What Is Intuitive Eating?

Guest Blogger – Virginia Watkins
In my post last week, I began to describe an approach to food called Intuitive Eating. As an Enneagram Type 1, my focus on improvement and perfection has, at times, made my relationship with food tough. I get bogged down in rules, what’s healthy and what’s not, and can lose sight of the intense pleasure food can bring me.


Intuitive Eating is particularly valuable for people who’ve had a history of disordered eating, calorie restriction or weight cycling. For anyone who doesn’t have these struggles, you may find that the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating help underscore the good work you’re already doing to follow your body’s physiological signals and deeper intuition to take care of yourself.  I have found that these principles help me relax more around what I eat and how I eat which, I’m convinced, has improved my overall health.


10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. If you’re someone who’s been on diets or restrictive programs (including some masked as healthy eating plans) for many years, rejecting diet culture can feel like being suspended over a dark canyon of unknowing – and it can be totally liberating at the same time.


  1. Honor Your Hunger. Our hunger is a biological signal that diet culture has taught us to ignore or to fight through with will power. Because of our bodies’ built-in protection plan to keep us from starving, many of us have also experienced periods of restriction followed by uncontrolled or binge eating.
  1. Make Peace with Food. Allow yourself to eat any food you want and any amount. Banishing and restricting foods can lead to a deep sense of deprivation and cause uncontrollable cravings. “Giving in” is really just our bodies’ way of fighting starvation and asking for what it needs. (At this point you may be saying, “Intuitive Eating is not for me; we have to restrain ourselves or we’d overeat all the time!” I understand your reaction, but please keep reading.)
  1. Challenge the Food Police. Because diet culture is everywhere, the food police can be  deep in our psyches and they’re the ones saying that foods are “good” and “bad,” and that eating from the “good food list” makes you a better person, and eating forbidden foods makes you terrible. With some practice, you’ll be able to quiet these voices and focus on what is right for you instead.
  1. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. (This is where Intuitive Eating starts to come together for me!) When we honor our human desire for pleasure and eat foods that bring us genuine enjoyment – from satisfying our senses to creating memories with others to providing lasting energy – we learn the right amount of food for ourselves and when we’ve had enough. By allowing ourselves access to foods we enjoy, we rebuild trust with our bodies and help end the restriction and bingeing pendulum.
  1. Feel Your Fullness. This principle may take time to re-learn since it asks us to pause and check in with ourselves with questions like, “How does the food taste, and, what’s my hunger level?” This mindful way of eating guides us to knowing when we’re comfortably full.
  1. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness. It’s important to recognize that the physical and mental effects of food restriction can trigger a loss of control and lead to what some people call “emotional eating.” In these instances, again, the body is just doing its job of protecting us. When someone eats in response to an uncomfortable feeling, they may feel better in the short term, but at some point, addressing the underlying emotion is the kinder and more loving path.
  1. Respect Your Body. “Accept your genetic blueprint,” urge Intuitive Eating authors, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. To illustrate, they write that we wouldn’t try to cram our size 8 foot into a size 6 shoe. We’re encouraged to have similar expectations about body size. By treating our bodies with dignity, feeling good about ourselves becomes a lot easier.
  1. Movement – Feel the Difference. I like this one because we’re asked to feel the energy and sensations of moving our bodies instead of counting miles logged or rep repeats. Through kundalini yoga, I’ve learned to tune in more deeply to my body’s energy shifts, a nourishing experience that keeps me coming back to my mat.
  1. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition. Do certain foods taste good to you and give you lasting energy? Honor your body’s signals and choose those foods most of the time. Know that eating other foods won’t suddenly create a nutrient deficiency or make you unhealthy. I like the word, “gentle”, here since it applies both to our food choices and to how we treat ourselves.
Authors Evelyn Tribble and Elyse Resch explain these principles in more detail in their go-to book for making peace with food and your body called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. Be sure to look for the 2020 edition.
Following the principles of Intuitive Eating can feel upside down at first since the messages are the opposite of what diet culture tells us. By rejecting those rules, Intuitive Eating helps you become the expert of your body.

About the Author: Virginia Watkins, Certified Nutrition Educator and Intuitive Eating Advocate, studied English and French at Duke University. After college, Virginia moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work in the food and wine industry. In addition to working in marketing and sales for leading natural food companies, she has spent eight years as a certified nutrition educator. A lover of creative and gentle movement, she regularly practices yoga and can be found at Lynn’s live-streamed classes most Wednesdays. She’s also the mom of two well-fed boys, ages 14 and 11.

Download Your Free Ebook “3-Minute Meditations for Each Enneagram Type"

Get your guide to the 9 Enneagram types with a different Kundalini Yoga meditation for each type. These meditations are designed to relax your habit of attention and build self awareness - starting in as little as 3 minutes a day.