10 principles of intuitive eating

The 10 principles of intuitive eating focus on breaking down dieting cycles and reconnecting with the body's natural signals around food.

1. Reject the diet mentality

Dieting concept with scales and plate

Stop dieting. It’s not working for you, and you are not alone in this.

2. Recognise your hunger

Feeling hungry - Awaiting food

Eat when your body tells you that you’re hungry and stop eating when you are full.

3. Make peace with food

Enjoying a relaxed meal in a peaceful location

No foods are off limits. Allowing yourself to have the foods banned by restrictive diets removes any guilt you might feel about eating them. And when it’s no longer forbidden, the food may not seem so appealing. Eating what you actually want can mean you feel more satisfied with your meal – if you deny yourself, you might go on to have unhealthy snacks anyway.

4. Challenge the ‘food police’

Donuts and an apple

Be aware of and challenge internal negative thoughts that categorise foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and lead to feelings of failure or guilt when you can’t stick to a diet plan.

5. Feel your fullness

Feeling full - rejecting food

Think before you eat. Tune into your hunger levels, and only eat when you are hungry. Pause during the meal to think about how it tastes and how full you are. Stop eating when you are comfortably full, even if that means leaving food on the plate or saying no to dessert.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor

Enjoying food - sharing - eating together

Savour the experience of eating. Don’t eat while you are in the car, dashing to an appointment or distracted (whether it’s by television, work or something else). Studies show that people who eat while doing something else are likely to eat more, either at the time or at their next meal. Concentrate on your food while you are eating so you can appreciate and enjoy it.

7. Cope with your feelings without using food

Walking - emotional health

When we are stressed, sad, bored or lonely, we often use food to deal with our emotions. While it might offer a short-term fix, it doesn’t resolve the problem. Find another way of dealing with the emotion – whether it’s going for a walk, or trying to fix the issues that are causing negative emotions.

8. Respect your body

Apple and a pear with a tape measure - body shapes

We are not all the same shape and size, so we need to let go of unrealistic expectations of body image. Accepting and respecting your body at every size will help you to feel better and make choices about food and exercise that are logical, rather than emotional.

9. Exercise and feel the difference

Woman exercising feeling happy and strong

Instead of exercising to burn calories, focus on how it makes you feel. Choose something you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, walking, running, gardening or team games, rather than forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy.

10. Honour your health

Food choices - Health and unhealthy foods

Constant dieters can have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the calorie, fat and carbohydrate content of different foods – but forget what they enjoy eating and what helps them feel full. Select meals and snacks that are nutritious, but also satisfying and tasty.

And remember that one slip does not mean a fall. One meal or one day where you don’t eat particularly healthily won’t make a difference in the long term – it’s what happens on most days that matters.

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