Understanding Intuitive Eating

One of the most challenging pieces of the the intuitive eating approach is that people can’t see how it can work. People, in general, don’t trust themselves. They believe they won’t be able to stop eating chocolate or cake or pizza. Maybe it’s because the diet message is so pervasive in our society, or maybe we are just narcissistic in nature, but it continues to astonish me how much my clients rely on external sources to know what, when and how much to eat. Odd, because hunger is a physiological response similar to breathing or having to pee. When we visit the restroom, we don’t say, “did I pee too much?” When we take a breath, we don’t say, “it’s not time to breathe yet”. But clients ask me all the time, “how much should I eat?” Or they say, “I am hungry all the time.”

Geneen Roth, in her book, Women, Food and God states that overeaters fall into one of two categories, restrictive and permissive. Restrictive eaters want, need, must follow strict guidelines. This is how they perceive having control of their life. They can tell you the glycemic index number for a banana, or the grams of carbs in a soda. Permissives on the other hand, figure that since life can’t be controlled, they might as well check out and numb themselves with food. They hide behind a care free exterior. Think of the jolly, round image of someone you know, and they are likely permissive eaters. Both types of overeaters are attempting to control their environment and use food to distract themselves from their real feelings, and even deeper levels of figuring out why they feel the way they do.

Despite what many believe – that eating intuitively means eating whatever you want when you want to – Intuitive Eating really means loving yourself enough to want to honor your body with nourishing, healthy food. It means eating when you are hungry and then stopping when you are satisfied. This is where some of my best clients get tripped up. They are okay with allowing themselves to eat when they are hungry and to chose a food that they really want to eat, but they end up binging because they can’t or don’t know how to really tune in, listen and care for their bodies. Going through a “honeymoon” phase is normal with IE, but if you find yourself struggling with getting past the honeymoon phase, then it is time to look within to see if you can find the reason for not being able to care for yourself and respect yourself enough to not want to binge anymore. Often, a long history of traditional dieting is partially to blame.

Sometimes, nourishing yourself means eating a hot fudge sundae, but if you find yourself wanting 2 or 3 hot fudge sundaes every day for weeks, then something else is going on. It’s time to do some inquiring and ask yourself what is the real reason you want a hot fudge sundae every day? If you take this important step you will be able to break out of the honeymoon phase and will begin to lose weight (if you have extra weight to lose).

I wish I had the answer to my clients struggles with food, I wish I had the magic pill or the right words, or even the perfect meal plan, but the bottom line is that the answer lies within them, lies within you. All I can do is help my clients to find their answer. If you drop the dieting mentality and  question the voices in your head that tell you that a particular food is bad, (whose voices are they, by the way?) you will be able to tune in and when you tune in, your body will tell you what, when and where to eat. Sometimes your body may say chocolate and sometimes it may say a fresh berries, but whatever your body says, listen, because it is the right choice for you at that moment.

If you are ready to find out how I can help you to learn to tune in and nourish your body, if you’re ready to allow a breath of spring air into your life and release your obsession and struggle with weight and food – call, click or email me today!

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Hi! I'm Heather: a body positivity, Health at Every Size dietitian. When I'm not blogging about wellness, I'm spending time with my fabulous family. Sometimes, they wear me out, so then it's time to bake, read, knit, tie myself into a yoga pose, or continue to work my first novel... stay tuned.


  1. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.

  2. Thanks, I liked this blog post. I found this post using Yahoo search, and certainly enjoyed skimming through it, so I’ll probably drop through again within a month and read up on what’s new (: Great Article!

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