What are we talking about when we talk about “Intuitive Eating”?

Over two years ago, I (Katie) began my personal research and study of Intuitive Eating (IE.) Since then, I’ve become a part of the IE community and a certified IE counselor and I’ve excitedly incorporated this focused treatment into the b’well business. But through my own experience and the experiences of my clients, I've learned that the ideas behind IE can be difficult to grasp; whether it seems too easy or there’s no weight-loss program out there to compare it to, there’s a lot of head tilting and brow furrowing when you tell someone “I approach food and movement in an intuitive way.” So today I'm here to briefly outline the basics before offering up some more posts on the in’s and out’s of IE.


Intuitive Eating isn’t a weight-loss program. It isn’t even a “program” at all.

So what is it exactly?

IE was named and formalized by professional registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995- though the principles of IE have been around for some time. These two found that approaching nutritional counseling through the lens of weight-loss wasn’t working and worse, it was actually harming their clients.


In the dietetics and nutrition field, IE is actually pretty radical. Unlike popular diet protocols, IE is founded on the idea that we need to take time to restore the lines of communication between our body and mind before we try to do anything nutritionally. What Tribole and Resch guessed was that by first tuning out diet messaging, honoring hunger, challenging food rules, and making peace with food the effects would lead to more sustained well-being. There is lots and lots of research that now backs this up.


So how do you “do” Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating uses 10 Principles as a framework to guide us through the process. Though working through the 10 doesn’t have to be linear, it is designed so that attunement (to our sensations, thoughts, emotions, responses, and needs) is the primary focus before gentle nutrition and movement are incorporated.


Using the book or workbook is a great first step but I believe that the work is really requires support and community! You can find a certified Intuitive Eating Counselors here: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/certified-counselors/. Some great folks to follow on Instagram and Facebook are @Christyharrison, @rebeccascritchfield, and @thebodylovesociety. And my favorite podcasts include @christyharrison’s Food Pscyh and Julie Duffy Dillon’s Love, Food.


What are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

  2. Honor Your Hunger

  3. Make Peace with Food

  4. Challenge the Food Police

  5. Respect your Fullness

  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

  7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Food

  8. Respect Your Body

  9. Exercise- Feel the Difference

  10. Honor your Health


Why introduce health last?

The work of IE is all about connection and the primary connection is the one we have with ourselves. Diet rules and even popularly accepted health guidelines are external factors and cannot be a guiding force as we are trying to hear, notice, and acknowledge our body cues.


For many of us, our intuition is a place we have not returned to since early childhood. It can feel like walking back into a large open space. We may be tempted to bring stuff in from the outside to fill it up but we cannot form strong, sustainable attunement to ourselves while grasping things outside of ourselves.


It’s controversial but simple, even sound nutritional science that we choose to reincorporate has to wait till the last part of the process.


Why is this important?

To sound like a broken record, when we allow outside forces to dictate our food choices we feed an internal disconnect. At its mildest, this leads to casually checking out of our choices. At its worst, it erodes our sense of self-trust and as you may have guessed this disconnect doesn’t stick to the realm of food and eating; it generalizes to other primary life domains like our social relationships, work or school, partnering, etc...


The exciting news is that the positive side effects of IE also tend to generalize! Some of the greatest benefits I’ve seen come out of this work are…

  • increased self-compassion

  • lowered anxiety

  • more effective decision making

  • more authentic relationships

  • fuller enjoyment of life!

Please stay tuned for a few more Intuitive Eating posts popping up on the blog very soon! And in the meantime, check out the free resource we're offering on FaceBook (facebook.com/bwellcounseling), and be in touch with us to learn more about Intuitive Eating Counseling at b’well!


Post photo by JF Martin on Unsplash

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