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The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles: Your Path to Authentic Health

Intro to the Intuitive Eating Principles

If you’re new to the Joyfully Nourished Life blog, welcome! This blog post is an excellent place for you to start. I will explain the revolutionary non-diet approach that the Joyfully Nourished Life is based upon: Intuitive Eating principles. This approach is an excellent way to learn what health really means to you: authentic health.

Intuitive Eating (IE) was introduced in 1995 by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (1). They define IE as “a self-care eating framework” that is meant to help individuals re-establish a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. The framework mentioned is the 10 Intuitive Eating Principles, shown below.

the 10 principles of intuitive eating list

This approach is for you if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Yo-yo dieting (on and off diets regularly) for weight loss
  • Difficulty trusting or detecting your hunger and/or fullness signals
  • Food rules that label foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Obsession with calories, macros, or other components of nutrition
  • Feeling out of control when eating certain foods
  • Using (or restricting) food to cope with your emotions
  • Dissatisfaction with your body shape, size, or weight
  • Beliefs that food must be earned by exercising and that exercise is a punishment for dietary choices
  • Inability to separate healthy eating from “the dieting mentality” (i.e. food restriction, weight loss, calories in versus calories out)

The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles address each of these experiences and more! Keep reading to learn more about these principles and how they promote authentic health.

Authentic Health: Intersection of Inner and Outer Wellness

If you have read my blog post on Intuitive Exercise, you’ve read about authentic health and why this is key to Intuitive Eating. It incorporates both the internal and external components of what health really is. The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles cover both, but 8 of them focus on inner attunement and the other 2 focus on external wellness.

The first 8 Intuitive Eating Principles are meant to help you establish inner wellness: mental and spiritual health through the attunement of your thoughts, beliefs, sensations and feelings. The last 2 Intuitive Eating Principles focus on establishing external wellness: physical health through comfortable movement and balanced nutrition (2).

authentic health diagram with 2 intersecting ovals: inner attunement and external health values

Now that we have covered the meaning of authentic health, let’s dive into the 10 Intuitive Eating Principles that help you experience it!

The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles

#1: Reject the Diet Mentality

Many studies have shown that those who engage in dieting behaviors (i.e. restrictive eating, counting calories, weight loss programs, diet pills, etc.) are at higher risk for disordered eating, mental health concerns, and metabolic instability that may lead to negative health outcomes (3,4,5).

This principle focuses on letting go of the belief that dieting will ever help you. Diet culture has been lying to you all this time!

It’s a hard pill to swallow (no pun intended), but this is the only way that you’ll be able to move forward on your Joyfully Nourished Life journey. Throw out the diet books, delete the food tracking apps, and get rid of the bathroom scale…now we’re ready to move on to the next one!

#2: Honor Your Hunger

Learning to honor your hunger is no easy task if you’ve been ignoring it for years because of dieting. However, this principle is essential to re-establishing body trust.

Notice when your body is telling you it needs food. Discover what “gentle” or “comfortable” hunger feels like to you and aim to start eating when those sensations arise. Recognize your unique hunger cues before they become too intense. Refuse to let diet culture dictate to you when you should or should not eat.

Note: If you have an eating disorder, this one may be especially tough to navigate until your body is medically stabilized. This is why it is essential to work with a qualified team of doctors, dietitians, and mental health professionals who specialize in eating disorders for guidance.

#3: Make Peace with Food

Begin to believe that food is NOT your enemy. Dismantle the belief that food has any form of morality and that you are “good” or “bad” for eating in certain ways. Help yourself by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you desire, whenever you desire it.

Don’t panic. This stage is only temporary, but it’s so essential to experiencing authentic health without rigid food rules. Maintain a neutral attitude and simply notice how your mind and body respond to eating various foods.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I really like this food? How does this food make me feel physically? How does having access to this food anytime change my desire for it?

The point here is to decrease the novelty of foods that are triggering for you. This is called a habitation response and I’ve talked about it in my “All Foods Fit” blog post here!

#4: Challenge the Food Police

This principle takes time to practice and master. It’s the consistent habit of rejecting the negative, accusing voice that tries to make you believe there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to eat. This one goes hand-in-hand with principle #3. Until you make peace with food, you will continue to believe what this internal voice is telling you.

