Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating: A Path to a Healthy Relationship With Food

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023

In a world obsessed with diets and quick-fix weight loss solutions, some refreshing approaches to eating have emerged. They include intuitive eating and mindful eating. A 2019 survey found that nearly half of people ages 18 to 34 are familiar with these terms.1

These 2 practices promote a healthy relationship with food. They focus on internal cues rather than external rules. By listening to your body and savoring each bite, you can foster a balanced and enjoyable approach to nourishing yourself.1

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating encourages people to trust their own internal wisdom when it comes to eating. It is a non-dieting approach to food. It is not meant to rely on strict dieting or calorie counting. Rather, intuitive eating invites us to tune in to our bodies' signals of hunger and fullness.1

Reject diet mentality

The first principle of intuitive eating is rejecting diet mentality. This involves letting go of the idea that certain foods are "good" or "bad." All foods can have a place in a healthy diet. By removing the guilt and restriction connected with certain foods, we can develop a more balanced eating approach.2

Combating stigma about weight is a growing mission among many nutritionists and health experts today. A movement called Health at Every Size® (HAES) is working to teach a holistic approach to health and encourage weight inclusivity. An intuitive approach to food and eating is 1 of the core principles of HAES.1,3

Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues

Honoring hunger and fullness involves tuning into the body's signals. We eat when we are truly hungry and stop when we are full. This means relying on physical cues (for example, a growling stomach) rather than emotional or external cues. An example of an external cue is eating at noon just because it is “lunchtime.”1,2

Being aware of hunger and fullness cues takes practice. But it gets easier over time. By paying attention to your body's signals, you can stop eating when you feel satisfied. This can help prevent under-eating and overeating, promoting a healthier balance in your eating habits.1,2

Eat without judgment

Another key principle of intuitive eating is making peace with food. This involves giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat all foods without judgment. When we allow ourselves to enjoy our favorite foods without guilt, we can have a healthier relationship with food. This can reduce the likelihood of overeating or binge eating.2

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating focuses more on the process of eating itself. It is the practice of bringing awareness and attention to the present moment during a meal.4

Engage all the senses

Mindful eating involves engaging all of our senses. It encourages us to notice the colors, smells, textures, and flavors of the food we eat. By savoring each bite and paying attention to the sensory experience of eating, we can enjoy our food more.4

Chew slowly and thoroughly. Take the time to appreciate each mouthful. Mindful eating does not just make the experience of eating more pleasurable. It helps our stomachs register when we are truly full, which can help prevent overeating.4

Practice patience over perfection

Adopting intuitive and mindful eating takes time and practice. It can be especially challenging in a culture that often promotes dieting and quick fixes. It involves:1-4

  • Letting go of rigid food rules
  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Developing a nonjudgmental attitude toward our eating habits

These practices encourage us to slow down, tune in, and listen to our bodies.1-4

Ultimately, intuitive eating and mindful eating are not about perfection or sticking to strict guidelines. They are about creating a more harmonious and enjoyable relationship with food, nourishing both our bodies and our souls.1-4

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