a plateful of food containing fruits of all colors representing the many options of intuituve eating

How 'Intuitive Eating' Can Make Sure That You Never Fall Prey To Any Fad Diets

Diets are designed to fail. Here's how to build a lifestyle conducive to eating intuitively.

Jourdan Travers, LCSW

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | December 1, 2023

Food is an integral part of our lives, going beyond mere sustenance. It is often intertwined with emotions, cultures, relationships and meaningful life experiences. However, in a society where diet culture prevails and external pressures dictate eating habits, building and maintaining a healthy relationship with food can be challenging.

A 2021 study published in The Journal of Psychology found that both underweight and obese individuals report lower self-compassion, well-being and mindful eating behavior. Researchers highlighted the importance of mindful eating behavior and self-compassion in healing restrictive and harmful mindsets around food that can exist regardless of one's body weight.

Here are the two key strategies that facilitate a more intuitive and nourishing connection with food, according to the study.

1. Engage In Self-Compassion

One of the most important steps in creating a healthier relationship with food is unlearning food-related judgments and becoming aware of mental restrictions and criticisms of one's eating habits and body.

Food is often labeled as either "healthy" or "junk," creating a dichotomy that fuels feelings of guilt or shame associated with eating certain foods, which in turn can create disordered eating patterns. For instance, food intake may be severely restricted or used excessively as a coping mechanism to deal with negative feelings.

It is important to challenge ingrained beliefs about food by reassessing the language one uses around eating. Instead of demonizing certain food groups and glamorizing others, consider how all types of foods offer unique benefits and can fit into your diet, offering nutrition, feelings of joy or even a special moment with family at the dinner table.

Additionally, a concerning relationship with food often involves self-criticism and berating oneself for not eating "clean" or having the ideal body type one would like. Practicing self-compassion is crucial in unlearning food judgment and negative self-talk.

It is normal to want foods that are conventionally deemed less nutritious. Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy these foods without attaching guilt. By removing the moralistic labels from food, you can empower yourself to make choices that honor both your physical and emotional well-being.

Research shows that self-compassion helps reduce body dissatisfaction and emotional eating. It also reduces shame and encourages a more gentle, understanding attitude, where every food choice is not scrutinized. To cultivate self-compassion around food, acknowledge that your worth isn't defined by what you eat. Approach each meal as an opportunity for self-care and nourishment rather than a test of your willpower.

Here are some important self-compassionate reminders around eating.

  1. Foods are not "good" or "bad" and each food group has something essential to offer.
  2. You do not have to earn your food through exercise or wait until "cheat" meals to eat foods you like.
  3. You are not defined by your weight or eating habits.

2. Practice Eating Mindfully

Research shows that intuitive eating is a much healthier practice than dieting and is associated with fewer maladaptive eating behaviors, increased fruit and vegetable intake and greater psychological well-being. Here are some core tenets of this practice.

  • Mindful eating. Mindful eating encourages being fully present and paying deliberate attention to the eating experience by slowly savoring the tastes, textures, aromas, colors and sensations of chewing and swallowing. This fosters a deeper connection with one's body and an awareness of how different foods feel and impact it. It also helps rediscover the joy of eating, allowing you to choose foods based on pleasure and nourishment rather than fear.
  • Rejecting diet culture. Unlike rigid diets prescribing strict, often unsustainable food rules, intuitive eating encourages unconditional permission to eat and respects the body's wisdom in guiding food choices. Moreover, learning about nutrition from qualified sources helps in understanding the importance of variety and moderation in diet. It empowers individuals to make informed choices rather than succumbing to societal pressures or fad diets.
  • Honoring hunger and fullness. Intuitive eating encourages tuning into internal hunger and fullness cues without judgment. Before eating, assess your hunger levels. While eating, periodically check in with your body to determine if you're comfortably satiated. Learning to honor these cues helps in preventing overeating or undereating, promoting a balanced relationship with food.
  • Cultivating self-awareness. Notice any self-critical or negative thoughts that arise while eating. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging the thoughts, emotions and bodily cues present before, during or after eating and how they may be impacting you. Additionally, notice if you solely rely on food to manage emotions such as stress or boredom and explore alternative coping mechanisms like journaling or grounding exercises to make food choices from a more emotionally regulated mindset.


In a society inundated with fad diets and unrealistic body standards, self-compassion and intuitive eating offer a refreshing paradigm shift. By unlearning food judgment, individuals can liberate themselves from restrictive, guilt-driven eating to an empowering, compassionate and mindful approach towards food that also incorporates nutrition, movement and self-care.

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