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Live Well: Intuitive Eating

April 5, 2024


Soon after birth, infants are skilled at eating when they are hungry and stopping when they are full. But somewhere along the path to adulthood many of us lose the ability to manage our internal hunger cues. Instead, we get triggered to eat by emotions and environmental circumstances, and the result is often a pattern of overeating and weight gain.

Intuitive eating (IE) is an anti-diet approach that was created in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. In their book, Intuitive Eating, the authors outlined 10 key 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

At its core, IE is the process of learning how to honour your body by listening to, trusting, and responding to its messages. Proponents of IE criticize diet culture, which commonly encourages behaviours like counting calories, points, or other nutritional metrics. Rather than allowing your body’s innate hunger signals to drive your eating choices, dieting relies on rules and external cues that disconnect you from your internal ones.

While intuitive eating shares some similarities with mindful eating, it is distinctly different. Learning to eat intuitively is about reconnecting with your natural hunger and fullness signals. In contrast, mindful eating is a more general approach that encourages building stronger awareness around your eating behaviours.

Intuitive eating may be especially helpful for people who have a history of disordered eating. Some research suggests that IE may improve mental health and reduce disordered eating behaviours like binge eating.

Learning to eat more intuitively is a process that looks different for everyone. To get started, begin experimenting with the 10 principles listed above.