How Intuitive Eating Could Change Your Life for the Better

Honestly, before I began practicing Intuitive Eating, I was completely lost. I was at a “diet bottom." I spent years attempting every diet under the sun: keto, vegan, macro-counting, calorie-counting, whole food, and so on. With each one, I would drop a few pounds, only to pack them back on (plus a few) when I couldn’t take it anymore and I was left with the haunting sense of failure. I felt hopeless. It wasn’t until I learned about intuitive eating and the anti-diet philosophy that I finally felt like I got my life back. Intuitive eating is an approach to eating and movement that encompasses mindfulness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. There are ten principles to intuitive eating: reject the diet mentality, honor your hunger, make peace with food, challenge the food police, discover the satisfaction factor, feel your fullness, cope with your emotions with kindness, respect your body, mindful movement & gentle nutrition. Feel free to read more on each principle at the official intuitive eating website.

The principles were developed by the amazing Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. The approach is anti-diet, weight and size neutral, and shame deflecting. To say that Intuitive Eating changed my life would be putting it lightly. In so many ways, I think it got me my life back. I no longer spend hours fretting over what I ate or what I am going to eat. I no longer equate my size to my worth and I finally feel like food no longer controls my life. 

Korean food Photo by Jakub Kapusnak from Unsplash If you find yourself constantly on a “diet” and preoccupied with food and your body, it is so worth evaluating what you might gain by hopping off the diet train and never looking back through intuitive eating. Even if you are not a chronic dieter, practicing Intuitive Eating may improve your relationship with food and your body in ways you didn’t even know you needed. 

Here are just a few of the benefits you could experience through applying intuitive eating principles to your own life: 

1. Decreased likelihood of chronic health conditions

There has been an array of health benefits that have been found from stopping chronic yo-yo dieting. As cited in Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch’s book,  Intuitive Eating, “Weight cycling (the repeated gaining and losing weight) may increase the risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes (Bacon and Aphramor 2011)." Furthermore, chronic fatigue and digestion issues that come as a product of restriction and overeating can be alleviated through intuitive eating. Additionally, a study conducted by Blair Burnette in 2020 found that active application of intuitive eating principles in college-aged women leads to decreases in the frequency of binge eating and loss-of-control eating. 

2. Improved mental health

Freedom from the shame, guilt, and self-hatred that diet culture pushes on you leaves a lot more room for self-love, acceptance, and emotional mindfulness. It has been found that intuitive eating leads to a decrease in body dissatisfaction and weight bias internalization and an increase in body appreciation, body functionality appreciation, intuitive exercise, and satisfaction with life (Burnette 2020). 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

3. Freedom from preoccupation with food

I remember when I was still in the depths of my dieting, I was constantly thinking about what were the calories, fat, carbs, or protein of what I just ate; what I was going to eat, debating what I should eat, shaming myself for what I would eat, ravenously searching for the “perfect” diet, and so on and so forth: it was exhausting. The less time spent obsessing over calories, macros, and all the rules that diet culture makes us believe we need to follow in order to control ourselves, the more time left for living!

4. Recognizing that life is so much more than what you look like

When we are so focused on what our bodies look like, it can make it difficult to recognize the amazing things that may be happening right in front of you. While you are picking the croutons out of your salad, you may miss out on the joke that everyone is laughing at. While you are meticulously counting your macros, you could be taking your pup on a walk in the autumn air. Instead of calculating the number of calories you’ve burned during a swim, you could be paying mind to the way the water makes your muscles feel flexible and strong.

5. More joy in movement 

Movement no longer is about burning off what you eat, it becomes about something you find joy and pleasure in! Can you imagine actually looking forward to exercising? Seems counterintuitive in a society that often makes exercise out to be something we punish ourselves for our food intake. After applying the intuitive eating principles to my own life, I find that I have engaged in movement more than I have in my whole life. Not because I want to lose weight or change my body but because it feels GOOD! I found a love for swimming and hiking that I didn’t even know I had because I used to be stuck in the mindset that if I was pumping iron in the gym it “didn’t really count."

6. More joy in food

Food becomes a source of pleasure and satiety, rather than a source of stress and anxiety. Now when I feel myself getting hungry, I find myself getting excited and asking myself, “What sounds good?” instead of getting anxious and asking myself, “What should I eat?” Now when I eat, I find pleasure in eating what I am actually craving and finishing when I am full and satisfied. I even often have leftovers, something that was unfeasible to me back in my dieting days. Yet, if I do finish my plate, I don’t feel the need to guilt or shame myself because I have learned to trust my body and that its needs are different every day. 

7. Better health

I do not think I have had this much energy since I was a kid (which makes sense, considering we are born intuitive eaters but lose that ability as we grow up and diet culture bombards our lives). I have found that my digestion, sleep, and strength has improved. Also, libido tends to decrease during times of dieting and restriction so you may find yourself, as an intuitive eater, feeling a little more, well, driven you could say. 

8. An amazing community of body positive & supportive people

Through educating myself about intuitive eating, I have come to find so many AMAZING people that are a part of a body-positive, anti-diet, pro-self love, passionate, incredible, strong community! Believe it or not, there are millions of people that are fed up with diet culture and ready to take their lives back by giving up dieting and allowing themselves to finally live as intuitive eaters. Here are just a few, but there are a ton out there!

All in all, and I think it is important to note that this has been an emotional journey. The road to becoming an intuitive eater isn’t always simple. In fact, at times it may feel overwhelming, scary, foreign, and vulnerable. But the thing is that there is no way to do intuitive eating “wrong," it is a journey where you get to know your body & yourself & your relationship with food. As you apply each principle to your life, although it may feel unstable, you begin to nurture a positive relationship with your body that dieting could never offer you. It may feel easy or habitual to turn back to dieting when you feel like you’ve gained weight or lost control or feel inadequate – but intuitive eating is built on the foundation that you are worthy and you are enough, always. Once you start to understand this for yourself, you begin to find just how incredible and intelligent your body is. Then you may finally, in a world where it is all too rare, make friends with your body, and perhaps, even make a home.