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Intuitive eating and mindful eating are two different ways of looking at food and your relationship with it. Intuitive eating is about trusting your body to tell you what, how much, and when to eat. Mindful eating is about being more aware of the food you’re eating and how it makes you feel. Both approaches can help you develop a better relationship with food, but they approach the issue from different angles. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, read on to learn more about the difference between mindful eating and intuitive eating.
Is intuitive eating and mindful eating the same?
No. Intuitive eating and mindful eating are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things.
Mindful eating is all about creating awareness around your eating experience. This means being present while you eat, paying attention to your hunger cues, and being mindful of what you’re putting into your body.
Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is a comprehensive framework for ditching the diet mentality. It’s about giving yourself permission to eat what you want, when you want it, and trusting your body to tell you when it’s had enough.
How are mindful eating and intuitive eating similar and different?
Although they are different, mindful eating and intuitive eating can compliment each other. For example, mindful eating can help you become more attuned to your body’s hunger cues, which can in turn help you make better choices when it comes to food.
Both concepts are similar in that they can help you develop a healthier relationship with food. They both:
- Use a nonjudgmental approach for observing and understanding food choices
- Help you reconnect to your body and listen to your internal cues (instead of external cues, such as dieting)
- Provide non-diet tools to heal your relationship with food
As you can see, mindful eating and intuitive eating are both approaches that focus on improving your relationship with food. However, there are some important differences between them. While mindful eating is a great way to become more aware of your eating habits, intuitive eating is the best way to break free from the diet cycle and make peace with food.
Here is an infographic that helps explain these differences better:
Importance of intuitive eating
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch define intuitive eating the following way: “Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and over 100 studies to date“.
Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that is based on becoming attuned to your own hunger, satiety, and preferences, rather than following strict diet rules. This weight-inclusive approach has been shown to be more effective than dieting in terms of both long-term weight stability and overall health.
Intuitive eating can help you to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, as well as improve your relationship with food and your body. It is a flexible approach that can be adapted to fit your individual needs, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it.
If you can learn to eat intuitively, you’ll not only improve your relationship with nourishment, but also your emotional well-being.
Intuitive eating benefits
Some benefits of intuitive eating include (1):
- Improved body image
- Increased confidence
- Decreased anxiety and depression symptoms
- Improved mental health
- Improved physical health (blood pressure and cholesterol levels)
- Reduced risk of eating disorders (2)
Intuitive eating also allows you to develop a healthy relationship with food and your body by helping you to:
- Focus on your hunger and fullness cues, rather than calories or portion sizes
- Find pleasure and satisfaction in food again
- Reduce feelings of guilt and shame around food
- Understand your own body and what works for you
Mindful eating benefits
Some benefits of mindful eating include:
- You are more likely to eat slowly and be present during your eating experience, which can help you eat in a more connected way.
- You are more likely to pay attention to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness, which can help you learn to eat to comfortable fullness and satisfaction.
- You will be more aware of how certain foods make you feel, which will aid you in developing body wisdom .
- Mindful eating can help you connect with your food on a deeper level, leading to a more positive and healthy relationship with food.
There are a number of benefits to mindful eating, including:
- Improved digestion (3)
- Reduced stress and anxiety (3)
- Decreased emotional eating behaviors (4)
- Reduced binge eating (5) and disordered eating behaviors
What are mindful eating techniques?
Mindful eating techniques refer to a set of practices that help individuals focus on their food and eating experiences. These techniques can promote attuned eating habits, as well as improved body image and self-esteem. Some common mindful eating practices include:
- Taking the time to eat slowly and mindfully, without distractions such as TV, smartphones or work. This allows for greater appreciation of the food and its flavors.
- Paying attention to the physical sensations of eating, such as the taste, smell, texture, and temperature of the food.
- Avoiding judgement or criticism of oneself while eating. Instead, try to simply observe thoughts and feelings about food without reacting to them.
- Sitting down at a table when you eat, and taking the time to chew and savor your food well.
Mindful eating can be a helpful tool for anyone looking to improve their relationship with food. By taking the time to focus on your experiences while eating, you can learn more about your own individual preferences and food needs. Mindful eating can also help to reduce stress and anxiety around mealtimes, making meals more enjoyable and relaxed occasions.
How do I start practicing mindful eating?
In the paper Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat, (6) the following exercise is suggested to begin practicing mindful eating. This exercise is intended to help you focus on various aspects of the moment-to-moment experience.
“The focus on the sensual experiences of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste elicits full awareness of food in the moment. This process does not tell you what to experience; it only suggests that you notice your own experience.”
- Take a raisin (or some other dried fruit) and place it in front of you.
- Imagine that you have just been dropped off on this planet and you know nothing about where you are. You have never experienced anything on Earth. Without experience, there are no judgments, fears or expectations. Everything is new to you. Take a few deep breaths and relax.
- Look at the raisin and pick it up.
- Feel its weight.
- Examine its surface: the various ridges, the shiny parts, the dull parts; really exploring this strange object for the first time.
- Smell this object and see how you react.
- Roll the raisin between your fingers and listen to the sound it makes. Note its stickiness.
- Notice how you feel about this object.
- Place the raisin between your lips and hold it there for a few moments. What do you notice happening inside you?
- Let it roll back into your mouth, but don’t chew it yet, just roll it. Is there flavor? Are you salivating? What do you want to do?
- Okay, bite, just once. What did you notice?
- Start chewing slowly, noticing what each bite brings.
- Chew more raisins until they are completely liquefied before swallowing them.
- After swallowing, close your eyes for a few moments to notice the effects of what you just experienced.
Try this exercise with various foods and see what you learn about yourself! Writing in a food journal can also help you better understand your own eating patterns.
So, what’s the difference between mindful eating and intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is a process that includes mindfulness as one part of it, while mindful eating is a standalone practice that can help support your intuitive eating journey. Both approaches have their own benefits, so it’s important to find what works best for you and experiment to see what helps you develop a healthier relationship with food. Have you tried incorporating mindfulness into your intuitive eating journey? If not, give it a go – I think you might find it useful!
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…