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. 

“I” Statements: What They Are and How to Use Them

Have you ever found yourself frustrated with your partner because they just never seem to really understand what you’re saying? Maybe you’ve tried to gently confront them about something, but end up in an argument. Maybe you try to talk to them, but are always met with the same reactions over and over again, no matter what words you use. Maybe you’ve given up on a particular sticky topic, and have stopped trying to even talk to your partner about it.

If anything above or any similar communication issues are happening in your life, it might be a great time to try out “I” statements!

What is an I Statement?

The formula that I like to use is like an emotionally vulnerable game of mad libs: “I feel (insert emotion word here) when (situation).”

Some examples of this could be “I feel frustrated when the dishwasher isn’t loaded efficiently,” or “I feel happy when we cuddle”, or past-tense “I felt really worried and scared when I had no idea where my wife was all night,” or even a reverse of the formula “Sometimes when I hear loud noises, like the door slamming, I feel nervous and get distant.”

There are SO many ways to use “I” Statements! Even something as simple as “I get mad when I’m hungry” or “That frustrates me,” can be considered “I” Statements! 

Avoid Blaming the Other Person

You’ll notice in all of my examples, I avoid the word “you”. When we use the word “you” while confronting someone, they tend to get defensive and it becomes more difficult for them to connect with and hear what you are saying. One goal of an “I” Statement is to simply let the other person (or people) we are communicating with into our head, to understand what we are going through. Another goal is that we want to transform our communication from me vs. you into me + you vs. the problem

We can avoid using the word “you” by transforming the statement into a bit of a beating-around-the-bush phrase. If I wanted to tell my husband “you loaded the dishwasher wrong,” it would make him immediately defensive and feel blame and shame. To avoid this, I can 1) tell him my emotions and 2) make it about me, not him. An “I” Statement I could use would be “I feel really frustrated and annoyed when the dishwasher is loaded this way.” He is now more inclined to be on my team, to help me with the problem, rather than defending his way of doing things and arguing with me. 

Here’s another example of the beating-around-the-bush way of phrasing an “I” Statement: let’s pretend Noah’s girlfriend, Olivia, is angry that Noah keeps leaving the toilet seat up. She usually approaches him by saying “Ugh, you left the toilet seat up again! You have to stop doing that!” and he never changes his behavior. She would need to let Noah know her feelings behind the toilet seat: “Hey babe, when the toilet seat gets left up, it makes me feel anxious. Then anytime I try to talk about my need for it to be down, my need gets ignored and that makes me feel disrespected and unvalued.” She has successfully avoided the word “you”!

Why Use “I” Statements?

In addition to the previously stated goals of “I” Statements (letting our partner into our head, and turning the conflict into a me + you vs. the problem dynamic), another goal is to get to the bottom of the conversation. Usually, the argument isn’t actually about what we spend time fighting over. The argument is usually about our feelings.

Sticking with the Noah and Olivia toilet seat example, the goal of using that “I” Statement (or here, two “I” Statements in a row) is for Olivia to begin talking about what is really bothering her, because it isn’t about the toilet seat. It’s about an emotion, in this case, the emotions of feeling disrespected and unvalued. Once Noah realizes that his behavior of leaving the toilet seat up is activating Olivia’s feelings of disrespect and being unvalued, he is more likely to have the me + you vs. the problem mentality. By using “I” Statements, we’ve been able to help both partners see that the problem was never the toilet seat. The problem was Olivia’s anxiety, then her feelings of disrespect and being unvalued. 

TLDR (too long; didn’t read)

The formula for “I” Statements is “I feel (insert emotion word here) when (situation).”

Try to avoid the word YOU when using an “I” Statement.

