Beginner's Guide to Intuitive Eating

What are the first steps to becoming an Intuitive Eater?

Intuitive Eating can feel really overwhelming in the beginning. 10 Principles? Changing the way I eat entirely? Learning to understand my internal signals about what and how and when to eat? For someone who’s used to dieting or following guidelines about eating, this enormous change can feel scary, confusing, and almost impossible.

I hear the same concerns over and over again:

  • If there are no rules, how do I know what to eat?

  • If I let myself have whatever I want, I’ll gain weight at lightning speed!

  • Will this out of control feeling around food ever end?

So, how do you get started becoming a confident, happy intuitive eater when it feels so difficult?

Presenting...A Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating: How to approach your new relationship with food and your body in a gentle, easy, sustainable way without getting overwhelmed or eating Oreos for every meal for the rest of your life.

Step 1

Become aware of your food rules, and work to dismantle external influence over how and what to eat.

No eating after 7:00pm? Chocolate only on Saturdays? Only salads for lunch? We've all got 'em, but you have to give yourself full permission to eat. What the rules do is keep you in "supposed to" mode rather than thinking about what you need or what you'd like to have. They tell you to trust someone else more than you trust yourself. Intuitive eating is about reconnecting with yourself and listening to your body, so these rules gotta go!

Make a list of all your diet rules. Every single one...even if you think it’s for health or nutrition. Stay very away of these rules every time you plan a meal. Make an effort to eat according to your own desires and needs, rather than some external guideline.

Step 2

Curb cravings and out-of-control feelings by having hearty, well-rounded meals with foods you enjoy.

Do you feel overwhelmed by cravings or eat like there's no tomorrow? Chances are, you've created feelings of deprivation from dieting. Sometimes it can be physical -- like you actually need more calories or some kind of nutrient that you're missing -- but most of the time it's psychological.

All the rules and restriction have created this crazy emotional reaction to food, so you eat even when you're not hungry and feel super vulnerable to specific foods (especially the ones you've restricted or had rules about in the past).

Be sure to eat until you’re satisfied at each meal, and have snacks to prevent overwhelming hunger. Allow yourself to enjoy foods you really love -- even if you’re eating larger quantities of them than you’re comfortable with, just allow it to happen. It won’t last forever...I promise.

Step 3

Try to be present for your meals, so you avoid eating past the point of comfort.

This is different than eating without distraction. I don't know about you, but there is literally never a time I am without distractions. This is about just paying attention to what you're doing so you don't zone out and lose touch with your signals. In order to honor your hunger and stop eating when you're full, it's helpful to eat a little more slowly than you might be used to and think about the way your body feels from time to time throughout the meal.

Consider sitting down to eat, and thinking about the texture and temperature of the food you’re eating while you chew.

Step 4

Make efforts to improve your health and the way you feel without using weight-loss as a marker of success.

Focusing on weight loss prevents real progress toward health. When people want to feel better and improve their health, they frequently decide to go on a diet. Doctors are even in on this gag. Here's why it's a problem: weight loss is a huge challenge, you're quite likely to fail at it (like, at least 95% likely), and there's no guarantee that it will improve your health. Real health comes from behaviors and lifestyle, not a number on the scale.

If improving your physical condition is a goal, focus on specific things like exercising, getting adequate fiber, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your health that don’t revolve around weight-loss.

Step 5

Improve your overall self-care, to show yourself some respect.

If you aren't happy with your body, I bet you don't treat it very well. The bottom line is: if you look and feel like crap, you're going to treat yourself like crap. If you look and feel the very best that you can, regardless of your size, you are going to want the best for yourself. You need to receive a clear message that you are worthy and deserve superb treatment. The better you feel and look, the more motivated you will be to take great care of yourself in every way. How do you like to be pampered? What do you really deserve? You will feel so much more confident when you show yourself some love and affection.

Consider adding some weight-neutral self-care into your routine: buy some new, comfortable clothes that fit perfectly, take a hot bath, give yourself a pedicure, or maybe just spend some time noticing and appreciating all the different parts of your body that work so well.

Intuitive Eating is the path to freedom for so many people who’ve struggled with dieting and self-loathing. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the information and principles; just get started healing your relationship with food, and focus on slow, steady progress. It’s certainly not a quick fix, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.

If you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to seek support or more resources. There’s an Intuitive Eating workbook available now, many free support groups on Facebook, and several professionals working in this specialty. If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey, consider my Making Friends With Food program. Find more information at

Looking for a little daily support? Download my free Body Positive Affirmations.

Teddey HicksComment