What is intuitive eating, and how do I do it?

What is intuitive eating? I get asked this question a lot, and I do not always find the answer to be simple. Perhaps the biggest premise behind intuitive eating is that food is not the enemy. Intuitive eating is based on getting back in touch with your hunger and fullness cues. It is seeing food as both enjoyment and nourishment, and not something to be dreaded or earned. Intuitive eating honors internal hunger and fullness cues; it is eating when hungry, but not famished and finishing when satisfied. It is giving into cravings that you cannot seem to shake, because maybe your body does know best and is not trying to constantly meet unreachable goals that it never wanted you to set. Maybe your body is trying to make peace with your mind. Through proper nutrition, there is a restored sense of normal eating patterns, which may vary person to person. For me, normal eating includes waking up in the morning and enjoying a hot, relaxing cup of coffee before getting going for the day. It includes my favorite breakfast foods, such as warm, buttery biscuits and sweet fruit. It means being spontaneous for lunch – if I am at work and my friends want to go get fast food, I am able to say yes without contemplation or justification. Normal eating meals feeding my body snacks when I am hungry. It means having pasta, pizza, salad, chicken and veggies, bread, or anything that constitutes food for dinner. It means enjoying a bowl of ice cream or cookies or a hot chocolate before bedtime if that is what my body is asking for. It is seeing food as carbohydrate, protein, and fat that fuels my body. It means not adjusting my food intake or exercise regimen based on what I have eaten or how my jeans fit that day. Intuitive eating is eating without rules, rigid plans, set times, or any external factors. When this happens, there is freedom and peace with food and fitness.

Intuitive eating rejects the diet mentality. It allows one to make peace with food. It consistently and constantly challenges the food police. You must scream “NO!” to the dangerous thoughts in your head that you are good for eating minimal calories or bad because you ate a cookie. Intuitive eating respects the enjoyment factor of eating and fitness. In our constant fury to be “healthy,” we often ignore the vitally important factor of enjoyment, and sacrifice our happiness and health for rigid man-made rituals. One of the most basic gifts of existence is the pleasure and joy that can be found in eating. When the joy in eating is restored, nutrition and health are also restored.

Intuitive eating is finding alternative ways to express emotions without using food as the means. Instead of “stuffing” our emotions by either stuffing our bellies OR restricting food, we must find other methods of relief from negative emotions or stress. Take a walk. Read a book. Take a bubble bath. Go outside. Call a friend. Write in a journal. Find what works best for you and make it a daily task to utilize it for stress relief in lieu of food. We must learn that food is not a reward or punishment.

Intuitive eating and intuitive exercising go hand in hand. Intuitive exercising is respecting your body by celebrating all that it does for you. If you have large thighs, maybe that’s so that they can take you on long hikes or allow you to run in half marathons. Whatever your perceived “flaws” are, use them to build you up. Be a part of intuitive, enjoyable exercise rather than militant, forced exercise. Focus your shift from calorie burning to feeling good about moving your body. Move away from weight as only indicator of success. Observe how your muscles grow when you lift weights and nourish your body properly. Take note of how you no longer feel so out of breath walking up the hill in your neighborhood. Success should be measured subjectively in how you feel, instead of objectively in numbers and measurements.

Intuitive eating and exercising come down to you. They are individualized, personal, and intimate. I cannot tell you how to eat or when to exercise, because one size never fits all. It is up to you to provide yourself with gentle, consistent nutrition by making food choices that honor hunger cues, health, cravings, and taste, while providing an overall sense of wellness and freedom. It is up to you to decide when to move, how to move, for how long to move, and who to move with based on how you feel each day. The best way to be intuitive is to check in with yourself daily – spend time becoming more in tune with your own body and mind, and finding the perfect balance between the two, not letting one or the other fully control you. That’s intuitive eating and exercising, and yes, you can do it.

Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

on earning food

Last week I sat in a lecture listening to a professor/RD talk about snacking while watching television. She innocently mentioned that she and her husband ate an entire bag of chips, so they “had to walk it all off afterwards.” “Thank goodness we got rid of those calories!” she joked. I looked around as other students smiled and laughed with her. I sat motionless. Yet my mind was on fire.

