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Exploring the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: A Guide to Food Freedom

Can you imagine joyfully eating the foods you love and enjoying them?


Can you imagine not spending your precious energy thinking about food and your body size?


Can you imagine truly loving your body?

I never could.

I was nine when I went on my first diet.




I saw an ad in Seventeen magazine – a step-by-step program, the promise to look like the woman in the photo with the smooth thighs and tiny waist. I stuffed the order form, bills and coins in an envelope and sent away from this magic cure.


I still remember the excitement.


Every day as the usual shame about my body size surfaced, I would sink into the relief that this fix was on its way. As if it would fix what made me feel unworthy, afraid and powerless.


Imagine the crushing disappointment when what arrived was a pamphlet of calisthenic exercises and 700-calorie a day rabbit food diet.


(Let’s take a moment to mentally hug all girls who felt something was wrong with their bodies and were taught that dieting was the fix.)


I have no memory of a time when I wasn’t obsessed with my body weight and locked into a power struggle with food - consuming it, avoiding it, stressing about it and feeling guilty about all of it.


I was convinced thinness would cure this problem. If I was thin, I wouldn’t have this horrible ache in me that I needed to soothe with food. If I wasn’t so heavy, I wouldn’t be driven toward emotional eating.


This is what happens when girls are socialized to bind their value to their body size. We both conflate the importance of our bodies and deflate the significance of ourselves.


As a teenager, I dreamed of contracting an illness that would make me thin. Then I got Type I diabetes and the weight dropped off me as my body consumed itself.


I was so sick - hospitalized and learning to take insulin injections.

But mostly, I was so proud to have my jeans falling off my hips.


Happiness, I knew, was right around the corner. My struggles - with food, with myself, with life - were over.


What's Behind the Obsession with Thinness

No one will be surprised that weight loss did not fix anything. Thinness did not make me feel worthy or whole. It didn’t fix my loneliness or depression, did not make me feel safe or secure.


quote: "hating your body won't make you thin and being thin won't make you stop hating your body."

Being thin made me terrified and rigid, almost brittle. I was so scared that one wrong bite would be my fall from this precarious grace.


I began restricting to manage my weight. I could not trust myself, my cravings. I knew that, left to my own “devices,” I would always put on weight. Periods of control were followed by long periods of being out of control with food which reinforced this fear.


I desperately wanted to be free of this insanity. But not more than I wanted to lose those twenty pounds.

Despite my best efforts to overcome the cultural messaging around thinness, I was still waiting for my body to be what I "wanted" so I could really start living.


To me, it was a story about food and weight. I had yet to identify the massive malnourishment of my soul.


I’m sure many women have some version of this story. Of this excruciating separation from ourselves.


There had to be a better way. For all of us.



What Happened When I Stopped Trying to Lose Weight


Eventually, I hit my tipping point. I could no longer bear to harm myself in this way. I decided to take a month off trying to change my body size at all.

Though I hadn’t always succeeded at weight loss, it will oddly hard for me to give it up. Controlling my body and fretting over my food intake felt oddly familiar and safe. Giving it up felt destabilizing.


A month-long truce. Not just from dieting, but from all the games, all the I shouldn’t eat this, that has too many calories, this is the better fat-burning choice.


I let myself choose food freely and let my mind be free of this chronic, crushing obsession. It was the biggest relief.

I stopped spending all my energy, drive, imagination and creativity trying to trick my body and hack my metabolism.


It felt like getting my life back. (Or maybe finally starting it.)

It was during this month that I got curious about intuitive eating.


What is Intuitive Eating?


If your struggle with food and weight is interfering with enjoying your body, food and your life, pretty please, get yourself the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.


the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Tribole and Resch – nutritionists by training – are the originators of the intuitive food movement. Their well-researched, science-backed work believes in our innate ability to eat intuitively, according to our body’s needs.

Intuitive Eating is based on the idea that our bodies know what to eat and how much and that we can trust our bodies to signal these needs.

(If you fear your body is the exception, rest assured. Tribole and Resch cite countless research about how dieting and diet mentality seriously messes with our biology and our minds, resulting in over consuming and feeling out of control with food.)


It is a mindful eating approach without outside mandates. It asks us to strip away the toxic demands of diet culture and give ourselves unconditional permission to live in the bodies we have and eat the foods we want while honoring our hunger cues.


Intuitive Eating does not mean eating what you want, whenever you want. Unconscious food choices, emotional eating or over consumption completely disregard the body.


Intuitive Eating deeply honors the body, its needs, signals and desires. Even for things like chocolate cake.

chocolate cake


Because Intuitive Eating rejects the idea of good food/bad food and one-size-fits-all (pun intended) nutrition, there are no forbidden foods. Which means no more guilt and no more deprivation triggered overeating.

flow chart comparing dieting with intuitive eating


Intuitive Eating is a mindful approach to eating that restores pleasure, joy and freedom with food. It suggests we take our time with our food, fully taste it, appreciate it and show up for the act of eating.


(Ironic for a food-obsessed person, but I was never present when eating. I didn't take my time with food, savor it, enjoy it. This is not how you treat something you love.)