Goals of using “I” Statements include:

  1. let the other person (or people) we are communicating with into our head, to understand what we are going through
  2. transform our communication from me vs. you into me + you vs. the problem
  3. get to the bottom of the conflict (i.e. the emotions)

If you’re interested in working on “I” Statements and other communication issues with me, click here to schedule a session!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like School Time

As the new school year approaches, parents everywhere are excited for their child to begin their first day. Children prepare with fresh haircuts, ‘first day of school’ outfits, and school supplies, yet underneath all their  preparation, they may be struggling with anxiety and apprehension with the thought of beginning school, especially tweens and adolescents moving into middle school or high school. As a child therapist, if I had to name a primary reason for anxiety increasing as school approaches, it would be uncertainty. Uncertainty of what’s going to be expected of them, uncertainty of what the structure is like, uncertainty of  “who’s lunch table am I going to sit at?”  and “how am I going to find my classes?”– all changes that are new and unfamiliar. With the first day of school quickly approaching, it is a great opportunity to check-in with your child and support them with regulating their thoughts and emotions. One effective strategy that builds connection and a sense of control within their new transition can be goal setting for their upcoming school year. 

How does creating goals with my child reduce their anxiety? 

Working with your child to set specific, realistic goals decreases anxiety because it provides a roadmap or structure for them to work in, increasing feelings of control as they enter a new situation. As you model for them how to think with intention beyond the present moment, it is a bonding opportunity as you listen to your child’s stress and beliefs about themselves. Connecting your expectations with their expectations, clarifies what the family values as success versus what they think must be accomplished. For example, there may be some relief when a child hears, “Getting straight A’s in all your AP classes is really challenging. What do you feel that you can accomplish? How can I support you with that?”” By creating a target that is reachable, it decreases your child’s irrational thoughts about how the next grade level is too challenging or that they are not “good enough” because they now feel capable and more motivated to meet expectations. As author Amanda Morin states, “When your child begins to decide what they want to accomplish, they’re more likely to be motivated to complete things for their own satisfaction and learning, rather than for the satisfaction of others or for tangible rewards”. 

How do you begin the goal setting process with your child?

When creating goals with clients and their families, I often start the conversation with defining the word goal. How can a child create a goal or be engaged in conversation if they do not actually know what a goal is? Amanda Morin states, “..a goal is something that a person wants to achieve. A goal is realized after a person puts a plan of action in motion that makes their intention a reality.” Using this as a base, we discuss different goals that engage my client’s interests, for example, a goal that my client has for his basketball season. Then, we discuss ideas on how to accomplish the goal. After some simple examples, I introduce the concept of a SMART goal. 

What is a SMART goal? 

At times, parents have approached me with thoughts that their child doesn’t have realistic goals or that they are not motivated to do school work or help around the house. Goal setting can be a powerful strategy, but your child needs to feel connected toward their goal and that it has a purpose. In addition, they need guidance on how to develop goals so the strategy is supportive. SMART is an acronym that contains five key elements to effectively create and succeed at a goal.

A SMART goal is..

  • Specific: The goal is clear and has an end so you know when you have reached it.
  • Measurable: You can track progress on your goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal is challenging, but you are capable of meeting it.
  • Relevant: Your goal is interesting to you or is a skill you want to learn.
  • Time-bound: You have a deadline to complete the goal by.

How do I begin? 

There are many online worksheets and activities to support you and your child with creating SMART goals. 

After learning about my clients’ overwhelming thoughts and emotions about their upcoming school year, I created my own SMART goal activity for us to use during our session. As they created goals related to their personal life, relationships with their peers, and their academics, we formulated them into the sentence starters below:

My goal is to ________________________ (specific) by ___________________(timeframe)

I will accomplish this goal by ___________________ (things/steps you can do to achieve this goal). 

Accomplishing this goal will _______________________ (result/benefit/why is this goal important to you?) . 

Of course, we saved time for them to add some creative touches. Children left their session feeling more relaxed with positive thoughts about their school year, and had plans to put them in a place where they look often, like a school agenda. In addition, every client was happy to share their goals with their parents. It was a great planning tool and I feel confident that it can create some powerful conversations with your child. 


“5 Tips for Setting Smart Goals as a Family.” Waterford.Org, 24 Aug. 2022,,which%20they%20should%20help%20define

Leonard, Kimberlee. “The Ultimate Guide to S.M.A.R.T. Goals.” Forbes, 11 May 2022,

Morin, Amanda. “How to Set Goals for Your Child This School Year.” Verywell Family, 23 June 2022,

Paulus, Daniel J, et al. “Mental Health Literacy for Anxiety Disorders: How Perceptions of Symptom Severity Might Relate to Recognition of Psychological Distress.” Journal of Public Mental Health, 2015,

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