Nothing like a good ol’ benefits of intuitive eating list to bring you out of the dark (read: wretched yo-yo dieting) and into the light (read: no longer freaking out about food). If you didn’t know already, intuitive eating is a set of principles that seek to help you develop a healthier relationship with food, so that you and your plate can live in harmony, not chaos.
This list comes not only from evidence-based science, but also from my own lived experience. Let’s get started.
1. You’re no longer obsessed with food.
You know the kind: those days (weeks?!) when all you think about is your next meal, whether it’s what you’re going to have, or what you aren’t. It’s looking up the menu before you visit the restaurant. Not because you’re stoked about the tzatziki and pita, but because it’s an “out-of-control meal”, and you must. Gain. Control.
With intuitive eating, you fully accept and embrace every food, allowing yourself unlimited access. It is that radical acceptance that quiets the obsessive voice in your head. Bless.
2. It transforms your beliefs from diet mentality to self-acceptance.
When you fully accept an intuitive eating lifestyle, you are positioned to reject the diet mentality. When we live in a diet mentality, we live in a constant state of scarcity, and more times than not, it’s accompanied by low self-worth.
However, when we practice intuitive eating, we not only accept all foods as options, but we accept ourselves as innately worthy.
3. You never have to clean your plate again – unless you choose to.
I hated having to clean my plate when I was younger, especially when I truly didn’t like what was on it. Gone are the days of forcing yourself to eat every last bite. Plus, leftovers are like, a godsend. I wouldn’t give up my next-day lunch to go back to my eating disorder days. No, thank you.
4. Intuitive eating is associated with less disordered eating.
Not much to say here except hell to the yes! Disordered eating is an absolute b*tch, and the concept of intuitive eating is in direct opposition to disordered eating behaviors. More acceptance, less bad habits. We love that for us.
5. It clears up space in your mind for more important things.
I remember when I was in the height of my eating disorder, all I could think about was food. I think back to all the brain space I wasted, all the energy I threw away worrying about my next diet, all the time I lost. It can really bum you out if you think about it, and that’s a good thing. It’s good to be upset about the time you waste on the diet rat race. That awareness helps fuel you to get better.
When you live your life intuitively, you come from a place of inner knowing. That state is effortless, and it lightens the load so that you may focus on bigger things, like your career, your family, or your passions.
6. Intuitive eating can improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take every positive health marker I can get in these trying times.
7. You literally have more time on your hands.
Dieting is like an around-the-clock job. You clock in with your diet, but you never really clock out. Even when the diet ends, you’re feeling shame and guilt for eating foods that were on the “no” list. Once you rid yourself of that responsibility, you open up so much more room in your life for other things. This is one of my favorite benefits of intuitive eating.
What would you like to fill your life with instead of dieting?
8. It can improve depression and anxiety symptoms.
When you’re steeped in diet culture, your mental health suffers. Why? Because you’ll never measure up, even if you lose weight. When you switch the focus from how you look to how you feel, you may find your mental health issues lighten, or even fade altogether.
9. It lets you enjoy the puff pastry, without guilt.
You know the feeling. When you’re eating that luscious, buttery pastry, and something in your mind says you shouldn’t be eating that. Cue the guilt for enjoying a damn bread item. This happens to us daily, and it’s honestly bullshit. Intuitive eating rids you of that. Praise be.
10. You develop other coping mechanisms.
Maybe you have some disordered eating. Maybe you eat through your emotions. Or, maybe you restrict through your emotions. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, you may have developed the habit of using food as a coping mechanism when you’re feeling intense emotions.
One of the benefits of intuitive eating is that food no longer becomes a coping mechanism. When that happens, you develop healthier ways to handle stress. Instead of bingeing, you take a walk. Instead of skipping a meal, you write a letter that isn’t intended to be read.
11. You know what hunger and fullness feel like.
I can remember back in high school, I felt a hunger pang just before dinner. I was shocked, because I truly hadn’t felt hungry in months. This is because I had been engaging in disordered eating behaviors for so long, I hadn’t stopped to allow my body to gently remind me of my next meal time.
When you start to engage with food intuitively, you become more in tune with your body and what it needs. You get the chance to either experience hunger like you haven’t before or the chance to experience fullness like you haven’t before. Those hints our bodies give us are something to celebrate – and honor.
12. It can improve one’s metabolism.
Our metabolism has been used and abused by the diet industry. It’s used as a sort of weapon against us. We must have a high-functioning metabolism or else we’ll GAIN WEIGHT. Jesus.
In reality, our metabolism has nothing to do with dieting. It’s simply the process that breaks down nutrients from food, and the process that builds and repairs our bodies. It allows us to live and to function normally – not to shrink and fit some ridiculous societal standard. Intuitive eating can help it do what it does best!
Yes to a happy metabolism and no to weaponizing it against us.
