How To Practice Intuitive Eating

I remember the first time I heard about intuitive eating. I rolled my eyes so hard when I heard the explanation of it:

Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.

Why did I scoff at it? Because I thought: so, it’s eating. That’s literally all it is. 

In my mind the act of EATING had been branded and packaged, and resold as a diet or  “movement,” which felt so wrong. Ridiculous, even. 

Until I tried it. 

“Just eating” can be a lot more challenging than it seems- especially if you’ve ever experienced disordered eating habits. I know what you’re thinking, disordered eating? Nah, I’ve never experienced that before.

And I get it. I was right there with you for most of my adult life. But a big part of that was because I thought the restrictions and rules and strange tendencies I had around food were “normal,” rather than disordered. 

All of that being said, when I tried this very simple exercise of eating when I was hungry, and stopping when I was full- I realized that it was actually a lot harder for me than I would’ve expected. 

I had become so used to ignoring my natural cues in order to want less, to be smaller, and to DISCONNECT from my body, rather than be inside of it- that I wasn’t the best at eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full. 

Here’s the thing, we all eat emotionally from time to time. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we’re eating from the emotion of joy and celebration (think about the holidays), which can lead to overeating past fullness. The practice of intuitive eating is more about RECOGNIZING the body’s cues, in order to honor them in your own way. 

So, if you’re at a holiday or a birthday, and you eat an extra piece of cake because you’re enjoying the chatter around the table, and not because you’re hungry- that’s FINE. There’s no shame in intuitive eating. Just exploration of self and sensations. Using that moment of eating past fullness to recognize:

Yep, I’m definitely full. And, I really want to add to this feeling of enjoyment by eating more cake.

The same goes for when our hunger cues are sounding off. Do we honor them, or do we stuff them down? Do you even know what your hunger cues feel like yet, or have you masked them so completely that the sensation is actually foreign to you?

Use intuitive eating as a practice to get to know yourself and your body better. It’s really about listening to your body’s whispers, rather than waiting for the screams. 

Below, I’ve outlined some of my top tips for people just starting their intuitive eating journey. These have been helpful to me over the years, as I continually dive into this practice with loving curiosity. 

Eat Without Screens

This one was HUGE for me to start, because I was often still working on my lunch break. Which meant shoveling my face with food, while also staring at (sometimes multiple) screens. 

The reason it’s helpful for you to start eating without screens in front of you to start, is because screens are a distraction. 

The purpose of intuitive eating is to get super present with your body, in order to actually hear it. If our attention is elsewhere, then we’re much more likely to ignore our natural cues of hunger and fullness.

Keep in mind, this is only something to practice at the start! Meaning, if you’re like me, and you’re a lunchtime worker- then this doesn’t have to be a forever thing. Just something to get you really tuned into your body in the foundational part of the intuitive eating practice. 

Eat Without Distractions

So this really piggybacks off of the last point, although this will be tailored for you and your common distractions within your eating environments. Of course, some distractions can’t be avoided- so just know that I’m not saying you need to hibernate in a cave, and eat alone in order to do this. 

What I am saying is to notice the distractions that usually pull you away from being present at meal times. Can you eliminate them altogether during periods of eating? If not, can you alter or limit your exposure to them at all? 

And finally, if it’s not possible to even limit your distraction (like, you can’t just ask your toddler to eat in the other room so you can eat in peace, right?), then do your best to remain as present as possible with your body throughout the eating process. 

Follow along to the next tip for how to stay present.

Practice the Pause

Pausing before reacting is the yogic way of life. And I know I have a lot of yogi readers, so this one might feel familiar to you. Yay!

One of the most important components to intuitive eating is pausing, before reacting. 

Oftentimes when we’re eating emotionally, we don’t pause- we choose or act impulsively, instead. So, we want to fix that with a quick reminder to PAUSE before you act. 

When I pause before I act, I actually check in and ask my body (particularly my stomach) if I’m still hungry. This helps with overeating and undereating. Because, again, when we’re tuned in and listening to our body’s cues- then we’re able to honor those needs with our actions. 

Slow Down When You Eat

This is another tough one for me. I inhale my food. The reason this messes with my hunger cues, is that when I eat really fast then sometimes it seems like I’m still hungry- but really it just takes a minute to all settle in. If I eat more, then I tend to feel uncomfortably full after, which never feels good. 

Eating slowly is a great mindfulness practice. And it’s also a great way to implement the “pause” a little more effectively. Plus, having one moment in our busy days that isn’t jam packed and fast moving, provides a really nice break, as well.

Eat Before You’re Starving

Remember how I inhale food? Yeah, well I don’t know about you, but I’m way more likely to do this when I wait too long to eat. It’s kind of like how people say don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, ya know?

This means planning your day and your schedule with a little more buffer and flexibility. Instead of waiting to that point of being ravenous, start prepping your meal when you feel that first rumble of a hunger cue- rather than the loud roar. 

I love this tip, because it forces you to get more discerning with hunger cues, rather than lumping them together into just one sensation. There’s nuance between them! So take this time to understand your own.

Another hot tip here is to have snacks with you (in your purse, your car, your briefcase…whatever). Snacks are helpful for the moments that you might not have a choice but to wait until you’re starving to eat (like when you’re waiting for someone else, or held up at work). 

Overall, eating intuitively is really about making loving choices for your body through nourishment and mindfulness. It’s about forming a deeper connection with self, and your physical form to actually be in your body- rather than checked out of it. 

Let me know how it goes! And don’t forget to check out my recipes for all the yummy goodness.



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