history includes, how old you are, your gender, your profession, or anything else for that matter. You can learn how to stop relying on diet rules that try to control and change your body and start listening to and honoring your unique body and what it needs.
Can I practice intuitive eating and lose weight?
If you’re in a place where you want to lose weight, I see you. Our society has a thin ideal that so many of us have strived to meet for the better part of our lives. Intuitive eating is not a weight loss plan. Weight is an external measure and focusing on it keeps you from truly giving your body what it needs to work its best.
You can’t do weight loss. It’s not a behavior, it’s a measure that’s quite frankly out of your control and not a very good indicator of health. When you practice intuitive eating, three things can happen. You can lose weight, gain weight, or your weight can stay the same.
There is one caveat. If you are in treatment for an eating disorder, intuitive eating may need to be practiced further along in your recovery. Talk with your team or eating disorder dietitian so that you can safely begin your intuitive eating journey when the time is right for you.
How is Intuitive Eating different from a Diet?
Intuitive eating is the ultimate anti-diet. There are no rules, only principles and guides to help you learn the process of listening to and giving your body what it needs while also giving full attention to your mental and emotional health.
Intuitive eating is the perfect combination of using logic, emotion, and instinct to eat, move, and live in a way that best serves you.
- Diets rely on counting, tracking, and controlling what, how much, and when you eat. Intuitive eating relies on body signals, curiosity, and gentle nutrition to determine what, how much, and when to eat.
- Diets are rules that you either follow or break. Intuitive eating is a practice that you work on and learn from.
- Diets measure success by weight and body size. Intuitive eating measures success by confidence, stress levels, happiness, satisfaction, energy levels, meaningful health markers, and overall well-being.
How to start intuitive Eating
So you’re ready to stop dieting and find true food freedom by practicing intuitive eating. Congratulations- a life you never knew could exist is closer than you think.
But how do you actually get started? The first step is simple, but possibly the hardest to do. You have to give up on the idea that dieting can actually work for you.
It’s easy to turn intuitive eating into a diet if you go into it treating it as you did any other diet- with the expectation that you’ll lose weight or that you need to do everything perfectly. Intuitive eating is a practice and the aim is progress, not perfection.
Start purging your social media feeds of anything that makes you feel less than or promotes weight loss and diet culture. Follow accounts that inspire you and fill your feel with body-positive, anti-diet, intuitive eating content that you can relate to.
Start reading. There are so many amazing intuitive eating books to dive into and learn from. Listen to podcasts on intuitive eating and body image. Swap your MyFitnessPal app for intuitive eating apps that support learning from your eating habits and tuning into your own instincts.
Need more help on your intuitive eating journey?
Through self-learning, you’ll begin to see change. If you’re looking to get to your food freedom faster, supported, and with direction, intuitive eating coaching can help you do just that.
The bottom line
Intuitive eating is a practice that can help you stop the yo-yo dieting for good. No matter where you are in life, who you are, and what you’re working through- food freedom is possible for you.
You can learn to shed the diet mentality that creates confusion, chaos, and shame around your body and the food you eat. You can feel confident in your food choices and comfortable in your body. Dive into the valuable intuitive resources that are available to you online and in books. Learn more about intuitive eating coaching and how working with an intuitive eating registered dietitian can help you on your food freedom journey.