Intuitive Eating

May 10th, 2010


I’ve written a lot about mindful awareness in relationships, and this practice can apply to many other areas of life. Food and eating is one of them. I read a book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch called Intuitive Eating, which I really liked, and wanted to share their 10 principles with you. Mindful awareness plays an important role.

Intuitive eating is a practice that involves distinguishing between physical and emotional feelings. Tribole and Resch write that it’s also “a process of making peace with food — so you no longer have constant ‘food worry’ thoughts.” Their approach calls for recognizing our self-worth regardless of what we eat. In our culture, this is still pretty revolutionary. Their approach also naturally leads to cultivating a more trusting and compassionate relationship with ourselves.

Here’s an abridged version of their 10 principles of intuitive eating, which you can find in full on their website and book:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight.

2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.

3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.

4. Challenge the Food Police Scream a loud “no” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments.

5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence — the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings.

8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size.

9. Exercise — Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise.

10. Honor Your Health — Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating.

You might also be interested in this blog post:


Learning About Orthorexia

[top photograph copyright Susannah Conway]

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