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Intuitive Eating: Regaining Trust in Your Body 

Updated: Jul 2

Picture this: 

You’re at a restaurant with family, you order mac and cheese because it sounds good and a side salad because you’re craving a fresh crunch. You enjoy some of your kids’ fries and note that your homemade brownies are so much better than the one you shared with your partner. You remember you have an early meeting and presentation the next day and feel relief that you packed up the leftovers for an easy lunch. You feel full, physically and emotionally, and the thoughts going through your head are of gratitude and maybe just a little nervousness for that early morning presentation.

Sounds great, right? No obsessing over menus, no thoughts about how this will fit into your diet/ calorie allotment/ workout schedule, and no feeling of shame over your food and portion choices. This depiction of a relationship with food is both an example of what intuitive eating can look like, and possible for people working through eating disorders/ disordered eating.  

Intuitive Eating 

Above is an illustration of what intuitive eating can look and feel like. But what exactly is it? Intuitive eating is a weight neutral and self-care focused eating framework. As a practice it aims to honour both physical and mental health². Importantly, it strives to embrace the Health at Every Size notion that health exists on a continuum¹ and to challenge dominant diet culture narratives. In therapy, challenging diet culture can look like exploring experiences with your therapist regarding certain diets, eating styles, body image and more. Intuitive eating can be a helpful framework for people experiencing disordered eating as its principles are focused on building a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Weight Neutrality in Intuitive Eating- What About “Health”?!

Weight neutrality in Intuitive Eating relates to shifting the focus of food, eating habits and your body away from weight gain or loss and towards honouring your health through responding to psychological and physical cues³. Often we relate thinness with health and weight loss as both a route to and byproduct of a healthy lifestyle. However, health is a multifaceted concept that exists on a continuum. This means that regardless  of weight gain, loss, or maintenance we can all live a healthy lifestyle as defined by ourselves! Sometimes intuitive eaters’ weight changes, however to see progress towards intuitive eating other indicators are used. Progress indicators might include something like a reduction in the experience of anxiety when eating certain foods. For others they could include advocating for yourself when someone else makes an unsolicited comment about your body. Indicators will be unique to you and your definition of a healthy relationship with food and your body. 

Principles of Intuitive Eating 

10 principles of Intuitive Eating: 

  1. Reject the diet mentality

  2. Honour your hunger

  3. Make peace with food

  4. Challenge the food police

  5. Respect your fullness

  6. Discover the satisfaction factor 

  7. Honour your feelings without using food

  8. Respect your body 

  9. Exercise- feel the difference

  10. Honour your health with gentle nutrition 

Above are the ten principles of intuitive eating. You might notice that some are related to physical cues, like honouring your hunger and respecting your fullness, and others are related to psychological cues like challenging the food police and making peace with food. Both are important towards building a positive food relationship. Often we like to jump to principle 10: honour your health with gentle nutrition. However, this is the last principle for a reason and practicing gentle nutrition is often best received when the physical and psychological cues are easy to hear and respond to, and diet culture’s cues are easy to detect and reject. Working with one of our therapist’s can be very helpful to begin recognizing and turning up or turning down those cues!

Preventing Intuitive Eating from Becoming Another Diet 

One search of intuitive eating and you might find titles like “Intuitive Eating: How to stop binging” or “Eat what you want and lose weight through intuitive eating”. The latter might sound the alarm bells right away, as it should- remember intuitive eating is a weight neutral approach. However the first may also be confusing and even harmful for some. Although principles 5 and 7  from the list above may sound like there’s no room for large meals, feeling too full, or using a tried and true coping mechanism like food. But the black and white thinking like “If I eat too much I’m not doing intuitive eating right” or “I just binged, I’m a failure” is what feeds into the restrict/ binge cycle and upholds the diet mentality we know too well. These are the thoughts that create another food rule, this time: you can only eat when you’re hungry and you must stop when you’re full. Although listening to our physical cues is important and is a part of intuitive eating, they do not define it. Remember, along with being weight neutral, intuitive eating is a self-care framework, and self-care is not complete without self compassion. 

Is Intuitive Eating for Me?

Intuitive eating is a practice and some of its principles might feel pretty radical for those of us who have been in the cycle of dieting for a long time. For some it offers an accessible framework to begin healing their relationship with food, and for others only a few of the principles resonate. Our therapists at MODERN PSYCH strive to understand each client’s needs and how/ if the principles of intuitive eating can be beneficial alongside additional therapeutic approaches. Intuitive eating provides a helpful framework to work towards lasting change and might be something you and your therapist discuss. 

If you’re interested in learning more and working with one of our therapists, book a consult call! 

¹Association for Size Diversity and Health (2024). Health at every size principles.

²Tribole, E. (2019). Definition of intuitive eating. The Original Intuitive Eating Pros.

³Tribole, E. (2019). What is intuitive eating. The Original Intuitive Eating Pros.

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