Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Dr. Katelyn Baker Psy.D
The 10 Key Principles Of Intuitive Eating
Published May 20th, 2021 & updated on Jan 19th, 2022
You’re probably already familiar with diet culture…it’s constantly shoved in our faces on social media platforms, advertising campaigns, TV shows. Things like constantly counting calories, only eating at certain times of day, and labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad” are all diet culture practices. Well, the opposite of that (and a much, much healthier mindset) is intuitive eating! There are 10 key principles of intuitive eating in total and we’d love to tell you all about them.
Putting your appearance and weight over your mental and physical health (aka diet culture) has been romanticized and engrained in popular media — but it’s sooooo bad for us. Let’s say a collective ‘fuck you’ to diet culture and incorporate mindful eating practices instead!
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is used to build healthier attitudes toward food and your body image! Essentially, it means making food choices that are in your best interest rather than harming your body with dieting, which often leads to disordered eating.
It’s not about weight loss! It’s about eating what you want and feeling good while doing it. Diet culture may have ingrained a toxic relationship with weight in our minds, but it’s NEVER too late to learn how to start intuitive eating. And if you’re still asking yourself, ‘what does intuitive eating mean tho’ … keep reading!
Intuitive Eating Guide
For some, intuitive eating comes naturally — like kids who leave half of their sandwich on the plate because they’re full! They listened to their body and knew when to stop. But, unfortunately, diet culture is what often screws up that cycle! We learn to stop listening to our bodies and start undereating or overeating and causing ourselves psychological distress instead.
That being said, breaking the cycle is not always easy. Intuitive eating isn’t as easy as just stopping a diet. It’s a whole mindset change, baby! And to help you get started, we’ve compiled 10 awesome practices that you can use to tell your brain who’s boss.
1. Throw Away The Diet Mentality
This is the first of the principles of intuitive eating (and maybe the hardest!): no diets! For starters, the eating habits aren’t healthy and, second, that constant battle with weight loss is inconsistent and hard to maintain. Diet culture basically sets you up for failure by bombarding you with “alluring” before and after photos that are pretty much impossible to achieve. So, we’re asking you to take alllll that you’ve learned about diets, cram it in a metaphorical cardboard box, and throw it the heck away!
2. Listen To Your Body’s Hunger Signals
Your next step is to stop choosing when you eat. Fasting all day will lead to overeating in the evening, because your primal instincts kick in and want to make up for what was missed. Instead, eat when you’re hungry (your body usually makes it known when it is)! Whether that means having an apple at 2 p.m. or snacking on an extra granola bar after dinner. Oh, and before we forget, never skip lunch!
3. Create A Healthy Relationship With Food
Getting back to dieting and how awful it is (sorry not sorry)…it makes you view food as the enemy! Rather than seeing it as the sustenance and satisfaction it is, we start thinking that eating that one donut was “forbidden” and feel guilty or ashamed. That should never be the case! With intuitive eating, you can eat whatever you feel your body needs at that moment — even if that means a little bit of sugar.
4. Don’t Limit Your Intake
You know that inner voice that screams “REDUCE YOUR CALORIES” and “THAT FOOD IS BAD” all day, every day? Let’s call that the food police. They’re trying to make you monitor every single crumb of food that enters your system and shame you for actually enjoying your food. Well, here’s a little reminder: your body needs those calories to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing. So, next time the food police calls, hit mute and let it go to voicemail!
5. Learn To Enjoy Foods
There’s a misconception that food is only there to give you energy. But, believe it or not, your mouth has taste buds for a reason! So, make your eating experience enjoyable — as it should be. Make yourself a food that you love, take the time to sit down to eat, and really revel in that “satisfaction factor.” It’s basically your body thanking you for properly nourishing it!
6. Only Eat ‘Til You’re Full
Piggy backing off of respecting your hunger signals in step 2, you should also respect the signals telling you that you’re full! When you’re eating and you start to notice that pressure in your stomach, take a minute to ask yourself if you’re comfortably full. If the answer is yes, you can always put that food in the fridge for later (even if “later” is in a couple of hours)! If the answer is no, then keep eating or maybe even get yourself seconds. Take alllll the judgement away from eating however much your body desires, because it probably needs it!
7. Try To Stay Away From Emotional Eating
There are two types of hunger: physical hunger, which tells you to replenish your nutrients; and emotional hunger, which is driven by the need for comfort food when you’re sad or angry. The latter usually makes you feel guilty, and that’s because food is not actually the answer in those moments!
When you’re in an emotional state, you may need something else to cope. Take some time to ask your body what else it may need, whether that’s venting to a friend, a bath, or journaling. That way, you’re still following your body’s natural hunger instincts rather than using food to calm emotions.
8. Practice Gratitude For Your Body
Another big part of diet culture is the overwhelming amount of before and after pictures! Not to mention, the ridiculous body ideals that society and media have perpetuated. It can make you feel soooo insecure and like you’re not “good enough” compared to them — but you are! Your body does everything it can to keep you alive and healthy every single day, and how it looks while doing it should NOT be a factor. So, one of the biggest principles of intuitive eating is to show it some gratitude for everything it does for you.
9. Move Your Body
Dieting doesn’t just control how you eat, but also how you work out. It says you have to do these exercises for exactly this long, but that’s not necessarily what’s right for YOUR body! Try out some light stretching, a short walk, or strength training and see how your body reacts. From there, you can form a routine around what works best for your unique body — ‘cause this is defs not a one-size-fits-all situation!
10. Eat What Makes You Feel Good
Lastly, we’re gonna focus on something called gentle nutrition. Intuitive eating pros Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch define it like this: “Your motivation for your food choices comes from a combination of a desire to provide nutritious food for your physical well-being and to have the option of eating something just for its taste.” Basically, you have the power to eat the nutritious food you like and know gives you energy, or get tacos on those days when you’re reeeeally craving them (as long as they don’t make you feel gross).
Once you’ve successfully incorporated all 10 of these principles of intuitive eating, you’re gonna notice a major shift! Not only will you have a better relationship with food, but you’ll also feel better about your body and how you treat it. Intuitive eating also has other psychological benefits, like lowering anxiety, depression, and any negative self-talk!