What Is Intuitive Eating – A Quick Beginner’s Guide

What Is Intuitive Eating – A Quick Beginner’s Guide


Lindsay Pleskot, a Registered Dietitian and Momma and founder of Make Food Feel Good Wellness, is on the blog today talking about Intuitive Eating! Plus, she is sharing a $200 off code for her guided program this April. Take it away Lindsay!

Hey everyone! Lindsay here. It is my mission to help you find confidence and ease in your everyday eating through simple recipes, 1:1 support and our group coaching program, Make Food Feel Good. We are here to provide the tools and support to bring you back to trusting and honoring your body so food can feel GOOD! It is my absolute pleasure to be here with you today sharing all about Intuitive Eating! Whether this term is brand new to you, or maybe you’ve already dipped your toes in, I’m breaking it all down with a beginner’s guide to help you figure out whether intuitive eating is right for you, and how to get started! 

Without fail, every year (or month for that matter) there seems to be a hot new diet or “lifestyle change” being promoted.I’m not gonna lie, even as a dietitian I’ve felt the allure, and for far too many years I fell prey to the shiny results they promised. But there’s a reason there’s a new diet popping up every year… or that we find ourselves constantly ”starting again Monday”, or onto the next fix. 

Diets don’t work. 

In fact, it is well researched that diets have a 95% failure rate. How’s that for a cold hard truth?

What exactly does this mean? Over the course of 1-5 years, 95% of dieters will regain any weight lost, with around 65% of them gaining even more weight back than where they started. 

As a culture, we seem to be awakening to the understanding that diets are not a sustainable or enjoyable way to live, but the diet industry has become incredibly clever at marketing diets, whether that be under the guise of  “wellness”, the next healthy lifestyle change or clean eating fix. 

It’s no wonder we are more confused and more at odds with our bodies than ever! How can we trust our bodies, or food for that matter, when we are constantly being sold the message that some “expert” here or set of food rules over there is better informed on what’s best for us than our very own (and very wise) bodies?!

Why Diets Don’t Work – and how intuitive eating is different. 

So why exactly is it that diets don’t’ work? However they’re positioned, diets are sets of rules or guidelines – essentially external sources – determining what, how much and when we should eat (yup, I’m looking at you Intermittent Fasting!) 

When we rely on factors outside of ourselves for these answers we become disconnected from the innate and intuitive cues we are all in fact born with! 

Take babies for example – they cry when they’re hungry, they turn their heads, spit out or throw their food when they’re full or don’t like something (don’t we all wish we could do this sometimes? haha). Over time, with the constant bombardment of messaging all around us about what’s “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”, we start tuning out these very wise cues from our body. 

Throw in a longstanding history of dieting, we may find ourselves unable to recognize hunger and fullness cues anymore. Enter Intuitive Eating…

Our Butler Pantry reveal complete with all of the sources, my favourite must-have features and how we keep our pantry organized, functional and beautiful! I love the arched entryway, vintage brass chandelier and open white shelving!

What is Intuitive Eating and Who is it for? 

Intuitive Eating is a way of eating rooted in self-care and attuning, or becoming connected to your body’s needs and cues -like hunger, fullness and satisfaction. It’s about learning to trust your body and eat in a way that meets not just your physical, but mental and emotional needs as well. 

What many don’t know is that Intuitive Eating is evidence based, with over 150 research studies backing it up. It was created by two dietitians, Evely Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 and while it provides a framework to guide you, it is void of the strict rules and guidelines telltale of dieting.

Intuitive Eating is made up of 10 principles that walk you home to finding peace with food and your body – more on those in a minute!

If you are looking to find more freedom and confidence in your eating, to learn to trust and connect with your body again, and integrate nutrition in a way that serves your best overall health and wellness, Intuitive Eating is definitely for you! 

