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What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is a term batted around more frequently these days, but what does it mean? Those who are permanently dieting may find it interesting to understand how to escape from weight gain, weight cycling, disordered eating patterns and the benefits associated with establishing a healthy relationship with food.

The diet industry is said to be worth more than $60 billion per year in America and includes a myriad of formal programs and plans. For many dieters, restriction by skipping meals, eliminating forbidden foods, or under-eating for the purpose of weight loss becomes a way of life. Regardless of the method used, weight loss attempts are often effective over the short-term and yet over time weight is regained.

The downside to diet culture:

  • 80% of participants who complete weight management interventions are unable to maintain weight loss after 1 year, this continues to fall further in Year 2
  • Restrained eating is associated with weight gain over time
  • Dieting is a strong predictor of weight gain
  • Weight cycling is a risk factor for all cause mortality (death from all causes) and cardiovascular mortality (Heart related death)
  • Body Dissatisfaction

Intuitive eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion and rational thought (Tribole and Resch 1995). It has been described by experts as an adaptive form of eating characterised by a strong connection with internal physiological hunger and satiety cues. Intuitive eaters use these cues to determine when and how much to eat. Individuals who eat intuitively are not preoccupied with food or dieting and do not label certain foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Although taste is important, they often choose foods for the purpose of enhancing the body’s functioning.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche coined the term ‘Intuitive Eating’ in 1995.  They constructed ten principles of Intuitive eating:

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honour your hunger
  • Challenge the food police
  • Make peace with food
  • Respect your fullness
  • Discover the satisfaction factor
  • Honour your feelings without using food
  • Respect your body
  • Exercise- feel the difference
  • Honour your health- gentle nutrition

Working through the ten principles of Intuitive eating with a trained practitioner can help individuals to adopt a more healthy relationship with food and their bodies.

Principle one:

Reject the diet mentality:

  • Eliminate diet books, diet plans, magazine articles
  • Awareness of the effects on metabolism and psychological health after long periods of dieting
  • Cultivate self-compassion
Principle Two:

Honour your hunger:

  • Keep your body biologically full with adequate energy and fuel
  • Learn to respond to biological hunger and satiety cues
  • Self-care assessment
Principle Three:

Make peace with food:

  • Give yourself unconditional permission to eat
  • Say farewell to forbidden foods
  • No more ‘bad’ or ‘good’ food labels
Principle Four

Challenge the food police:

  • Examine your thoughts around food with curious awareness
  • Challenge your belief system
  • Spiral of healing
Principle Five:

Feel your fullness:

  • Observe the signs that you are comfortably full
  • Identify barriers to fullness- eating without distraction
  • Create the optimal eating environment
  • Understand “Fullness foods”
Principle Six:

Discover the satisfaction factor:

  • Learn how to eat without guilt
  • The importance of eating slowly and mindfully
  • Sensory specific satiety
Principle Seven:

Cope with your feelings without using food:

  • Adapt to find ways to comfort, nurture, distract and resolve issues without using food
  • Identify emotional triggers
  • Understanding the physical sensation of emotions- healing emotional eating
Principle Eight:

Respect your body:

  • Body appreciation scale
  • Avoid comparing your body to others
  • Practice respectful behaviours and encourage positive body image
Principle Nine:

Exercise: Feel the difference:

  • Simply sitting less in daily living
  • The pursuit of pleasurable activities
  • Benefits and barriers to physical activity
Principle Ten:

Honour your health: Gentle Nutrition:

  • Play food versus nutritious food
  • Food wisdom- starting with the basics. Variety, moderation and balance
  • Nutrition and satisfaction


What is Intuitive Eating? 1

Intuitive eaters are said to have higher levels of self-esteem and pleasure from eating


Intuitive eaters are said to have higher levels of:

  • Self-esteem
  • Wellbeing and Optimism
  • Variety of foods eaten
  • Body Appreciation & acceptance
  • Interoceptive awareness (awareness & sensitivity to internal physiological sensations)
  • Pleasure from eating
  • Proactive coping
  • Unconditional self regard
  • Psychological Hardiness

Lower levels of:

  • Internalised culturally thin ideal
  • Triglycerides
  • Disordered eating
  • Emotional eating
  • Self-silencing
  • Blood glucose
  • Systolic blood pressure
  • Eating restraint
  • BMI
  • Disinhibited eating

You may be sick of dieting, with all its rules and stipulations. You may feel overwhelmed by dieting’s promises, which give no lasting return. You may be tired of being preoccupied with food, as it consumes your valuable time and zaps your energy.

Intuitive eating is designed to give freedom to the feeling of frustration with hating your body, always feeling that you are fighting against it. If you desire an alternative way of relating to food, eating, and your body, one that is characterised by kindness rather than criticism, working through the ten principles of Intuitive eating with a qualified practitioner can help individuals to adopt a more adaptive relationship with food and their bodies.

Resources can be found at:

Intuitive Eating Resources


Bacon, L. Keim N.L, et Al. “Evaluating a non-diet wellness intervention for improvement of metabolic fitness, psychological well-being and eating and activity behaviours” International Journal of Obesity related Metabolic disorders (2002).

Tylka, T. & Wilcox, J. “Are intuitive eating and eating disorder symptomatology opposite poles of the same construct?” Journal of counseling and Psychology (2006) 474-485