The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating

You may have heard the phrase “intuitive eating,” but are you familiar with the ten principles upon which this philosophy is based? In this article, we share the principles that make up the foundation of the intuitive eating approach. Get to know these principles, and you will have a better understanding of what intuitive eating is all about. Before long, you can adopt this practice into your own life.

First, what is intuitive eating?

Before we discuss the ten principles of intuitive eating, let’s first discuss the concept of intuitive eating in general. This philosophy is all about listening to your body’s internal cues, rather than focusing on external cues.

We are all born with the innate ability to know what hunger and fullness feel like. As infants when we were hungry we would scream, cry and demand to be fed. When we became satisfied, we would show that we’ve lost interest in food by turning our head away, or fidgeting to get out of our chair.

As we grow up, external factors such as life, media messages, family culture, emotions, etc. influence our eating habits. We start listening less to our body’s natural cues, and more to these outside messages. As a result, our eating becomes less intuitive over time.

The principles of intuitive eating are about learning to listen once again to our own body, making peace with food, respecting our body, and valuing our health.

The concept of intuitive eating and the principles upon which it is built may sound like the opposite of everything you’ve ever been told, but intuitive eating promotes a positive body image and a healthy attitude towards food. It involves surrendering control, and re-learning how to trust that your body knows what it needs. Intuitive eating is all about working with your body instead of working against it. 

Interested in learning more? whether you are new to intuitive eating or further along on your intuitive eating journey, click here for a list of books recommended by our team.

What are the ten principle of intuitive eating?

There are 10 principles that make up intuitive eating:

  1. Reject the diet mentality 
    • Rejecting the diet mentality acknowledges that diets don’t work. In order to find freedom in intuitive eating, diets must be given up.
  2. Honor your hunger
    • Responding to physical feelings of hunger by feeding yourself an adequate amount of carbs, fat, and protein is a way to honor your body.  
  3. Make peace with food
    • Food is not the enemy. Restriction and deprivation lead to binging. By giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods, peace with food can be made.
  4. Challenge the food police
    • Challenge the thoughts that assign moral value to food. Food cannot be good or bad, and you cannot be good or bad for eating or not eating something. 
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor 
    • Food is full of pleasure and satisfaction. You have permission to enjoy your eating experience! Food should be satisfying and satiating. 
  6. Feel your fullness
    • Listen for the body signals that tell you you are not hungry anymore and are finished eating. Practice mindful eating by pausing and asking yourself how the food tastes, evaluating your hunger level, and learning what fullness feels like in YOUR body.  
  7. Cope with your emotions with kindness
    • Emotional eating is a way for us to cope with our feelings. Food won’t fix our problems or feelings, so it’s important to address the emotions you’re feeling, rather than numb them with food.
  8. Respect your body
    • Start by accepting your genetic makeup. But ultimately, accept who you were created to be. All bodies are beautiful bodies and deserve respect. 
  9. Movement
    • Be active and feel the difference between finding movement you actually enjoy doing vs. working out simply to burn calories and “earn” your food.  
  10. Gentle Nutrition
    • The food you eat can taste good and make you feel good. Honor your health and your taste buds by practicing gentle nutrition. 

How can these principles benefit me?

Being an intuitive eater and following these principles means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what food you desire when you’re hungry. As an intuitive eater, you rely on your internal hunger and fullness cues to decide how much to eat and when to eat. This is incredibly freeing.

Also, research indicates that diets don’t work, and actually result in weight regain. Meanwhile if you follow the principles of intuitive eating, you are more aware of what you eat and why you are eating it. This is helpful for maintaining a weight that is appropriate for YOUR body.

Finally, in our busy lives, we can often be found eating on the go, while watching television, while working, and the list goes on-and-on. However following the principles of intuitive eating teaches you to slow down and truly enjoy the food you choose.

How will I know when I am full?

We recommend that you evaluate where you are on the hunger fullness scale below prior to eating. Then you decide how much YOU want to eat, rather than letting external factors dictate how much and what you eat. Some of these external factors might include how many calories you burned in a workout, the number on the scale, a specific fasting window, or a fad diet. Sound familiar? Meanwhile, the principles of intuitive eating encourage you to instead let your body’s cues be the driving force.

Hunger-Fullness Scale
2Really hungry, need food ASAP
3Stomach pretty empty, should eat soon
4Stomach a little empty, could eat
5Neither hungry, nor full
7A little full, feeling should subside in thirty minutes
8Too full, changing into sweatpants
9Overstuffed. Unbuttoning pants
10Feeling sick

Important to Remember:

  1. Before you eat a meal or snack, ask yourself to rate yourself on a 1-10 hunger-fullness scale.  
  2. Ideally, you would be a 3 or 4 prior to eating.
  3. Pace yourself through your meal and snack. Check-in with your hunger and fullness.
  4. Eat until you reach a 6.
  5. We want to avoid numbers 1, 2, 8, 9,10.  We would want to address our cues before we reach those numbers.

We can help

We know that following the ten principles of intuitive eating can be hard. Maybe you feel out of touch with your internal cues in this busy, stressful, on-the-go world we live in. However, it IS possible to get those cues back.

At Anderson’s Nutrition, our Registered Dietitians believe in intuitive eating, and know how to incorporate these practices into daily life. We can train you to be aware of what you eat and why you are eating it, and can help you learn to eat for physical rather than emotional reasons.

Rediscover the joy of eating! Work with one of our intuitive eating dietitians and gain the necessary tools to improve your relationship with food and your body. Let us guide you on the path towards becoming an intuitive eater once again. Click the button below to make an appointment!