In my #defundthefoodpolice blog post, I coined this hashtag as a way to help you consider all the ways you can stop buying into the lies that come from the voice of the Food Police. The source of this voice is diet culture, which ultimately seeks to make you focus on superficial, unrealistic health and beauty standards that arise from pop culture.

#5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Let’s get back to actually enjoying the pleasures of eating! The flavors and textures of the foods you eat are meant to bring satisfaction, so if they don’t, something needs to change. For my chronic dieters out there, this is likely because of the limited variety of foods you’ve been allowed on your restrictive diets.

When you allow yourself to enjoy enough varieties of foods, from sweets all the way to the most savory dishes, you’re more likely to eat less of it. We can look to many different cultures and traditions for culinary inspiration. Don’t let fear of trying new foods and your old beliefs about these foods stop you!

#6: Feel Your Fullness

Feeling your fullness is like the “sister principle” to honoring your hunger. It becomes easier to stop eating at a comfortable or gentle state of fullness when you start eating at a gentle or comfortable state of hunger.

Those of us who have been conditioned to finish everything on our plate may find this one difficult. I personally have benefitted from using a Hunger Scale (like this one!) to slow down and better gauge where comfortable fullness lies for me. Maintain a neutral, non-judgmental curiosity when exploring what causes you to eat beyond comfortable fullness.

#7: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

I like that IE authors Tribole and Resch modified the title of this Intuitive Eating principle in the 4th edition of the book. The old title was “Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food,” but let’s get real. We ALL have used food to cope with a variety of emotions, from boredom to depression.

What matters here is not necessarily eliminating emotional eating altogether, but recognizing that we’re better off choosing self-compassion along the journey. Yes, learning to use non-food ways of coping is an end goal, but it won’t help to beat ourselves up if we choose a piece of chocolate instead of confronting an issue in the moment.

#8: Respect Your Body

Respect your body’s genetic blueprint. Learn what your unique body needs to feel and look its best. Embrace self-care, get rid of ill-fitting clothes, and surround yourself with people who appreciate you for YOU and not just your body.

Also, there are so many ways to respect your body that don’t involve trying to lose weight. In fact, I’ve written a whole blog post on this topic here!

#9: Movement- Feel the Difference

Find joy in moving your body! There are innumerable benefits of regular exercise, with some including appetite regulation, decreased risk of chronic disease, and improved mental health outcomes (6,7,8).

However, if you’re in the camp with those of us who have developed a love-hate relationship with exercise because of diet programs that made you feel like you had to “earn” your food with grueling workout routines, this principle is especially for you!

Go back to the basics of moving your body in a way that feels good to you. Forget about step trackers, apps that count every calorie burned, and feeling guilty about skipping a day. Do what is realistic and enjoyable. Create a routine that includes adequate rest days.

#10: Honor Your Health- Gentle Nutrition

And last but certainly not least: honoring your health with gentle nutrition ties it all in a lovely bow! This Intuitive Eating principle is intentionally last (alongside principle #9) because it is important to establish inner attunement first before applying external health values. This helps keep us from turning it into another diet with food rules!

I won’t go into too much detail since I’ve shared the keys to mastering the art of gentle nutrition on my blog before, but I will share that these last 2 principles are where you can really begin to see authentic health come to fruition.

When you start to move your body in a comfortable way to cultivate an active lifestyle and understand how to nourish your unique body well, it truly can change how your body feels and functions for many years to come.

Key Takeaways: The 10 Intuitive Eating Principles

So here’s a quick recap of what you can take away from this blog post:

1) Intuitive Eating is about regaining body trust in a way that promotes health,

2) authentic health starts with inner wellness and is balanced by external health values,

3) the 10 Intuitive Eating principles all come together as a framework for experiencing authentic health without restrictive dieting.

Which of these points is most helpful to you? Do you plan to explore Intuitive Eating on your path to experiencing authentic health? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Julia in white shirt and jeans standing next to kitchen counter with healthy foods

Hey there!

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In this exclusive wellness program, you’ll receive original course content outlining the principles of Intuitive Eating, the revolutionary anti-dieting approach to healthy living, all with a Christ-centered, faith-based focus for everyday life. Visit the JNL Shop here to learn more!

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Much love, friends! 


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