Intuitive Eating: What, When, How, Why?

Hopefully we've all been there. Livin' our best lives consistently eating the foods that fuel us and making our bodies feel their best. But then we look at our calendar and it's a birthday, a wedding, vacation, traveling... How do we handle these life situations without falling off? Without ruining our BHAGs? Without packing on the pounds?

We believe that all of these events can be handled with our macro-based approach. However it's important to know that there is, what can seem to be, a less stressful way. We're talking about Intuitive Eating.

Before focusing on Intuitive Eating:

If you seem to always be on a diet, in a constant cycle of restricting and binging, you are genuinely unsure if you are eating enough, or feel you need more education around current eating habits, we believe that having a coach to guide you through a macro-based approach is most efficient in collecting data about YOU. We believe that focusing on Intuitive Eating prior to this knowledge could result in continuing to diet or under-eat unintentionally. After spending quite some time familiarizing ourselves with the amount of food that we should be eating to maintain the fuel necessary for optimal health and function, we can approach the concept of Intuitive Eating with a great head on our shoulders.

Intuitive eating is not focused on gaining or losing weight.

If you have serious goals that need serious attention/accountability,

save the frustration and start off on the right foot.

Get. A. Coach.

What is Intuitive Eating?

In short, "Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, mind-body health approach comprised of 10 Principles designed by two Registered Dietitians. It is a dynamic integration between mind and body, an approach that honors your health by listening and responding to your body to meet your physiological and psychological needs. Intuitive Eating is NOT a diet or food plan, and there is no pass or fail. Ultimately, you are the expert of your body.  Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like.  Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences." (

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating are as follows:

1. Reject the diet mentality.

2. Honor your hunger.

3. Make peace with food.

4. Challenge the food police.

5. Respect your fullness.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor.

7. Honor your feelings without using food.

8. Respect your body.

9. Exercise-- feel the difference.

10. Honor your health.

Blurb: Intuitive Eating vs Mindful Eating // Mindful eating, in short, is awareness around food. How it is nourishing you, the positives food brings to us, acknowledging likes/dislikes your body has towards foods without judgment, the use of our senses and body cues to choose foods that are satisfying and satiating, and our ability to begin and end eating with peace of mind.

At FNF we take the principles of Intuitive Eating and combine them with a Mindfulness approach. Mindful eating was introduced to Katie during her training in Yoga back in 2016. There are similar thoughts and theories behind the two, but Katie believes that one is not better than the other and that they should be practiced in conjunction in order for the habits to be beneficial and sustainable.

When should you practice Intuitive Eating?

The dieting culture that we see often on social media creates the idea that there are two types of foods: Good Food and Bad Food. This type of thinking embeds into our brain that we must not eat foods that are listed as "Bad". It steals the idea that we are allowed to enjoy food, and can reinforce our tendency to slip into a restrict and binge cycle. Ever label yourself as "doing good" when you eat portioned out, 'healthier' foods such as salads, asparagus and quinoa with your protein for dinner? But then you get to vacations, birthdays, or weddings-- you go all out enjoying yourself, only to label yourself as "doing bad". This is what diet culture has made us believe. That we are getting graded either an A on our test or an F. No in between.

Food is meant to be enjoyed, and so is life. Whether we choose to do macros or any other form of dieting, we should be able to reach our goals without being miserable, or falling on and off track.

The intention with Flexible Dieting (Macro-Counting) is so that you can stay on top of your goals, but still focus on throwing away the feeling of guilt or attachment to foods being "good" or "bad". Although that is how we would love every client to approach it, we understand that certain clients can seriously benefit from Intuitive Eating based off of personality, knowledge, and lifestyle.

You should consider introducing Intuitive Eating into your lifestyle if you:

  • Have spent some time counting your macros and want to take a break, don't feel macros are fitting with your lifestyle, or you're ready to put your knowledge into practice without the food scale and tracking

  • Do not currently have any specific BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), you're just cruising through life, not looking to lose or gain weight

  • Are in a place of not currently exercising, or you live a sedentary lifestyle due to other circumstances aside from just not making the effort to move more, such as injury or extensive traveling

  • Have any emotional trauma or obsessive personality with food or tracking

  • Have BHAGs, but want to step away from tracking and weighing your food for a special night out or holiday that has a lot of meaning to you

  • Realize the stress of tracking is larger than your motivation + reason behind why you're tracking and what your goals are

  • Are in a time in your life filled with extreme stress and unhappiness

  • Want to focus on drawing awareness to your body

How to begin Intuitive Eating:

As with any practice, start with small, reachable goals that you can turn into a habit. For our clients that practice I.E., we work comprehensively through each of these steps with the accountability necessary to stay on track. These are the top 5 steps and checkmarks that we believe should be followed and that we look for:

Step #1: Ditch Myfitnesspal (or any food tracking app) and any device that counts your 'calories burned'.