Benefits of Intuitive Eating

There are so many incredible benefits to Intuitive Eating, to name a few – 

  • Improved body image & self-esteem
  • Decreased preoccupation with food and guilt around food 
  • Decrease in out of control cravings and hunger
  • Increased ability to recognize and honor hunger and fullness cues
  • Decreased “out of control” eating or binge eating 
  • Improved health parameters such as increased HDL (aka “good” cholesterol) 
  • Increased ability to be present in your life and with loved ones
  • Ability to build additional and alternative coping skills for things like boredom eating and emotional eating
  • Overall increase in mood and satisfaction with life

So, with that let’s dive into the principles that make up the framework for Intuitive Eating and some practical steps on how you can get started!

A-Z guide to freezing fruits and vegetables

A Beginner’s Guide – The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the diet mentality

Knowing that diets are almost guaranteed to fail, the first step in truly opening space to reconnect and build trust with your body is rejecting the diet mentality. Not only are we likely to waste a whole lot of time, money and miss out on the ability to be present for important moments with love ones, dieting can also be dangerous for both our mental and physical health with risk factors including

  • Increased risk of disordered eating and eating disorders
  • Increased body dissatisfaction
  • Increased preoccupation with food
  • Increased feeling of being out of control around food

So principle #1 is to let go of that shiny allure to jump on the next diet that comes your way so that YOU can truly become the expert of your own body and have a healthy relationship with food

2. Honor your Hunger

Another side effect of dieting is that we become so dependent on outside sources to let us know when it’s ok to eat that we become totally disconnected from our body’s cues! While many of us recognize the more obvious signs of hunger like a grumbling stomach or …hanger (yep that’s me. haha) there are many more subtle signs that our body sends to let us know it’s time to fuel up.

Thinking about food

Waning concentration

Feeling lethargic

When we can recognize and honor hunger in the earlier stages, it prevents that out of control feeling around food when we’ve gone too long without eating. If you’re feeling a bit out of touch with your hunger and fullness, learning how to use the hunger fullness scale  is a great place to start! 

3. Make Peace with Food

Do you ever feel guilty after eating something you feel you “shouldn’t” have? This principle is all about shedding that guilt and finding true permission to eat and enjoy all foods. This is where you will notice a HUGE shift in mental space and many of those mood and confidence boosting benefits!

4. Challenge the Food Police

We’ve all encountered them – the food police are everywhere! From your well meaning aunt or coworker, to the self-proclaimed nutrition experts, and yes – even health care providers! Everyone seems to have an opinion of the best way to eat, and there is no shortage of unsolicited advice that streams in from all directions. Often these ideas are shared with us from a young age and become ingrained in our subconscious leading us to be our own worst food police! 

The first step in challenging these unhelpful thoughts and opinions that come your way is awareness – you can filter these food rules and beliefs with this question.

Is this helping me or harming me? 

If it’s not helping, let it go and create space for new ones that will serve you!

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Intuitive Eating is so much more than just eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Satisfaction is a key factor in an overall feel good relationship with food and your body. 

Becoming in tune with your satisfaction factor allows you to recognize the difference between pleasantly full and satisfied to uncomfortably full where food is no longer serving your needs. 

6. Feel Your Fullness

Just as we can become disconnected from hunger cues, the same can happen with fullness. When we rely on outside sources, again, we don’t notice the natural signs our body shares with us as we start to fill up – you’ll notice food tends to taste best at the beginning of the meal, as you start to fill up you’ll notice it doesn’t have quite the same effect – that’s our body communicating with us!

Feeling your fullness encourages you to tune in with mindfulness so you can notice when you’re pleasantly full. This step goes hand in hand with honoring your hunger because when your body can begin to trust that you’ll fuel it when hungry, it eliminates that scarcity mentality (that you’ve gotta eat more) as it learns to trust that there’s always more.

7. Cope with your Emotions with Kindness

Ever stop and wonder, why am I even eating!? 

There are many different reasons we eat – there are even different types of hunger. One that often gets demonized is emotional eating or emotional hunger. I’m going to let you in on a little secret – it is 100% ok to find comfort in food at times! 

But – there are many times when food actually isn’t what we’re craving. Through mindfulness and compassionate exploration we can become aware of what will truly serve our needs best in the moment. Sometimes that will be food, and other times it may be a good cry with your Mom or best friend, or a good sweat to let out the stress. 

