Don’t Weight Issue 8 (for real)- Intuitive Eating

Hello There, How Do You…EAT???

How do you eat?  This may seem like a silly question (with a fork, knife and spoon, at a table?), but the answer can be really helpful in establishing a healthy and yes enjoyable relationship with food.  We are, after all, created to ENJOY food and eating, like all other things necessary for survival.

Our bodies are also designed to regulate food intake and activity to maintain good health, not just an ideal weight (which can exist across a wide range of BMI’s, weights, and sizes).

And while our current food supply, for most, I imagine, reading this newsletter, is full of highly available, highly processed, calorie dense, high fat, highly sweetened (and engineered) foods, we can still learn to eat in a calm, rational, way and to even enjoy the process!

You can stop feeling constantly pre-occupied with food and/or your weight.

You can learn to listen to your mindbody, attune yourself to your needs and wants.  You can choose what, when and how much to eat.


What’s your initial response to this idea?

  • I couldn’t dare do that.
  • Fat people shouldn’t be encouraged to eat whatever they want!
  • No pain, no gain, I just have to buckle down and …
  • Hmmm-this sounds interesting, I would love to be able to do this.
  • I look forward to learning more about this!
  • I enjoy “tuning in” to my needs and fulfilling them.

Be aware of your emotions and your thoughts around this…I invite you to be open to learning more about “How You Eat” with openness and curiosity.

So, how DO you eat?  Are you

  • Regimented-you plan and structure what, when, and how much you eat at all times
  • Judgmental-you identify foods as “good” or “bad”; healthy or harmful
  • Dependent-you depend on someone/something else to tell you what to eat, seeing foods as allowed or forbidden. Giving others authority over your wants and needs.
  • Indulgent/impulsive-you eat whatever you want whenever you want without much thought or awareness.
  • Emotional-you eat when you are sad, anxious, worried, happy etc…
  • Aware-You notice why you are eating as well as the emotional and physical responses (good or bad) to eating
  • Attuned, Mindful, Intuitive-you eat in response to your body’s signals and cravings instead of emotions and situations.

That last one sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  If it seems “too good to be true”, don’t worry.  Attuned eating is a skill that can be learned.  Consider an important relationship in your life: your significant other, BFF, spouse, your doctor, clergy….your hairdresser(?).  We appreciate it when we know that THAT someone is ATTUNED to our needs and responds appropriately.  So why not learn to do it for yourself, around one of the most important things we do to nurture our wellbeing-EAT!

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch introduced intuitive eating, in their book “Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program That Works in1995.  Studies of intuitive eating seem to support its use in preventing or treating eating disorders and improving self-esteem.  There have also been studies showing improved health parameters like cholesterol or triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar markers and these changes, along with incidental weight loss, have been sustained at 2 years.

Full disclosure, I am not a certified intuitive eating coach, but I do encourage many of the practices and principles outlined by Tribole and Resch.  Their 10 Principals of Intuitive Eating are:
(comments in parentheses are mine)

  1. Reject the diet mentality.
  2. Honor your hunger (you must learn to recognize it)
  3. Make peace with food (It is not the enemy)
  4. Challenge the food police (get out of good food/bad food thinking)
  5. Feel your fullness (be mindful and aware)
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor (let eating and your food be satisfying)
  7. Cope with your emotions without food (it’s a kinder thing to do!)
  8. Respect your body (even if you don’t like how you look-the body is truly miraculous!)
  9. Exercise (for the joy of moving, for your health-not to burn calories!)
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

You can see from these principles that intuitive eating is so much more than “eating whatever I feel like in the moment”.

You can start to practice intuitive eating by paying attention when you eat (with curiosity and compassion, not judgement or restriction).  Notice:

  • Do you feel hungry or not? If you have a lot of adipose tissue, have yo-yo’d with your weight or been dysregulated with eating for some time, your hunger and fullness signaling may be off.  Just noticing this can be helpful.  You can also use a hunger scale to try to put an objective value to your hunger.
  • Do you recognize any emotions?
  • Physical sensations?
  • Thoughts? (bargaining, celebration, defiance)
  • What is the situation?
  • Who are you with

I’ll share a great tool in Coaches Corner that you can use to practice this.  I have had clients say just doing this (without focusing on restriction or rules) was so helpful in decreasing resistance to healthier eating.  The trick is to practice this mindful eating as an exploration ONLY, not with the intention to make yourself eat less, or differently or to change your weight.  Those things might incidentally happen, and that is ok, but that is NOT the intention of the exercise.

Judith Matz, in “Beyond the Shadow of a Diet”  describes practicing attuned eating.   This is a way of hitting that “satisfaction factor” that Tribole and Resch describe.

When you want to eat-ask yourself…Do I want something

  • Sweet or savory
  • Hard or soft
  • Hot or cold
  • Crunchy or smooth
  • Spicy or mild
  • Homestyle or gourmet
  • alone or with company

There may be situations where this is impractical, but you can get as close as you can to what you want, and the awareness is the key, not necessarily choosing “better” foods.  This can be helpful if there is an “I eat it because it’s there” habit going on.  Even if the thing that “is there” is seen as a treat, if we really don’t want it-that isn’t an indulgence, really.

What about cravings??  Proponents of intuitive eating recommend indulging in cravings.  (WHAAAAT???)  That’s right.  But mindfully, with awareness and only until the craving is satisfied.  Get curious and honest.  What is the experience giving you (feeding you, soothing, distracting, is it allowing you a rest from work,a feeling of celebration, entertainment?).  Dr. Judson Brewer, author of “The Craving Mind” shares that this mindfulness alone can often break “habit loops” of undesirable behaviors.  And as I always say, “It’s about the wellbeing, not the weight”.

The ultimate goal here is to take exquisite care of ourselves, and to enjoy our best health and our best life.  I listened to a great podcast about intuitive eating that addresses cravings-here is the link if you want to listen to more about this.  It’s the Shoulder’s Down Podcast with Leah

Make sure you check out the tool in Coaches Corner to start practicing “attuned, mindful, intuitive” eating.  I’d love it if you’d share some of your insights!  Just email me at or reply to the newsletter.

Disclaimer: Reference and links are given for proper credit of appropriate authors/presenters, and for your information and ease of access.  It is not necessarily endorsement.