The Basic Principles of Intuitive & Mindful Eating!

Then you're in luck because today we're covering this topic and going over the most important principles to understand when you're practicing intuitive and/or mindful eating. Even if you track macros, understanding these principles are important for events or days where you may want to take a break from tracking, but still feel like making mindful decisions around food that support your health and fitness.

Intuitive eating (IE) is a different approach to eating that focuses on listening to and honoring your body in a way that you eat when you're hungry and stop when you are full.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating Include:

1. Reject the diet mentality
2. Honor your hunger
3. Make peace with food
4. Challenge the food police
5. Respect your fullness
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
7. Honor your feelings without using food
8. Respect your body
9. Exercise - feel the difference
10. Honor your health gentle nutrition

Thus far, research on IE has demonstrated its benefit in healthier psychological attitudes (body image, self-esteem, less anxiety, and depression) and weight maintenance - but not weight loss. The issue with attempting to use IE for weight loss is that the very principles of IE instruct the user to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. In honoring all hunger cues, one will consume more calories and likely no longer be in a calorie deficit.

One of the biggest keys to successful IE is accurate self-reporting. This can take weeks, months, or even years for individuals to be able to do successfully. IE is a great option for those who do not want to practice macro tracking and do not currently have any weight loss, weight gain, or specific fitness goals. IE is also a great graduated approach to weight maintenance for an individual who has already tracked macros for 1+ years.

IE works best when one avoids the frequent consumption of hyper-palatable foods: foods that are designed to be excessively palatable and pleasing to the taste buds that can override normal hunger and fullness cues and lead to excessive consumption (i.e. many snack foods, processed foods, and foods high in oils, salt, and/or sugar such as: ice cream, french fries, pizza, soda, etc.)

You may not be the best candidate for IE if you have or experience:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Certain medical conditions (PCOS, hypothyroid, hypothalamic amenorrhea, etc.)
  • Certain autoimmune disorders
  • High stress, anxiety, and/or depression (for some these may stunt or increase hunger)
  • Issues with leptin and/or ghrelin signaling
  • Current nutrient deficiencies
  • Struggle to accurately self-report and understand hunger and fullness cues
  • A history of eating disorders (some may be prone to ignoring their cues)
  • Current large need to gain or lose weight in the promotion of their overall health
  • Consume a diet largely comprised of hyper-palatable food

If practicing intuitive eating, The Hunger Scale is a great tool to gauge hunger cues:


Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is being conscious about what you are eating and the "why" behind it. It helps you become aware of mindless munching and physical vs. emotional hunger. It is similar to intuitive eating in the sense that you are focused on hunger cues, however it adds the "why am I eating this?" component as well. The goal is to base meals and food choices on physical cues like hunger, rather than emotionality. This can help you reconnect with physical feelings of hunger and satiety and break the habit of mindless or emotional eating.

H.A.L.T Method for Mindful Eating

  • H- Hungry: When was the last time I ate? What did I eat then?
  • A- Angry: Am I angry or hungry? Do I need food or stress relief?
  • L- Lonely: Am I lonely or hungry? Do I need food or to talk to someone?
  • T- Tired: Am I tired or hungry? Do I need food or some rest?

This method can be helpful if you find yourself overeating certain foods. Asking these questions prior to eating can help you determine whether the food you are consuming is an optimal choice for your health - or if you are just eating to fulfill an emotional need.

Differentiating Emotional vs. Physical Hunger

Comes on quickly
Goes away quickly
Any food sounds good
Usually satisfied by higher carb/fat foods
Connected to emotional highs or lows

Comes on slowly
Goes away slowly
Cravings are balanced over the day/week
Comes on every 2-6 hours depending on the previous meal

Getting into the habit of asking yourself if your hunger is more emotional or physical can assist you in making choices around food that best support your health & well-being!
We hope this e-mail helps you become more mindful around food!