Non-diet nutrition

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating might just sound like eating whatever you want, but there’s a lot more to it than that. We’ve broken down all the ins and outs for you.

The Flourish team
A spread of sushi, sashimi and soy sauce on a light grey background

Years before I became the Flourish nutrition coach, I discovered Intuitive Eating. After reading the book and making my way through the workbook, I fell in love with this approach to healing one's relationship with food. So much so, that in 2019 I began the training process to become a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor under the guidance of Evelyn Tribole, one of the coauthors of the Intuitive Eating book. 

I spent hours watching recorded training sessions and then attended live webinar sessions with Evelyn where she trained my class directly. Additionally, I had the honor and privilege to attend supervision sessions where Evelyn answered questions from myself and other aspiring Intuitive Eating professionals. My absolute favorite part about the training was the many, many research studies Evelyn shared with us that really clarified how and why Intuitive Eating is, in my opinion, one of the best directions to take in the pursuit of health. 

My personal path with Intuitive Eating, the impact I saw it had on the clients I’ve worked with through the years, and the training I received under Evelyn has proven to me the value of Intuitive Eating, and I hope to bring my passion and wisdom to our Flourish members on our coaching calls.

Intuitive Eating Basics

At its core, intuitive eating is a self-care nourishment framework that promotes size acceptance and uplifts internal wisdom as a method of pursuing health and wellbeing.  It’s sometimes called the “anti-diet” because it champions principles that are the opposite of diet culture.

For at least the past few decades, American diet culture has seen several various fads all with the same bottom line: telling you what to eat, when to eat it, and why everything else is bad for you. But none of these ever really seem to work out long term. Intuitive eating seeks to restore your trust and positive relationship with your body to pursue health in a more sustainable way.

The History of Intuitive Eating

The term itself was coined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in a 1995 book called “Intuitive Eating”. They fleshed out the concept, came up with guidelines, and created a name for the community. But the movement has actually existed for a lot longer than that.

In the early 1970s, Thelma Wayler ran a camp in Vermont where she attempted to help people understand that diets don’t work. She aimed to help them make long-term lifestyle changes to improve their health.

By 1978, the idea had made its way into Susie Orbach’s “Fat Is a Feminist Issue”. This brought the idea of intuitive eating to the fat acceptance movement, an offshoot and competitor of the second wave of the feminist movement (the second wave is infamous for championing the rights of wealthy, straight, white, skinny women, but not really anyone else).

In 1982, Geneen Roth began writing about emotional eating, and she hasn’t stopped since. Emotional eating is one of the core components of understanding intuitive eating--learning to listen to your body also means understanding why you’re eating four slices of pizza after a stressful day at work.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Tribole and Resch mapped out ten principles. In order for these principles to be properly understood and interpreted, they must all work together simultaneously and cannot be picked and chosen. 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality 

Intuitive Eating cannot exist in the presence of dieting. The first step to becoming an intuitive eater is to reject the messages that diet culture has been spreading for generations. We already know that diets don't work. Accepting that the diets are the problem (not you) is the first step.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Keeping your body fed with adequate energy is required for life. When we deprive ourselves of food and nutrients, it can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Learning to honor this biological signal is a vital step to rediscovering your intuition. 

3. Make Peace with Food

When we make certain foods off-limits, it can lead to feelings of deprivation and often results in uncontrollable cravings. This form of restriction makes it impossible to truly heal your relationship with food. When practicing Intuitive Eating, there are no “good” or “bad” foods. It's about creating emotional neutrality with food so that you can connect with your body’s internal wisdom and better understand its needs. 

4. Challenge the Food Police

The Food Police represents the internal voice that deems you “good” or “bad” for your food choices, subconsciously created by the numerous and aggressive messages from diet culture. Learning how to manage these voices is a critical step to the Intuitive Eating methodology. 

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Eating food you actually enjoy is a huge step towards building trust with your intuition. This can be a tricky principle to master. Satisfaction not only comes from the quantity of foods consumed, but also from the type of food one eats. Eating a bowl of pasta when your body actually wants a crisp summer salad isn’t going to satisfy, and neither is an apple when you actually want a cookie.

6. Feel Your Fullness

After you’ve made progress in recognizing and honoring your hunger cues, this principal introduces the practice of honoring your fullness. After years of dieting, this can be difficult to return to, but with experience you can tune back into this biological response. 

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Food is emotional. It’s sharing dessert with your partner after a much-needed date night.⁣ It’s recreating a meal that reminds you of home after a year away from family.⁣ It’s savoring a slow Sunday morning stack of pancakes after a hectic work week.⁣ Using food as a coping mechanism for emotions isn't only normal, but it's also one that can serve you positively. We all need a variety of skills in our coping toolbox, though, and this Intuitive Eating Principle encourages you to find the ones that serve you with curiosity and kindness. 

8. Respect Your Body

All bodies deserve respect. Period. End of story. 

Intuitive Eating Principle #8 is all about learning how to treat your body with respect and appreciation, no matter its size or shape. 

9. Movement: Feel the Difference

Allow exercise to be a way to feel strong, energized, or confident, not as a tool for weight loss or as punishment. Movement has so many benefits that have nothing to do with shrinking your body, from longevity to improving your immune system. When movement becomes something you actually look forward to, it no longer feels like a self-deprecating chore. 

10. Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition 

Intuitive Eating aligns with the definition of health defined by the ASDAH, that health exists on a continuum which varies with time and circumstance for everyone. By honoring your health, it means you’re making decisions from a place of self-care and the desire to feel good. This could look like going for a walk, eating ice cream, ordering the salad, or crashing on the couch with a glass of wine at the end of a long day. It’s less about what you do, and more about why you do it. 

The Benefits of Intuitive Eating

You know we at Flourish love to hit you with the science to back up our information. Most data currently shows that there are strong correlations between intuitive eating and positive health indicators (like cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure), better mental health outcomes, and often better eating habits and relationships with food.

How to Start Intuitive Eating 

Intuitive eating can be daunting to start, especially when it means you have to let go of the mentality of diet culture. But with a community of women on the same journey who are ready to support you in achieving your goals, you can do hard things! As a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I'm committed to helping our members at any stage of their journey through one-on-one coaching. 

Headshot of Elizabeth Hatley
Elizabeth Van Dyke
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
Elizabeth is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who is passionate about helping women live their life to the fullest without being a prisoner to diet culture.
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