Intuitive eating feels more popular than ever. I remember when I first heard about intuitive eating in 2019, I had a lot of questions. Is it legit? How can it be healthy to eat whatever you want? (If you’re skeptical, too, stick around…)
I saw that one of my mentors Alissa Rumsey was teaching clients about intuitive eating. Of course, I was curious to see if the intuitive eating framework could help my clients, too. I got my hands on the book, dove into the research, and started experimenting with the principles in my own life.
Sure enough, my experience and research affirmed that THIS is the missing piece for SO many women. In order to save YOU time and frustration, I hope these tips help you know just what to do (and not to do) when getting started with intuitive eating!
Intuitive Eating Dos & Don’ts: According to a Registered Dietitian
Five tips for getting started with intuitive eating, based on my personal and professional experience.
Do Begin with an Open Mind
Intuitive eating principle #1 invites us to ditch the diet mentality. If you have a history of dieting or restricting food, this principle might sound like catching a unicorn…SO FAR OUT OF REACH. I’m here to tell you that ditching the diet mentality IS possible, especially when you begin with an open mind.
Begin with an open mind so that you can enjoy food as if you were experiencing it for the FIRST time. Consider the example of a child’s first birthday cake. You know, those cute videos of kids taking fistfuls of cake and ending up with icing all over themselves? It’s a pure and joyful moment.
Now, think about a recent time that you ate cake. Chances are that your experience eating cake has been tainted by diet culture. You’ve probably picked up fear-based messages like cake is bad, it’s too many calories, or maybe it hasn’t been allowed on your diet. This leads to feelings of guilt and shame during and after eating. Does this resonate with you?
If yes, apply the open mind concept. What was cake before you were taught that it was “bad” for you? It was just a cake! An open allows us to drop the labels we’ve picked up from diet culture.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Support
You’re selling yourself short if you think that working with a non-diet dietitian or intuitive eating counselor is ONLY for people who struggle with diagnosed eating disorders. In fact, there are many reasons to work with a dietitian. Here are some scenarios where you might seek out support:
- You’re managing a health condition such as diabetes, PCOS, or an autoimmune disease.
- You’re exhausted by the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting and want to find your body’s balanced weight.
- Although you don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder, you struggle with eating disorder behaviors such as anxiety with meals, rigid diet rules, obsessive food-related thoughts, or loss of control around food.
Remember: asking for support is a sign of strength, not failure. You can be proud of yourself for identifying challenges and a path forward for working through them.
Do Learn from Experts and Reputable Sources
It’s too easy to come across an “intuitive eating” influencer on Instagram or TikTok, only to find that they are bending the truth in order to profit from it. For credible resources and health professionals you can trust, here are a few links:
- Intuitive eating website: includes blog posts, scientific articles, and a directory for finding intuitive eating professionals
- Intuitive eating books: here’s a post I wrote with 5 books I wish I read sooner
- Podcasts: list of 17 intuitive eating podcasts
Whether you are doing your own self-study or working with a coach, stick to reputable resources. I hope this saves you the time and frustration of going down the Google search rabbit hole.
Don’t Treat It Like a Set of Rules
Intuitive eating consists of 10 principles (you can learn more about each principle here). If you are used to the black-and-white nature of diets, it’s easy to want to turn these principles into rules. However, I’m here to tell you that you can still enjoy the structure of intuitive eating without turning the principles into rules.
Rules imply there is a “right” or “wrong” way of doing things, and there’s a punishment for doing something the wrong way. On the other hand, principles are propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior.
Rules are rigid. Principles are fluid.
There’s no perfect way of practicing intuitive eating. Perfect isn’t even possible so why try for that? You don’t even need to follow the principles in order. Take it one step at a time and trust your inner knowing.
Do Give Yourself Time
It takes time to undo years of diet mentality. Too often, we expect ourselves to have linear progress from point A to point B in a short period of time. When in reality, progress contains ups and downs over an extended period of time.
I love this image by letstalk.mentalhealth that illustrates this point.
When you allow for ups and downs to be a part of your journey and set a realistic timeframe for your goals, you’re more likely to achieve lasting success. Instead of a roadblock completely stopping you, you recognize it as a powerful pause along your path.
Related: 11 Non-Weight Measures of Progress
The Final Verdict
Download your FREE 5-Step Guide to Eating Intuitively for practical action steps that you can start today!