What Is Intuitive Eating – 10 Core Principles & Health Benefits

A picture of Claire Chewning.

She graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at The Ohio State University. The two things she loves most in life: Peanut Butter & Jelly and Intuitive Eating. The first one is self-explanatory. She really loves talking about the second one and notes a key point about intuitive eating – if we didn’t live in diet culture, it would just be called “eating”. Check out her work and learn more here.  

Intuitive Eating was groundbreaking when it first came on to the scene over 20 years ago, largely because counteracts the damaging effects of restrictive diets, which have clearly caused a lot of failure, harm, and pain and suffering for millions of people over the past 60 years.

This evidence-backed approach to health focuses on nourishing and respecting one’s body. It encourages the practice of tuning into physical cues instead of external messages, such as diet culture or food rules. Let’s dive into what intuitive eating is, and how it is still relevant today.

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

A picture of 3 different people with different types of food, highlighting intuitive eating.

Intuitive Eating is not a one-size-fits-all approach to health. Instead, it’s a mindful practice that encourages us to listen to our bodies and make decisions based on individual needs rather than external standards (aka not from a restrictive diet). It can help individuals form healthier relationships with food, their bodies, and themselves. If you are looking to make a positive change in your life, Intuitive Eating is a great place to start. The main guiding principles of Intuitive Eating emphasize listening to one’s body, trusting that you can provide yourself with the food your body needs, and cultivating unconditional permission to eat. Here’s a rundown of the 10 principles to intuitive eating:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Many people turn to restrictive and often unrealistic diets in pursuit of a certain body shape or to lose weight. Intuitive Eating rejects this mentality and encourages us to focus on our relationship with food instead. That means taking the time to really listen to our bodies and trust that we know how to nourish ourselves.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Hunger is the body’s way of telling us that it needs sustenance. Ignoring hunger signals not only disrupts healthy eating habits, but can also lead to overeating through the restrict and binge eating cycle. Intuitive Eating encourages us to honor our stomachs and become in tune with what it needs. When you are hungry, eat.

3. Make Peace with Food

Making peace with food means eliminating the notion of good or bad foods and instead
recognizing that all food can be enjoyed in moderation. This helps to take away any guilt or shame associated with eating certain foods, allowing you to enjoy them without fear of judgment.

Claire Chewning, RDN, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, describes the Way app.

4. Challenge the Food Police

The “food police” are those voices in our heads that criticize us for what we eat. Intuitive Eating teaches that these voices are unreliable and counterproductive, and instead recommends focusing on the pleasure that food can bring. You should be able to enjoy your meals and snacks without guilt or shame.

5. Respect Your Fullness

Listening to your body’s signals of fullness is an important part of Intuitive Eating. Learning to trust yourself to stop eating when you have eaten enough is an important skill that helps prevent overeating.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Intuitive Eating encourages us to focus on the pleasure food can bring, not just its nutritional value. Taking the time to savor and enjoy your meals can help cultivate a healthier relationship with food and create a more enjoyable eating experience.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

Intuitive Eating is about recognizing that food cannot solve emotional issues. Instead, it encourages us to find healthier ways of dealing with our feelings and understanding that emotional eating can be detrimental to our overall health.

8. Respect Your Body

Respect for your body includes practicing mindful movement. This means finding activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good, rather than focusing on burning calories or reaching a certain body shape.

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

Forget about looking at exercise as something that “burns off” calories. This concept is largely flawed in scientific studies and it can create a disordered relationship with movement. Instead, feel the movement you’re doing – notice what movements feel good, whether they’re intense movements or just walking around your home. Each movement is unique and if you focus on how you feel after working out – like you have more energy or mental clarity – it may make it easier to get out of bed or actually look forward to playing or working out.

10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Make choices that connect with what makes your body feel good and align with your values. Values-based living is the long-tail of intuitive eating and if you honor your taste buds and honor your health, you’ll find more fulfillment. It’s about finding the way of living and eating that connect with what you value and want in life, less about perfection or eating the “right” thing, all the time.

Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss – It’s About Listening to Your Body

Intuitive Eating may sound like a license to eat whatever you want, but it’s not. It is about tuning into your body’s physical cues and eliminating the thoughts of guilt, shame or deprivation that often accompany dieting. It is about releasing yourself from the notion of “good” foods vs. “bad” foods and instead focusing on the relationship between food, the body’s physical needs, personal satisfaction, and overall health.

Instead of weighing your food and counting calories, Intuitive Eating is about understanding how food affects you and your body. It helps to provide a better balance between mental, physical, and emotional health, while also allowing individuals to make informed decisions based on their individual needs. It helps you focus on how you feel instead of on your weight, and it encourages a healthier relationship between food and the body. Intuitive Eating has been backed by over 150 clinical studies, proving its efficacy in daily life for people of all ages and genders.

Though Intuitive Eating is not about weight loss, it has been found to be a much more effective tool than traditional diets in this area as well. Studies show that people who engage in Intuitive Eating practices have improved their metabolic health and reduce their risk of chronic illnesses.

About the Way App – aka EatMyWay, aka the Best Non-Diet App

Way app is an effective tool that helps people practice mindful eating. We help you find more peace in your relationships with food and your body. We also provide tailored recommendations for nutrition and health based on your goals.

While the Way App does not exactly follow the principles of Intuitive Eating, we’ve pulled the substance of Intuitive Eating and mix it with behavior science – predominantly within the CBT framework, as well as what we call the “Peace Point”, which comes from the “Magic Wand” question that is used in various behavior science modalities.

All of this helps to provide a personalized journey and experience that can help you with their relationship with food and the body. We guide you to a better understanding of your emotions around eating, finding mindful movement, and self-care practices. And, Way was organically named the 2023 & 2024 Best Non-Diet App by Healthline. So that helps know you’re working with the best 🙂