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    Nutrition • 5 min read

    Intuitive Eating 101



    Have you heard about the ideas of intuitive eating? Have you thought about how it might look or feel to eat without rules, without “guidelines”, without a preconceived notion of what is or isn’t “healthy”? Have you tried it?


    Because of the recent rise in non-diet, intuitive eating content online—along with the ever-present diet culture messaging we receive via all forms of media, of course—most folx I know have heard of intuitive eating. They just aren’t quite what it is beyond the simplistic “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full”.  And while that sounds relatively easy, even that part of eating intuitively can feel counterintuitive. 


    Maybe you’ve heard that intuitive eating is the hunger-fullness “diet”. Maybe you’ve heard intuitive eating “doesn’t work” for specific and unique situations. Maybe you’ve heard it’s about food freedom, ditching diet culture, and taking back pleasure with food...and maybe all of the above sounds a little confusing. 


    What you probably haven’t heard about intuitive eating is how complex, nuanced, and individual it should be. 


    When I first heard about the non-diet—or “intuitive eating” approach—to nutrition, I was so ready to put it all into practice that I mistook excitement for thorough knowledge. I learned, quickly, what works for each unique human experience, and what doesn’t. I realized that the tools I had, and had used—tools like motivational interviewing and goal setting and active listening, and of course, my nutrition education—still helped me help my clients (and myself!), but in new ways. 


    But I also learned, quickly, that intuitive eating can feel counterintuitive. It can feel out of touch. It can feel out of reach. It can seem like it’s not doable for everyone. I learned quickly that we have to be ready to explore intuitive eating from a lot of different angles, and be ready to talk about how it works for you, not just “for everyone”. 


    Maybe you haven’t heard HOW intuitive eating could work for you. 


    Nay-sayers are quick to point out situations in which the simplified ideas of intuitive eating—the hunger, fullness, and satisfaction aspects—simply could’t work for everyone. But when we consider it as a bigger picture, not just a set of principles outlined in books, it’s clear that this non-diet approach is approachable for all folx, in some way. 


    It’s appropriate for someone who wants more flexibility, and less angst, around food.

    It’s appropriate in stages of eating disorder treatment, and then recovery.

    It’s appropriate when recovering (emotionally and physiologically) from chronic dieting.

    It’s appropriate during pregnancy and lactation.

    It’s appropriate for any chronic disease management.

    It’s appropriate for kids, exposing them to new foods and food experiences.


    And of course It’s appropriate when fueling for athletics, sport, and exercise (at all levels).

    (Is intuitive eating always accessible? That’s a different conversation. One I’d love to open up if you’re curious!) 


    Intuitive eating doesn’t leave nutrition or health out of the picture. Rather, it addresses emotional coping skills, it addresses  body respect and inclusivity, and it allows you to hone in on what works for you.


    Intuitive eating is all-encompassing of the individual. It’s not a 10-step program that requires everyone to begin on square one.

    It’s important to remember that when I, as a dietitian, talk about intuitive eating, I’m not saying, “Forget everything you’ve ever heard (or learned) about nutrition science!”  But, it may be helpful to forget parts of those messages. Specifically the parts that dictate how, when, and why you should eat, without taking YOU and your needs, into account. 


    The foundation of intuitive eating encourages us to question the rules, and listen to the individual.


    I know many of you will have many “Ok, but what about {this specific example}?” questions, and I’m open to them! Reach out. Comment. Let’s have conversations! That’s why I’m here, as a guide and support system, for you and your unique fueling and nutrition journey.