What Is Intuitive Eating?


Written by Millie Padula. 

Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist & Founder of Dietitian Edition.

Nutrition professionals around the world are drastically changing their dietary interventions from restrictive, rule-centric, guideline-driven recommendations to intuitive and more mindful approaches, and quite frankly - we couldn’t be happier about it. 

Most of us are aware of the damaging effects of the diet industry: disordered eating, body dysmorphia, poor relationships with food, low self-esteem, obsessive behaviours, increased incidence of anxiety and depression, the list goes on. As a Dietitian, I’m beyond relieved to be a part of a movement that steps away from diet culture and centre my practise around an initiative that has nothing to do with meal plans, diets, excluding food groups, willpower or discipline, and focuses wholeheartedly on tuning into your bodies signals and eating in a way that makes you feel your best! 

Without further a-do, I welcome you to the concept of intuitive eating. Let’s get into it! 


What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating (IE) is a not a diet. It’s entirely the opposite in fact. 

Created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch 26 years ago, intuitive eating encourages individuals to step away from traditional eating patterns adopted with a diet mentality (counting macronutrients and calories and measuring portions and food groups) and shift their focus to the body’s internal cues such as hunger, fullness and satisfaction. 


Put simply, eating intuitively allows you to gain back an understanding of your purpose to eat, whether it be boredom, stress, actual hunger or something entirely different. Most of us (unfortunately), can’t decipher the difference because we have been so out of tune with our bodies and ruled by diet culture for as long as we can remember. Thankfully, the practise of eating intuitively encapsulates instinct, emotion and rationality to help you make the most informed decision about what and why you choose to eat!  


Picture this…
You feel like chocolate, and I mean genuinely feel like it, however ‘diet culture’ tells you that chocolate is ‘bad’ so instead you eat an apple. Not surprisingly, you feel unsatisfied. You then proceed to have 2 medjool dates and still feel unsatisfied. You then give in to eating the chocolate anyway, and likely end up consuming more than you had originally anticipated. You feel guilty, tell yourself you won’t do it again and we are back to square one (of the chocolate too). Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. If you had honoured your cravings and listened to your body in the first place i.e. eaten intuitively, instead of relying on a set of rules or restrictions, you would have eaten the chocolate, enjoyed it and moved on with your day!

Chocolate was never the problem; it’s always been the diet industry. 


Here’s how to eat more intuitively:

  • Trust your hunger: if you consistently push your hunger aside, your body responds by further increasing your appetite and cravings, which will eventually make you feel out of control around food (see above).

  • Reconsider your measures of health: encourage yourself to focus on your energy levels, mental clarity, sleep quality, mood, body confidence and relationship with food as opposed to the number on the scales or the size of your clothes.

  • Give yourself permission to include all foods in your diet: don’t forget that a healthy diet allows for foods that nourish your body and foods that nourish your soul too. A healthy diet must be sustainable, and to be sustainable it has to be enjoyable!

  • Stop labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’: identifying foods as good and bad can cause you to feel guilty about your choices and place you in a negative restrict-binge cycle. Start seeing foods more neutrally or how I do - as less nutritious or more nutritious.

  • Understand the benefits: IE is an evidence-based dietary approach that has been well researched over the years to indicate that individuals who follow an intuitive approach to eating experience more satisfaction with life, decreased rates of disordered eating, higher levels of self-esteem and improved optimism and over all wellbeing.

  • For individualised dietary advice, always seek assistance from an Accredited Practising Dietitian. If you were at all triggered by this article or need further medical advice, please see your doctor.