“Intuitive Eaters march to their inner hunger signals and eat whatever they choose in a satisfying way, without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma. The Intuitive Eater is an unaffected eater.” (Intuitive Eating, p. 37)


You see what I mean? Don’t you WANT this?


The Principles of Intuitive Eating


Here are the ten core principles of Intuitive Eating, which Tribole and Resch note are “simply guidelines and not new rules that can be turned into a diet.”


They really understand their audience. :)



1.     Reject Diet Mentality


2.     Honor Your Hunger


3.     Make Peace With Food


4.     Challenge the Food Police


5.     Discover the Satisfaction Factor


6.     Feel Your Fullness


7.     Cope With Your Emotions With Kindness


8.     Respect Your Body


9.     Movement- Feel the Difference


10.  Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

a chart of the principles of Intuitive Eating


(To fully understand these principles, please read the book. This list can’t begin to touch the depth of these ideas.)


Weight loss and Intuitive Eating

Recently I was visiting an older friend and she offered me a muffin. I declined because I wasn’t hungry.


“You watching your weight?” she asked. “I know so many young women are.”


“No,” I said, meaning it. “I’m just learning to listen to my body and I’m not hungry.”


No anxiety. No struggle. No deprivation. No rules.. No counting points. No fasting window to adhere to.


Instead, it’s simple: am I hungry? And if I am, what do I want to eat?


Something happens when we disentangle eating from our body size.


It’s something like freedom.

quote: "Sometimes the weight you need to lose isn't on your body."

“Any desire for weight loss must be put on the back burner, or it will sabotage your process of healing your relationship with food, your mind and your body. Intuitive Eating is an inside job – it’s about listening to the messages of the body through interoceptive awareness….Focusing on the scale or your weight immediately introduces and external factor, creating a wedge between your inner wisdom and eating choices.” (Intuitive Eating, p. 45)


They go on to say they are not against people losing weight as a byproduct of Intuitive Eating. It just can’t be the goal.


I’ll confess, after a lifetime of rating food choices against potential weight gain/loss, it was hard to break away from this paradigm.


Of course it was. I’d been trained and was a good soldier.


But I believed these women, that innate intuition around food could be reclaimed. That my body knew what it needed and – despite years of cravings, binge eating and a seemingly out of control appetite – I could learn to trust my body again.


Slowly, slowly, I recjected the idea that my body was supposed to be other than it was. I started appreciating how my body felt rather than how it looked.


I got curious and excited about my body revealing itself to me, rather than me mandating what it should look like.


I began to trust that if I am eating in alignment with my body, rather than using food to meet emotional needs, than my body would settle into its natural form.


This is what I call my authentic body. And it suits me better than any super thin body ever has.


My authentic body is living inside myself with joy, freedom and love. It is absent of fear, control and shame. It’s being at home in my own body and appreciating it for all it is.


This is what I want. And Intuitive Eating has been a perfect companion on my journey.


What Happened When I Started Eating Intuitively

You’re probably tired of hearing this, but like everything, learning Intuitive Eating is a process, one that requires enormous self-compassion.


At first, all I could do was note the moment I’d had enough to eat just long enough to plow past it.


Though I gave myself permission to eat foods that were on my “no” list, I struggled to enjoy them. I sometimes still do. That engrained guilt is hard to budge.


I vacillated between unconditional permission and a strong desire for a regimented food plan. (Intermittent fasting! Keto! Paleo!)


I had to be willing to do Intuitive Eating imperfectly.

It makes sense that 40+ years of dysfunction around food would be hard to undo. I deserve time to learn a completely new way, one that subverts the cultural narrative of food and bodies.

But already the journey has given me so much:

-       I broke my obsession with the scale.

-       Exercise is way more enjoyable.

-       I enjoy food more.

-       I consult my body *most of the time* when I eat.

- I have a newfound reverence for my body.

-       I don’t feel so crazy around food.

-       Fear around food is slowly leaving.

-       I trust myself around food.

-       I’m no longer sad when I’m full because I know I can eat whatever I want when I get hungry again.

-       My body feels amazing. It truly knows how to regulate my food intake.

-       I don't feel anxious going into social situations because of food.

-       I can differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

-       I care more about how I feel in my body than what my body mass index is.

-       I’ve stayed grounded despite the Ozempic craze.

-  I no longer exercise just so I can "feel good when it's over." I chose exercise I truly enjoy.

-       I’ve learned that “healthy eating” for me is eating in alignment with my body and myself, moment by moment. Sometimes that’s eating an ice cream cone. Sometimes it's an apple.

-  I have a peace and lightness with food I used to dream of.


woman savoring her food

There are thousands of people out there who want to tell us how to eat, how to move, how to be in our bodies.


But we all have different bodies, different genetics, different histories, different hearts, different preferences, different needs.


Only you know you. If anyone is an expert on your body, it's YOU.

Eating intuitively transcends the logistics of what we eat and when. It is an approach to ourselves and our bodies that is deeply liberated, empowered and fueled with self-compassion and self-love.


We deserve to enjoy living in our bodies. Eating is one of the most pleasurable activities available to us and we get to partake in it several times a day.

Society has ruined this for women. It's time to reclaim it.


We can trust ourselves. We can choose for ourselves. We can love ourselves that much.

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