Learn what you can expect from an intuitive eating journey, what the “after” might look like, and how to know if intuitive eating is for you.
If you’re curious about intuitive eating, you probably want to know what it looks like when achieve success.
Maybe you know you can’t do another diet, but you’re not really sure if intuitive eating is for you since it’s so different than dieting. You may even be a little wary about it since the depiction of intuitive eating in the media can make it seem like it’s just eating lots of donuts and pizza (it’s so much more than that, by the way!).
The before and after transformation of intuitive eating isn’t as clear cut as weight loss plans where you either lose the weight or you don’t. Instead, you’ll consider yourself an intuitive eater based on your relationship to food. How you feel about your body and your health also plays a role.
Read on to learn more about what the journey may look like, how to define success, and what you can expect after you embrace intuitive eating.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach to health that has been validated in over 125 studies (to date). It’s a self-care framework where you learn to tune into your own hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues to help you decide what, when, when and how much to eat.
Intuitive eating is the answer to diet culture, meaning it helps you finally stop dieting and create a sustainable way of eating for your life. In fact, a big part of learning to eat intuitively is rejecting the idea that you need external rules (aka diets) to tell you what to eat.
There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, which are aimed to help you reconnect to your own body’s wisdom so that you can learn to trust your body’s signals rather than relying on external factors like diet rules, the scale, or other people to tell you what and when to eat.
It’s important to understand that these are guidelines —not rules— as intuitive eating assumes you are the expert of your own body.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating
The following 10 principles will guide your journey to becoming an intuitive eater. You may find that some come easier to you than others (or that you’ve already mastered some). Or you may need to work through each of them for quite some time before you feel confident. Everyone’s journey is unique.
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement — Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health — Gentle Nutrition
Intuitive Eating Before and After: Examining your relationship with food
Intuitive eating is a way to rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food while also taking care of your health. It also takes into account how you feel about and in your body—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Before embarking on an intuitive eating journey, you likely have a fraught relationship with food and may experience guilt, food obsession, emotional eating, binge eating and more.
While intuitive eating is a way of eating for life that never “ends,” after working on becoming an intuitive eater, you will feel confident around your food choices, eat foods that support your physical, mental, and emotional health, and ultimately think about food less (in a good way).
|Before learning intuitive eating you…
|After embracing intuitive eating you…
|are either being “good” or “bad” with food
|view food as morally neutral and don’t associate your food decisions with your value
|can’t keep your favorite foods in the house
|are able to keep any food in the house you like without obsessing over it or binging on it
|feel guilt after eating food considered “junk food” or those high in calories, sugar, fat, or carbs
|enjoy eating and find pleasure in food without any guilt
|worry about about what is OK to eat, when you’ll eat next, or what you ate
|no longer obsess about food or worry about what you can or can’t eat
|often eat until you’re over full or bloated
|eat until you’re comfortably full
|always look for the lowest calorie options
|choose foods that will fill you up and are satisfying
|count calories, macros, or points
|no longer think about calories, macros, or points
|regularly emotionally eat (stress eating or eating out of boredom, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, or sadness)
|have tools other than food to cope with emotions and are able to sit with your emotions and address them with helpful strategies
|experience binge episodes (or what feels like a binge episode), especially around off limits foods
|no longer binge and are able to enjoy your favorite foods in quantities that feel good in your body
|feel like you can’t stop snacking
|eat regular meals and maybe some snacks, but are able to stop eating when you’ve had enough
|feel like you need an “expert” to tell you what to eat
|trust your body and own knowledge to help you decide what to eat
|miss out on experiences with friends and family because it involves “unhealthy” food
|are able to enjoy eating out and vacation foods without worry and are making memories with friends and family
|worry about how what you eat will affect your weight
|no longer think about how any one food or meal will affect your weight
|feel like you need to make up for something you ate by exercising or restricting at the next meal
|know that there is no need to compensate for eating any food and moving your body is for health and enjoyment
|feel overwhelmed from mixed nutrition messaging and don’t’ know what is actually “healthy”
|know what foods and eating patterns support your health and don’t get caught up in conflicting messages in the media
|are either on a diet or eating all the things
|never feel like you have to diet again
|focus on what you can’t eat
|add foods to your diet that support your health without restriction
|avoid certain food groups
|eat a variety of foods and balance your plate with nutrients to support blood sugar
Intuitive Eating Before and After: Your health
Research shows that intuitive eating is linked to many health and wellness outcomes including:
- Higher fruit and vegetable intake (compared to dieters)
- Healthier diet overall (compared to dieters)
- Improved blood glucose
- Improved blood lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides)
- Glucose control in women with gestational diatbetes
- Better mental health
- Reduced risk of disordered eating
|Before intuitive eating you may…
|After intuitive eating you…
|think about food and your weight as the only or most important measure of health
|know that what you eat is one piece of the health puzzle and your overall lifestyle habits are what you can change to support health
|make food decisions purely for weight loss
|make food decisions that will support balanced blood sugar, healthy cholesterol, more energy, and more.
|experience energy crashes
|have consistent energy throughout the day
|have a slowed metabolism from years of dieting and not eating enough
|eat enough to support your metabolism
|exercise only to burn calories
|engage in movement you enjoy that supports your physical (heart, bones, muscles) and mental health
|avoid social situations that involve food
|enjoy eating out with friends and family and your social health and community is thriving (or not affected by your eating habits)
Intuitive Eating Before and After: Your relationship to your body
A core part of intuitive eating is learning body respect and body trust. Research shows that intuitive eaters have more body appreciation, body satisfaction, better body image, and better self esteem than dieters.