  • In order to truly listen to our body, we must shut off any voice in our head that could lead us to making food choices that are rooted in aesthetic changes or performance improvement. We'll say this as a reminder: I.E. is NOT intended for weight loss or weight gain. It is not rooted in aesthetics It is not intended to assist you completely with performance. I.E. is a great approach for general lifestyle focus. Food tracking apps and devices that 'track' our 'calories burned' put us in question of "How can I be better?", "Am I on the road to losing/gaining weight?", "Am I eating enough, too much, too little?"

Step #2: Keep a food journal via pen and paper, or in your phone's notepad.

  • It's important to get to know your body's feeling before, during, and after eating. It's also important to know which foods may be the cause of certain irritations, digestive issues, or may be triggering you to eat certain types of foods. Keeping a journal and noticing these feelings or learnings is a habit that could turn into you not allowing certain foods into your body. For example...

True story: there's an asiago artichoke dip from Wegman's that my mom bought as a snack. I opened up the container while watching Grey's Anatomy one night alongside of a bag of pretzels. It took me less than an hour to finish this 6oz tub of cheese. I didn't think much of it and sort of laughed it off. I spent the next day at the gym and the only thing that came to mind was, "I have to run this dip off!" (whatever that means). That same night, I put on Grey's Anatomy again, and my mom just so happened to come home with another tub of the same asiago artichoke dip to replace the one I had finished. When she went to sleep all I could think about is how AMAZING this dip tasted. I opened the tub... and the night before's events had replayed.
  • It took several more of these nights, not only with this dip but with other snack binges and food habits as well, to sit back and recognize that I needed to work on understanding these habits, rather than jumping to the conclusion that I could never have this dip again, or any snacks for that matter. Recognize that the mind-body connection with food is part of healing. Now, I choose not to buy that dip or snacks almost ever. I learned about my relationship with snacking and the root cause behind my nutrition and what lead me to this addiction and binging of snacks.

  • We provide the coaching, journaling, and accountability to work through these types of every-day habits and scenarios

Step #3: Eat Slower.

  • Once steps #1 and #2 are integrated, or you feel ready to add another practice to your plate, focus on eating slower. When we eat fast, it's hard to tell why we're eating in the first place. Whether we're actually hungry, or eating because of anxiety/emotional reasons, it's already tough to say. So chowing down quickly/blacking out while eating makes it even more difficult to assess.

  • Eating slower allows us to feel when we're satisfied and it can lead to smaller portions because of this. Take note of your fullness.

  • Tips to eat slower: 1) Put your fork/utensil down between each bite. Doing this will force a pause during our eating. 2) Breathe. Take a moment every minute or so and just take a few deep breaths. 3) Set a number in your head to work towards for # of chews. For example, chew each forkful 25 times. 4) If and when possible, eat with another slow eater. Try to pace with them. Children that are distracted while eating are great for this! 5) Set an intention. This meal is to fuel me for ____. I am looking to nourish ____. I want to feel ____. I am eating this because ____.

Step #4: Check Your Surroundings.

  • In a society where we're always rushing and distracted, we've stepped far away from recognizing the importance of creating a healthy environment for us to eat in. We eat in cars, standing at the counter, scrolling through Instagram, answering emails, talking on the phone... How could we mindfully eat and follow our intuition if we're distracted and our headspace is cluttered?

  • Tips to create a clear space: 1) Eat in a happy and calm space. For some this may look like eating in a bright, clean room, sitting at a table. Others, this may be in a darker, candlelit room, and opting to sit on the floor. You should feel you're in a place where you can enjoy and take your time to eat. 2) Zero distractions. If you eat at a desk with a stack of papers and work emails pulled up on your computer, you may unknowingly be creating a space of rushing and distraction. Turn your phone off and de-clutter your space. TV can also unknowingly push us to eat faster because, well... We're mindlessly eating! 3) Table setting. Sometimes a candle, your favorite plate/bowl, a nice glass for your drink, and a cloth vs a paper towel can draw your awareness back to an intentional, intuitive, and mindful meal.

Step #5: When in doubt, PAUSE + QUESTION!

  • About to eat? Pause + Question. By practicing the "pause", we can ask ourselves some great questions to ask yourself prior to eating: Why am I eating? Where am I eating? What am I eating? Why am I eating this particular food? What do I WANT to eat? Is this SATISFYING me? Is this nourishing?

  • Dieting culture's idea around good and bad foods, clean foods, superfoods, etc. have us eating things that we don't even like. Drinking powders and shakes that we feel obligated to take in. By asking ourselves these questions, we can not only assess how our body feels and what we truly need, but we can also get back to enjoying the foods that we love knowing that there is nothing to be guilted into or judged about.

Ultimately, the goal at FNF is for you to find sustainability and longevity with your eating habits. We believe that by collecting data on ourselves and doing the personal/emotional work, you are always in choice, and YOU lead the way. Your body knows itself better than any professional could tell you otherwise. We change with YOU. Not the other way around. Your life and individual needs do not fit into a meal plan. Period. Work with a coach who understands that sometimes, we need to go a different route in order to be happy while still working towards our goals. To learn more, head over to our Nutrition Coaching page to learn more about our method, and feel free to Contact Us if you would like to take an intuitive/mindful eating approach. We will evaluate and select only a few clients for this type of coaching.

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