13. You become more mindful while you eat, allowing you to savor every bite.
One of the benefits of intuitive eating is satisfaction. This work gives you so much more satisfaction than ever before! Instead of inhaling food without coming up for air, completely bypassing the lovely tastes and textures of said food, you let yourself enjoy each bite. Without the guilt surrounding your meal, you fully accept the moment, letting yourself experience satisfaction you hadn’t before.
14. Exercise becomes more joyful and less punitive.
Before intuitive eating, you may have used exercise to “make up for” eating a bunch of calories the day before. Now, exercise is simply exercise – nothing else. You get to work out because of the way it makes you feel, for the endorphins it gives you! Not because it’s something you have to do to make up for how “bad” you’ve been. How about no.
15. You’re less irritable.
When I wasn’t eating enough, I was so angry. Haha! Because I wasn’t nourishing my body with what it needed to function optimally, my mood suffered. Instead of being happy to start the day, I was irritable at all the day’s touchpoints that required me to deal with food. I became so irritated and annoyed that I started to treat others poorly.
Intuitive eating changed that by literally giving my brain the nutrients it needed. It elevated my mood and my tolerance.
16. You develop more self-respect.
When you blatantly disregard your body’s needs, it’s the ultimate insult. You’re literally telling yourself you aren’t worth nourishment and self-care. Intuitive eating helps you develop and maintain respect for your body, because it deserves it more than anything.
17. You get to discover new things and expand your palette.
When nothing is off the menu, you get to try new things you haven’t before! Frog legs? Accepted. Deep-fried Oreo? Accepted. Seaweed salad? Accepted!
18. It helps to stave off binge eating.
Binge eating comes from a scarcity mindset. It’s our body’s way of asking us to stop restricting. When we live in a restrictive mindset, we are doing such a disservice to ourselves. We are physiologically programmed to want to raid the cupboards when we starve ourselves.
Intuitive eating helps our body build back its trust in us. The more we adequately feed our bodies, the more they respond respectfully in kind.
19. It is related to higher levels of interoceptive sensitivity.
To put it plainly, interoceptive sensitivity is the ability to identify and recognize visceral sensations, or bodily signals.
20. It helps you rebuild your body image.
Intuitive eating has been associated with having a better body image. When you’re not feeling positive in your body, you may be more likely to adopt negative and harmful behaviors. Those behaviors can wreak havoc on not only your physical health, but your mental health, as well!
Positive body image is similar to self-acceptance, but it’s specifically focused on the body. When we incorporate intuitive eating principles into our lives, we couldn’t be serving our bodies more! We start to create a beautiful relationship between ourselves and our bodies when we nourish them.
21. Food loses its moral touch.
Before intuitive eating, you may consider foods to be either good or bad. With intuitive eating, you learn that foods are neutral. No food is good, and no food is bad. It’s simply food.
22. You don’t feel as out-of-control with trigger foods.
You know the kind – the foods you won’t keep in the house because you’ll “eat it all”. Those are called trigger foods, because they trigger a primal need to overconsume. This is because you’re enforcing a restrictive experience with that food. Essentially, you’re giving that food all the power of your wellbeing.
Once you start eating intuitively, those foods lose their power. They simply become food.
23. It decreases one’s perception of societal pressure.
Engaging in intuitive eating can make you less susceptible to societal pressures, resulting in overall better well being and less stress.
24. You become less concerned with weight.
That’s the beauty of intuitive eating. It not only opens you up to making peace with food, but it results in being less concerned with your weight overall. Less focus on weight = more focus on important things, like your next career move or your kid’s piano recital.
25. You develop a new sense of awareness.
When you start the hard work that comes with intuitive eating, you start to become hyper-aware of other behaviors. It puts the magnifying glass on everything you do, and it begs you to ask yourself why you do it. This opens up the opportunity for more personal growth. What a growth hack.
26. You discover foods that serve you – and foods that don’t.
When you become more in touch with your body’s responses to food, you discover what foods make you feel good – and which ones do not. This is powerful information to have. Maybe before a big run, you find eating a carb-heavy breakfast helps you run faster and for longer periods of time.
Maybe after eating popcorn, you realize your body doesn’t have an easy time digesting it. Does that mean you stop eating it? It certainly could! Or, you can choose to eat it when you know you’re spending the night at home – so you can enjoy it while saving yourself social embarrassment (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
This is one of the benefits of intuitive eating – truly finding what works for you and what doesn’t.
27. You develop more kindness for yourself.
This new lifestyle will give you self-compassion like you’ve never had before. You are actively changing the way you treat yourself with this process. This is one of the benefits of intuitive eating that is both a beautiful process and a sad one. Beautiful because it allows you to develop trust with yourself, and sad because you realize how harmful your behaviors and thoughts have been.
28. It can be effective for glucose control in pregnant and postpartum women with diabetes.