Intuitive Eating: The 10 Basic Principles

Good morning everyone 🙂

Another Intuitive Eating post today. I have to say, I have been blown away and so touched by some of the emails you’ve sent me about Intuitive Eating and your interest in the 21 Day Intuitive Eating Challenge. So many of you are tired of the diets, want a new approach and are open to this concept. I was already excited about the challenge, but now I just can’t wait to get it started.

I’ll be formally announcing the details of the challenge sometime next week, but you can continue to email me at jamiemendell@gmail.com with the subject line “IE Challenge” to get signed up.

Forging onward! I feel like the next step is to outline the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating (taken directly from the book, Intuitive Eating) and my interpretation of each one. This lays the groundwork for the concept as a whole and the challenge as well.

So here we go:

Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality

This one is huge. In order to let IE in, and use our body as our guide, we have to let the idea that “there is a diet out there for us” go. Diets provide us with an amazing sense of control which can be empowering at first, but ultimately defeating when we get fed up with following some plan or we “fail”. And by the way, it’s not our fault that we fail at diets. We fail because most diets go against what our bodies actually want, and that inherently feels wrong.

I’ll be honest: you will probably get annoyed or fed up with IE at some point and resort back to a diet for a few days. IE takes longer, you have to be patient. It’s about the journey, learning about yourself and what works for you and what doesn’t. There is no “plan” to follow. In the past 4 or 5 years, I have had moments of “this is way too hard, I just need a diet, a plan, someone else to tell me what to do”. And I’ve gone back to diets. But overtime, I learned that they just kept not working for me, and IE was always what I came back to. Now, diets aren’t even an option.

Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger

We should be eating when we’re hungry to keep our metabolisms going. Hunger is GOOD. I love being hungry, because then I eat! This principle is all about trying to level out the periods of restriction followed by overeating. Keeping yourself fueled throughout the day with foods you want and love is essential.

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Principle 3: Make Peace with Food

This one is fun but scary. Making peace with food means giving yourself permission to eat what you actually want and crave. You know those lists you have of “good food” and “bad food”. Say goodbye! 🙂 There is no such thing.

A common question I get about this one is… but if I eat whatever I want, then I’ll just eat junk all the time and I’ll blow up (or in the case of my Dad, he is convinced he would just eat hotdogs and cheeseburgers all day, everyday). To that I say… yes, you definitely may eat a lot of “junk” (higher fat, sugar, calorie) food at first, but over time you’ll learn that you body just wants to feel good, and feeling good will come from incorporating nutritious food into your diet too.

A friend told me a story recently about someone she knew who started following Intuitive Eating several years ago. She started eating 6 Dairy Queen Blizzards every single day, because that is what she had been depriving herself of for years. Eventually, she needed less and less ice cream, and her body finally said “Enough of this, I need real food”.

I went through this too, and I’ll be sharing some of my experiences with this during the 21 Day Challenge.

Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police

Release the guilt that you’ve associated with eating “bad food”. As the book mentions, the food police is ingrained deep into our psyche. This principle is about controlling your thoughts and not letting in those thoughts that say you are making a bad choice. Just let it be. You are experimenting, you are learning, and you’re listening to you.

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Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness

Another huge one! This is about learning what it feels like to feel full and stopping when you’re full. I know this is a tough one for all of us, because… sometimes we just want to keep eating! The food is so good. I’ll also be addressing this in the 21 Day Challenge.

Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

This is one of my favorite principles. As I just wrote in an email to someone today “you deserve to enjoy every single thing you eat”. The motto that the IE book has is:

“If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it”

We don’t need to be eating things we don’t like. As you’ve probably seen, I eat a lot of vegetables but I make them in a way that I love. I used to eat them in a really boring and unsatisfying way, but what’s the fun in that? I also eat a lot of chocolate, carbs, fats, and my fair share of ice cream and wine. This is a key principle. Pleasure and enjoyment are crucial! 🙂


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Principle 7: Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food

Okay, so, this one is a doozy. It really is. If there is one principle that I think is the hardest, it’s this one. Honestly, I wish the book spent more time going through this, because I think this was a missing piece for me for a while after I started trying to incorporate IE into my life. It wasn’t until I focused here (which took me a long time), that everything kind of came together for me.

This is tough… so many of us eat because we are bored, or we are distracting ourselves from a long day of work, or we are stressed out or overwhelmed. Or we are at a dinner and the conversation is boring so we just keep finishing our plate even though we are no longer hungry.

It’s essential to develop strategies and tools to deal with this outside of food. I’m going to go over some things that worked for me in the 21 Day Challenge, but I would just say that this is a part of Intuitive Eating not to discount. From my experience, I’ve found it to be really important to focus on developing these coping skills.

Principle 8: Respect Your Body

Phew. This is another big one, and one I have a lot to say about. But here is the gist: this principle is all about self care. It doesn’t matter how overweight you are, how badly you’ve treated your body in the past, or how far away you think you are from your goals, you deserve to treat your body with respect NOW.

This means feeding it with delicious food, dressing in clothes you love and that are comfortable, moving your body in a way that feels energizing, looking in the mirror and only allowing yourself to tell yourself positive things (even if you aren’t where you want to be yet), and stopping comparing yourself to other people.

The book mentions:

“Body image expert and psychologist Judith Rodin notes in her book Body Traps, “You don’t need to lose weight first in order to take care of yourself. In fact, the process actually happens quite in the reverse!””


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Principle 9: Exercise- Feel the Difference

Move your body in a way that you love. Walk if you like it better than running. Dance, do yoga, and if you don’t want to go to the gym, just put on some tunes and dance around your apartment. Just move in a way that feels good.

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Principle 10: Honor Your Health– Gentle Nutrition

This one is important to go over because I think a common misconception about Intuitive Eating (from my experience in talking about it with people) is that you ignore all nutrition guidelines. It’s really not the case. In fact, to me, IE is all about doing what feels best for me. And what’s best is often times really nutritious food. However, it took me a long time to get here. I had to go through letting go of the “bad food” judgement first and letting myself eat exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it. Overtime, things level out and our bodies just naturally want a mix of high nutrition food and food that may be lower in nutritional value but that we just enjoy. The leveling out does take time and from my experience, it’s important to go through the process to get there.

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And that’s that. There is SO much more in the book about each principle and the authors do a great job of incorporating real life scenarios throughout the book. I could also say so much more about each principle and how it has played into my own experience with Intuitive Eating. In the next week or two, you will hear from a couple of my friends and people I’ve worked with who either practice the IE concept or have given it a shot, and then in the challenge, you’ll hear several tips and pieces of advice that I have for practically incorporating IE into your life.

Have an awesome day and if you get nothing else from this post, I hope you at least give yourself permission to eat something today that you absolutely love 🙂

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