Archive of ‘Nutrition’ category

Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Approach for Health

The concept of “Intuitive Eating” was coined in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietitian, and Elyse Resch, a nutrition therapist in their book by the same name. The concept: listen to your body for cues on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. While the concept is simple, it can be difficult to put into practice because we have so much telling us NOT to listen to our bodies. Intuitive eating may not be for everyone, but it can be incredibly liberating for those of us who have listened to years (if not decades) of gurus or magazines or blogs (or even medical doctors) on the “correct” ways to eat. 

There have been over 100 studies on Intuitive Eating that show health benefits including “increased well-being, lower risk of eating disorders” as well as increased self-esteem and body image.  Practicing intuitive eating can help you develop a healthy relationship with food, mind, and your body.

Tribole and Resch lay out 10 principles of Intuitive Eating:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Diet culture is rampant in our society. Its the voice in our heads (and in the media) that says we should be a certain body shape, and that if you’re not that shape then you have personally failed (ie. lack of willpower). The first step of intuitive eating requires us to fight back against that voice in our head that thinks “maybe this next diet will work.”

2. Honor Your Hunger

You need calories (energy) to function. Our bodies are incredible at letting us know when we’re hungry. We’ve just been taught to ignore our hunger cues for one reason or another (eg. you shouldn’t have time for lunch if you’re a “hard worker;” or you must eat 3 meals a day, or you shouldn’t eat after 6:00pm, etc.). Ignoring your hunger signals often leads to overeating.

3. Make Peace with Food

Tribole and Resch request that you “give yourself unconditional permission to eat.” Following the advice of your “shoulds” can lead to cravings. This step is all about eating those foods you’ve been avoiding or afraid of, and giving yourself permission to eat as much as your body asks you to. Once you’ve given yourself permission to eat those foods, often you find they’re not as enticing as your mind would have you believe (because they’re not taboo). And for the foods that you find you absolutely love, it can be freeing to be allowed to indulge and experience the joy of eating without guilt. 

4. Challenge the Food Police

The food police are the voices in your head (and in society) that implement shame and guilt to govern your eating habits. They are the ideas that suggest you’re “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods or even that certain foods are themselves inherently “good” or “bad.” Sometimes you just don’t have any interest in eating a salad, and what you need right now is a scoop of ice cream. Other times the reverse is true. Listening to your body can help you determine what you need to eat. 

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Remember what it felt like to feel pleasure when you eat food? Think about how much you used to enjoy that chocolate pudding you ate in 1st grade during snack time. That’s the kind of pleasure we’re talking about! One of my favorite studies that Tribole and Resch mention in their book show that test subjects ate LESS of a milkshake when it was described as “rich” and “indulgent,” AND they found it more satisfying. This, in contrast to the test subjects who were given the same milkshake that was described as low-calorie. 

6. Feel Your Fullness

Mindfulness features heavily in this step. If you can slow down and eat food without distractions (eg. keep your phone in your pocket, don’t set your food up in front of the TV, etc.) you’re more likely to be attuned when your body says it’s satisfied. This is one of the harder steps for me, and so I take it as a win whenever I do this, rather than expecting perfection every time I eat.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Emotional eating is a fact of life in almost every culture. In the US, we celebrate birthdays with cake, we grieve heartbreak with icecream, not to mention all the holiday eating. This step reminds us not that we shouldn’t eat with our emotions, but that eating can be one of several ways we cope with our emotions. It can become unhealthy if we consistently rely on food to be our only coping mechanism, but this step helps us develop other ways to manage our emotions. 

8. Respect Your Body

You’re going to live in your body for the rest of your life. It might be time to start appreciating all the amazing things it does, rather than criticizing it for all of its perceived “shortcomings.” You deserve to love and be loved NO MATTER what your body looks like. 

9. Movement—Feel the Difference

Sometimes even just replacing the word “exercise” with “movement” can change your relationship to your body. You don’t have to sweat away in a gym to be happy. The goal here is to simply enjoy how your body feels, and movement can be an incredible way to access that. Maybe you love how your body feels after a sweaty workout, but also maybe what works for you is a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood, playing frisbee, or dancing in your kitchen.