It’s all about intention! A reflection question we often use is “what is the most loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?” 

One tool our clients find really helpful is creating a nurture menu of options you can pull from when tough moments hit. 

8. Respect Your Body

This principle centers around respecting your body exactly as it is. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes (take a look around and anything else in nature – would you expect a golden lab to have the same body as a chihuahua, or for a button mushroom to look the same as an oyster mushroom?). Body diversity is natural and something to be celebrated but this view is often skewed with the media portraying mostly bodies that make up only 1% of the population! 

This doesn’t mean you have to love your body. Body neutrality is actually the first step – knowing that you deserve respect and are worthy regardless of anything to do with your body at all!

A great place to start is to reflect on what things you’re missing out on or holding off for because you don’t have the “perfect body”? How can you take steps to welcome those things into your life now, knowing that you are already worthy and deserving? 

9. Movement – Feel the Difference/Joyful Movement

I’m gonna circle back to intention here – why do you move your body? Is it to feel good, bring you joy, connect to your body? Or is it for the sole purpose of weight loss? 

As with food, when we make weight loss the goal of moving our bodies it can easily steal the joy and make it feel like one more chore to add to the list. This can actually decrease the likelihood of moving our bodies in the first place! 

When we can shift the focus and ask – what do I actually enjoy? What feels good? Movement can become a source of pleasure and JOY in our lives while we also get to benefit from those mood boosting endorphins! Making feeling good the focus also makes movement a more sustainable part of our lives! Win win. 

10. Honor your Health – Gentle Nutrition

On social media, you might be led to believe that Intuitive Eating is just pizza and donuts all day every day. While yes, you have unconditional permission to eat these foods (and yes, all foods do provide nourishment in their own ways), there’s so much more to it! Nutrition is one of the principles that we love diving into as dietitians but you’ll notice nutrition is mentioned last. 

This is done in order to allow space to heal your relationship with food first, explore what you actually like and what makes YOU feel good and allow nutrition guidelines to be just that – a guide in discovering what works for you and what doesn’t – cause the last thing we need is more food rules! 

slices of fresh fruit for adding into your water

Can You Eat Intuitively and Lose Weight? 

This is probably one of the most common questions we get initially.

To put it straight – yes, you may lose weight with Intuitive Eating. You may also maintain a steady weight, or possibly gain weight. For many, there has been a lot of restrictions going on before coming to this place.

Truth be told, most of our clients come to us wanting to lose weight, but what we ask is this – can we put weight loss on the back burner while you explore reconnecting with your body? Can we shift the focus to how you feel – both mentally and physically?

When weight loss is the goal, it puts the focus on external factors – the scale, calorie counting, portion control, anyone and their Mom telling you what’s best for your body. When we focus on these outside factors, it becomes near impossible to hear the intuitive cues from our body and regain that body trust.

How to Get Started with Intuitive Eating

Awareness truly is the first step in making meaningful change. And doing so with a mindfulness lens is so powerful in opening the door to making that change in a loving and compassionate way. 

If you’re curious to start exploring you can download this free Food Journal – there are prompts to start guiding you through how to identify the thoughts around food that may be keeping you stuck. From there you’re able to look at your eating habits from an empowered place to make changes that serve you mentally, physically and emotionally. 

You may find it helpful to pair this with exploring the 3 different types of hunger to glean more insight into why you’re eating and what other tools you incorporate to build out that coping skills toolbox in a well rounded way! 

It was such an honor to get to share this space with you and open the discussion about Intuitive Eating! If you’ve got any questions I’d love to hear from you! You can find me @lindsaypleskot on Instagram or over at lindsaypleskot.com.

And If you’re looking for more support, I’ve also got an online group coaching program and incredible community, Make Food Feel Good. Here you’ll find all the tools and guidance to walk you step by step to creating a healthy and peaceful relationship with food while mastering feel good nutrition! Enjoy an exclusive $200 off this program (launching in April) with code FRAICHE200!

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