Ditch the Diet in Favor of Intuitive Eating

McKenzie Jones | May 15, 2020

When we first enter the world, we’re born comfortable in our skin and we trust our hunger and fullness cues without a second guess. We eat intuitively in a way that supports us to grow and thrive so we can enjoy and explore the world around us. Whether it was milk or solids, we ate what we wanted for as long as we wanted and when we became full, we turned away. We trusted our body and it trusted us back.

Do you remember the moment in your life when all of that changed? The first time you decided not to – or perhaps were unable to – honor your hunger?

Somewhere along the line, many of us lose this innate tool to trust our bodies. Whether it’s because of the mixed messages we receive from the media, well-intentioned family or friends, or even health professionals, we disconnect from what our body wants. Because “we shouldn’t really be hungry” or “it isn’t meal time yet,” it only becomes more difficult to decipher how we’re feeling. The good news is that you can regain the gift of intuitively eating back. According to a study published in January 2020, the benefits of eating this way have been associated with lower odds of depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.

The idea of intuitive eating was first put forth by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 and based on 10 principles – a few of which we’ve outlined below.

Here are some strategies you can put into practice today.

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Remind yourself that eating for your overall health and well-being is not something to go “on” or “off” and it’s certainly not meant to be complicated.
  2. Honor Your Hunger. Tune in to your hunger signals and honor your body (by eating!) when you’re hungry. Connecting to your body’s cues may take a bit of practice so be patient with yourself. You may benefit from scheduling regular meals and snacks throughout the day if your hunger and fullness cues seem to be muted from years of chronic dieting.
  3. Make Peace with Food. Give yourself permission to eat whatever sounds good. By doing so, it relieves the novelty of your “forbidden foods.” And recognize that sometimes you may eat a certain food item simply because it sounds good or because the occasion calls for it. Craving mac ‘n cheese during quarantine? Sounds about right.
  4. Respect Your Body. No two bodies are meant to look the same. While you can adopt habits to help you feel your best, you can’t change your genetic make-up. Honor the skin you’re in.
  5. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition. Incorporate a variety of foods that support your health such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. And keep in mind that it’s the overall picture of what you’re eating that makes a difference – one meal or one day certainly doesn’t make or break your overall health.

For more ways to foster a healthy relationship with your body, check out our blog post here.


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McKenzie Jones

McKenzie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, nutrition writer and communicator, who truly loves meeting and connecting with people. Grounded in science with an integrative and holistic approach, she aims to make the world a healthier, happier place by helping people feel their best from the inside out and encouraging others to restore a judgment-free relationship with food. McKenzie has been a contributing editor for the award-winning publicationEnvironmental Nutrition and her numerous articles, nutrition tips, and recipes can be found in publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Magazine, and more.

McKenzie graduated magna cum laude from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is a member of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of the dietetic practice group, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine. When she’s not dishing out nutrition tidbits, you can find McKenzie cooking in her sunny kitchen, hiking along with her favorite Southern California trails, or packing her bags and heading out for her next adventure.

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