10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition

Lastly (and they put this last for a reason!), paying attention to nutrition can help you feel good after meals. This can help you determine what kind of meal you want for the kind of day you’re expecting. For example, you may need extra carbs if you’re going to be active during the day, or extra protein to recover after a workout. There needs to be a balance between taste and health. 

Child & Adolescent Nutrition 101

Early childhood and adolescent nutrition is a lost educational opportunity in many sectors. There are a few ways to approach the introduction of foods to a child at an early age for them to develop a healthy relationship with food from birth. Here are a few of my tips I give to parents and adolescents to help them shape a healthy relationship with foods and their bodies.

Remember to include a variety of foods on the plate.

Whether color, textures, flavors, or nutritional components (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, additional micronutrient rich foods like fruits/vegetables).

Remember to not ‘force’ your child to eat just because it’s a designated ‘meal’ time.

Provide them with a variety of foods on a plate and trust and nurture the idea that when your child is hungry they will get to the food that has been prepared and plated for them.

Allow your child to have at least 10 exposures to a food before deciding that they don’t ‘like’ it.

Research from the American Journal of clinical nutrition shows increased acceptability of foods after 8-10 of repetitive exposure. Just because your child doesn’t like a food the first time they try it, doesn’t mean they actually don’t like it, it may be that they have never experienced that flavor, texture, smell, etc, and will develop tolerance to it over time.

Mirror a healthy relationship with food yourself (inclusion of all foods).

Children heavily rely on learning cues from adults and older siblings, so your relationship with foods and the terminology you use around foods (good v bad foods) molds your child’s view of food too.

Secondary to childhood, adolescence is a time in which a child’s relationship to food and their bodies’ can be highly sensitive. And the education surrounding adolescent nutrition is heavily laced with dieting messages, which promote the development of disorder eating, eating disorders, low self-esteem, low self-worth, etc. Society relies heavily on media (social, TV, ads, magazines, etc.) to give our kids the information that they need in regards to caring for themselves well and making sure they know why food is important. Hard facts are that they get incredibly misinformative information that is entrenched  in what we know as DIET CULTURE. 

DIET CULTURE is known to be a system of beliefs that worship ideals surrounding thinness, equating it to moralistic virtues of more acceptability, love, and overall worth, regardless of true health status/vitals. 

Diet Culture gives very sneaky messages surrounding food holding moralistic weight/value. In the most general sense, food serves the purpose to nourish and nurture growth and development in adolescence. Engagement in dieting behaviors, can increase risk for malnutrition, delayed development/growth, and bone fractures/breakage. 

Here’s some ‘go-to’ basic nutritional information surrounding the value of all foods: 

Carbohydrates (no matter the source-whether ‘refined/white’ or whole grains): are broken down by the body and converted to glucose (blood sugar) to help cells have the energy needed to send signals to different parts of the body for functioning; Provide the brain exclusively with the energy it needs to think and process information clearly and effectively; Provides energy for organ/organ systems to run at optimal capacity.

Proteins (no matter if it’s higher or lower in fat content): Provides energy for muscle, cell, and tissue repair, growth, and regeneration (creation). 

Fats (no matter the source-whether saturated (animal sources) or unsaturated (plant sources): Provide energy for body temperature regulation; energy needed for absorption of vitamins & minerals; energy needed for protection of vital organs; energy needed to facilitate hormone balance (develops in adolescence-estrogen, progesterone, testosterone).  

For additional resources and materials surrounding Childhood & Adolescent Nutrition from an Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES) lens, check out:


Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food

By: Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

Born to Eat 

By: Leslie Schilling & Wendy Jo Peterson

Celebrate Your Body (and its changes, too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

By: Sonya Renee Taylor


Poodle Science

Research on Food Exposures:

Written By: Tess M Patterson MS RD LD