To fully embrace intuitive eating, you’ll want to explore your relationship to your body as well as beliefs about body ideals, weight, and thinness. Body image work is a core part of intuitive eating work.
|Before intuitive eating you may…
|After intuitive eating you…
|feel like you you need to lose weight before a big event or vacation
|are able to focus on enjoying the event or vacation rather than about your weight
|believe that you are better, more valued, more lovable, or more attractive in a smaller body
|recognize that your value and worth is not defined by your size
|keep clothes in your closet that are too small in hopes of wearing them some day
|respect your body size by wearing clothes that fit you and feel comfortable
|feel like you’ve failed if you have to buy a bigger size of clothes
|recognize that bodies change and no longer equate your worth or success with a size
|wait until you lose X points or reach XX weight before doing something you enjoy (a vacation, taking a class at the gym, hiking a mountain, riding a bike, etc)
|do the things that bring you joy and don’t let your weight hold you back
|body bash (talk negatively about your body or other people’s bodies)
|no longer engage in these conversations and focus on how you can respect your body
|body check (pinch your stomach, check out how parts of your body look in every mirror or window)
|no longer focus on these things and choose to wear clothes that you feel good in so you aren’t tempted to body check
|think about your body and how it looks/what other people think about it a lot
|don’t think about your body all the time and don’t let other people’s opinions take up your brain space
|weight loss is always a goal or something you regularly think about
|your weight has settled in a range your body genetically wants to be (your “set point weight”) and you no longer make food and exercise decisions solely to shrink it
The Journey to Becoming An Intuitive Eater: What to expect
As one client eloquently put it in her testimonial, the intuitive eating journey is, “often two steps forward and one step back.”
For some people, the beginning is the hardest. With more people dieting than not, you’re going against the grain and that can often feel lonely and uncomfortable. Especially if people in your life don’t understand or agree with what you’re doing.
Then once you start to feel the benefits of intuitive eating like fewer cravings, fewer binge episodes, enjoying foods you once restricted, improved energy, and more, you gain momentum and (even when things feel hard) you know you want to continue forward.
For others, there is so much relief and excitement that you never have to diet again that the beginning feels like a honeymoon. And then the discomfort of doing something totally different sets in later.
Even if you know you never want to diet again, there can be grief giving up weight loss as a main goal or measure of success. It may even feel like you’re not sure how to measure success. For many it feels really scary.
That’s why it can be helpful to have support from others who understand the process. This can be in the form of books, podcasts, social media like instagram, support groups, or hiring a professional to guide and support you.
Working with a certified intuitive eating coach or counselor can be the difference between feeling stuck (or giving up) and feeling supported and on a path to success. Want support? Read more about how to work with me.
Who can benefit from an intuitive eating approach?
Intuitive eating is a way to rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food. You’re ready for an intuitive eating approach if you:
- are ready to give up dieting and want to form a positive relationship with food and your body
- are tired of starting over every Monday
- want to get out of the binge-restrict cycle
- want to feel confident about the food choices you make
- want to build health promoting habits that will support long-term physical and mental health
- are tired of thinking about food and your weight all the time
- want to stop feeling out of control around foods
- are done with the rollercoaster of either being on or off track with eating
- Want to learn to take care of your body and feel good in the body you have
It’s worth noting that most people that embark on an intuitive eating journey have some desire to lose weight or change their body. This is normal in the society we live in, and completely OK!
Just because you’re ready to try intuitive eating, doesn’t mean you all of a sudden lose the desire for weight loss.
In my practice, we spend time exploring these desires—where they come from and what they mean for you—making space for them, and evaluating how they align with your values and goals.
Who will not benefit from an intuitive eating approach?
While intuitive eating can be for anyone, not everyone is ready for this approach. You may not be ready to embrace intuitive eating if you:
- Have a very specific weight loss goal that you’re not willing to at least explore giving up. Intuitive eating is a weight neutral approach, which means that weight loss is not a priority or a measure of success. Some people do lose weight with intuitive eating, others do not. A quality intuitive eating coach will help you work through your body concerns during your journey and allow plenty of space to discuss your weight and body.
- Have an active eating disorder. Intuitive eating can be an effective part of the eating disorder recovery process, but for many with an active eating disorder, intuitive eating can be difficult to embrace, and getting eating disorder specific treatment is necessary.
Intuitive eating is an evidence based self-care framework that is linked to many physical and mental health benefits.
An intuitive eating journey doesn’t result in the before and after pictures you see with weight loss programs. Instead, it’s a transformation of your relationship to food, your body, and health.
After embracing intuitive eating, you’ll experience wins such as fewer cravings, less guilt around food, fewer binge episodes, more body confidence, and so much more.
If you’re ready to start your intuitive eating journey and want support along the way, learn more about my UNDIET approach to see if it’s right for you.