Intuitive eating, as developed by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, is based on ten principles that include making peace with food, exploring emotional eating, and respecting your body. Tribole and Resch’s Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach was first published in 1995 and is now in its fourth edition.
But WHAT IS intuitive eating???
Let’s start with what it is not. Intuitive eating is NOT a diet. It is not a weight loss plan. It IS an approach based on self-care – developing a relationship with both food and your body that supports physical, mental, and emotional health.
If you are tired of the empty promises of yet another diet, tired of battling a cycle of restriction and cravings, then intuitive eating may be for you. If you are ready to embrace a holistic view of wellness that does not center around a number on the scale, counting calories, or avoiding entire food groups (and all the important nutrients they contain!) intuitive eating may be for you.
Intuitive eating is a journey. This is one of the first things I tell clients who want to explore this way of eating, and it is something we return to often in sessions. Like other journeys in life, progress is not always linear, and there is work to do along the way. For most people, it is not as simple as reading the book once and being completely transformed.
It’s a Journey
As one client commented while reading Tribole and Resch’s book, “There is a lot to unpack.” After being steeped in diet culture for years and years, there IS a lot to unpack. A lot of ingrained ways of thinking and acting to examine and unlearn.
Intuitive eating may feel, well, counterintuitive after years of being steeped in diet culture and body judgment, whether or not you were an active participant. It involves a lot of unlearning and challenging ingrained ways of thinking about food, movement, and one’s body. Many of the principles are based in mindfulness practice.
The intuitive eating journey starts with being open-minded and curious. You will explore your history and your current relationship with food, your body, and dieting. You will pay attention to your thoughts and work to reframe black and white thinking and judgmental thoughts about food. (Spoiler: kale has no moral value. Neither do potato chips. Or ice cream.)
Intuitive eating makes space for enjoying food without restriction AND nourishing your body to meet your physical and mental health needs (food and eating ARE emotional and that is okay), while also acknowledging that eating does not address the root cause of unpleasant emotions.
One of the ten principles of intuitive eating addresses movement, with a focus on finding enjoyable ways to move your body. This counters diet culture messages such as needing to earn a “treat” food or burn off the calories from the indulgent meal you had last night. Movement is not punishment or payment or aimed toward looking a certain way.
Making your way without the rules and structure of a diet may feel foreign and uncomfortable. You will need to acknowledge and sit with this discomfort and then learn different ways of relating to food, movement, and your body. As such, it can be helpful to work with a professional, either a registered dietitian or a counselor trained in intuitive eating – this person can serve as a guide on your journey.
Ready to begin?
Check out these resources and make an appointment with a McDaniel Nutrition dietitian!
Note: Working on intuitive eating is NOT a replacement for comprehensive eating disorder treatment.