What Is Intuitive Eating?

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Intuitive Eating (IE) is a concept coined by two dieticians in 1995 Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN,CEDRD-S, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND. Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework based on 10 principles that focus on:

  1. Supporting you to cultivate attunement to the physical sensations that arise from your body to ensure your biological and psychological needs are met.

  2. Learning to eliminate any obstacles and disruptors to attunement that have developed from the mind in the form of rules, beliefs, and thoughts--namely diet culture (The Science of Intuitive Eating).

Intuitive eating is beneficial for those who want to stop dieting, develop a healthier relationship with food, and who may have disordered eating habits.Focusing on self-care practices, weight loss may or may not be an outcome when someone starts their IE journey.

Rather than looking for external cues (diets, counting calories, counting macros, portion control) you learn to turn internally and listen to your hunger and fullness cues by building an interoceptive awareness. Gradually intuitive eaters begin to know how much food they need to be satisfied, what foods and flavours they enjoy by successfully listening to their internal signals physically and mentally.

What is Interoceptive Awareness?

Interoceptive awareness is our ability to perceive physical sensations within the body, it allows us to experience sensations such as:

  • Biological hunger, fullness, and satiety cues.

  • Physical states such as feeling our heart-beat, pain, sleepiness, full bladder and tension or relaxation of muscles.

  • The unique physical sensations from different emotions (2019).

Years of dieting, eating disorders, and external rules (tracking calories/macros) for eating can decrease your interoceptive awareness "muscle.” Through IE principles we learn to develop our interoceptive awareness and remove obstacles that might come in the way.

With the increase of harmful messages regarding dieting and bodies across mainstream media which include restriction, healthism, and cutting out food groups, it erodes our trust in our bodies and beliefs and we may start fearing foods. Through IE we learn to trust our bodies once again by listening to our physiological hunger and satiety cues.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at diet culture that promotes weight loss and 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. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

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. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.

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. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.

Challenge the Food Police

Scream a loud no to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, 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, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had “enough.”

Feel Your Fullness

In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. 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 eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

First, recognise that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. 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. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.

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 futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.

Movement—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. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energised, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.

Honour Your Health—Gentle Nutrition

Make food choices that honour your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts. Retrieved From: (10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, 2019)

The Science Behind Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a certified assessment scale and over 100 studies till date (2019). IE allows you to get in touch with your internal cues and supports the following:

  • Develop better body image

  • Less disordered eating

  • Improved blood pressure

  • More stable weight

  • Higher self-esteem

  • Improved cholesterol rates

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved metabolism

  • High levels of contentment and satisfaction

  • Lower risk for obesity

  • Lower risk for eating disorders

  • Increased physical activity

Why Intuitive Eating?

It’s time to ditch diets for good. Traditional weight loss plans, programs, and dieting has been proven countless times to be ineffective for long-term weight loss and maintenance. In addition, dieting also results in mental stress and may cause disorder-eating behaviours. It’s time we reconnect with our body and start listening to what our body is telling us, (as we did when we were younger) in terms of satisfaction, pleasure, hunger, fullness, and satiation.

If you'd like to learn more about Intuitive Eating, please visit www.intuitiveeating.org


  1. 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. (2019, December 19). Retrieved from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/

  2. Interoceptive Awareness is our Superpower - Chalked-Up. (2019, May 3). Retrieved from https://www.chalkedupnutrition.co.uk/interoceptive-awareness-is-our-superpower/

  3. The Science of Intuitive Eating. (2019, November 13). Retrieved from https://www.evelyntribole.com/what-is-intuitive-eating-ie/

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