How could an experienced professional in my field make such a comment with no regard to the true implications of her words? She, just like so many other people who surround me, implied that food is bad and must be fought off. It must be exercised off. It must be earned.

Why should we have to earn our food? Do we make our pets earn their food or exercise to “make up” for the calories they eat? Would we tell our best friend that she could only eat a cupcake if she had eaten less than X number of calories so far that day? Would I dare enter a hospital room to see a patient and tell him that he needed to get out of bed and take some laps around the hospital to “burn off” his lunch? We have somehow morphed into a culture where food is simply a privilege. Food is not a necessity.

This food-shaming, exercise-praising culture we now live in is slowly destroying us from the inside out. When we force ourselves to “earn” food, we are simultaneously forcing our lungs, hearts, brains, muscles, and all other organs to “earn” food. They work for us 24-7 in order to keep us alive and able to do all of the things we do in a single day. So why would we punish them by only giving them food (read: energy/ATP) when we feel that it’s justifiable – when it’s on our terms?

We deserve food at all times. Not when it’s convenient. Not when we decide we’ve exercised enough that day. Not after we’ve fasted. Not until our stomachs are growling so loudly it is no longer bearable. Not when we feel that we earn it. Our bodies require energy at all times. It is our job to provide it consistently and regularly in a way that is comfortable, positive, and enjoyable.

I’m sorry if your body’s physiological demands don’t fit into your perfectly planned schedule, weight control regime, or mental rules. I know, I’ve been there. But you really only have one job – and that’s keeping yourself alive and functioning. We go to the doctor’s office when our bodies aren’t functioning properly. We go to physical therapy when our bodies are bent out of shape. We spend hours researching our issues online in desperate hopes of finding treatments. Staying alive and functioning is everyone’s main priority, yet we never seem to start by treating our bodies properly. So let’s start by feeding our bodies appropriately, staying well nourished and hydrated all day long, and exercising when it feels convenient and enjoyable. Let’s ease our minds of the constant counting, calculating, and contemplating. Let’s learn to eat regardless of our plans or agendas. Let’s learn to eat regardless of what or when we last ate or will eat. Let’s learn to eat without boundaries, binding conditions, or terms. Let’s learn to eat regardless of whether or not we “earned it.” Believe me, you’ve “earned it.”

Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

NEDA Week: Recipes for Success

One of the best ways I learned to recover from my eating disorder was through creating and trying new recipes that DID NOT involve fat-free, sugar-free, paleo, low-carb, or “clean” ingredients. As a child and teenager, I loved to cook and found it therapeutic. Once my ED took over my life, cooking became about how few calories I could fit into my meals. During recovery, I challenged myself to develop new recipes that were not modified in any way. These recipes were authentic, using real ingredients and no restrictions.

I would like to share one of my favorite recipes for breakfast: Baked Oatmeal

This recipe is very versatile, as you can add any ingredients or toppings you want. It is so warm, sweet, and buttery with a crispy top and soft inside. I have included some adaptions to the recipe at the bottom of the page. I hope you enjoy this comforting, convenient breakfast as much as I do!


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar + more for topping
  •  5 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 8×8 baking dish well with cooking spray, or alternatively, grease with butter and flour.
  2. Whisk milk and egg together in a large bowl. Add vanilla extract, brown sugar, and butter. Stir until well-combined.
  3. Add oats, flour, baking powder, and salt to mixture. Stir gently until combined.
  4. Pour mixture into greased baking dish. Spread until it is evenly distributed.
  5. Top with approx. 1 tbsp. brown sugar.
  6. Bake for 28 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and slightly crispy.
  7. Serve warm with toppings of choice. I like berries and banana slices.

Banana Bread Version:

  • Add 1/2 cup mashed banana to milk and egg mixture
  • Add 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans to mixture before baking
  • Serve with fresh sliced banana and additional nuts

Almond Joy Version:

  • Add 1/2 tsp. almond extract to milk and egg mixture
  • Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds to mixture
  • Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup shredded coconut to the top of the mixture once in the baking pan
  • Serve with additional almonds and milk

Blueberry Muffin Version:

  • Add 3/4 cup fresh blueberries to mixture
  • Top with 2 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs before baking
  • Serve with additional fresh blueberries and milk


Care to share?Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone