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How to Explain Intuitive Eating to Skeptical Friends and Family

intuitive eating Aug 01, 2022

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Have you ever tried to explain intuitive eating to someone who just doesn't get it? It can be frustrating, especially when they're close to you, and you want them to understand.

Intuitive eating can confuse many friends and family constantly on the hunt for the latest and greatest dieting trend. They want to lose weight quickly and easily, without any effort. But, unfortunately, the idea of listening to their bodies and eating what they wish to can leave them feeling like they're going to get the results they don't want - weight gain.

As an intuitive eater, you know that diets don't work. And, you recognize that intuitive eating is a much more sustainable way to eat that doesn't require counting calories or following an overly restrictive diet. Because you've learned to ditch the restriction for a more intuitive approach, you've developed the ability to eat what you want in moderation.

But trying to explain this to someone who is dead set on following a diet can be tricky. So here are a few tips on explaining intuitive eating in a way your skeptical friends and family will understand.


What is Intuitive Eating, and How Does it Work?

You're not alone if you've ever felt like a hostage to your diet. For many people who come to intuitive eating, it comes from recognizing that no matter what you eat or how much you exercise, you can't lose weight. The reason is that diet culture - a belief system that worships thinness and equates it with health and moral virtue - has us believing that to be healthy, we need to restrict our food intake and be hyper-vigilant about calories.[1] But intuitive eating has shown us that there is, in fact, another way.

Intuitive eating is an approach developed by Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, focused on honoring your body and hunger cues. It's about listening to your body's needs and eating accordingly - without judgment or shame. Intuitive eating means being flexible with your food choices and letting go of the "good" vs. "bad" mindset around food.


How to Start Intuitive Eating

While it may sound simple, intuitive eating can be a challenge for people who have been dieting for a long time. This is because our natural intuition around food has been suppressed by years of restriction and calorie counting. But with some practice, relearning how to trust your body again is possible.

Here are a few tips that can help you get started:

  1. Eat when you're hungry - not when the clock says it's time to eat.
  2. Ensure you're hungry before you eat - not just thirsty or bored.
  3. Honor your fullness signals - stop eating when you're satisfied, not stuffed.
  4. Listen to your body's cravings - if you're craving something specific, there's a reason!
  5. Don't feel guilty about foods - all foods can fit into a healthy diet.
  6. Be kind to yourself - negative self-talk only makes things worse.

And as a special bonus, I highly recommend investing in the Intuitive Eating Workbook, a step-by-step guide that can support you on your journey to becoming an intuitive eater. The critical thing to remember is that intuitive eating is a journey, and there is no "right" way to do it. The most important thing is to be patient and gentle with yourself as you learn to trust your body again.


How to Explain the Benefits of Intuitive Eating to Skeptical Friends and Family Members

As an intuitive eater, you probably already know all the benefits: better mental health, improved physical health, increased energy levels, and more. But how do you explain the benefits of intuitive eating to skeptical friends and family members?

Here's a quick rundown:

  1. Intuitive Eating Helps You Make Healthier Food Choices: As I've already mentioned, intuitive eating is about listening to your body's natural cues. Research has shown that intuitive eating can help shift away from restrictive dieting and emotional eating.[2] Additionally, when you eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, you're bringing awareness to what and why you eat. As a result, you get the nutrients your body needs to thrive instead of eating the minimum to survive.
  2. Intuitive Eating Improves Overall Well-being: It can also help to boost your energy levels and increase your overall well-being. In addition, intuitive eating has been linked with lower heart disease and diabetes rates. Therefore, intuitive eating helps people develop a healthy relationship with food, the mind, and their body.[2]
  3. Intuitive Eating Improves Quality of Life: Intuitive Eating has been shown to have several benefits for your mental health. Intuitive eating interventions have increased body satisfaction and self-esteem while reducing depression and anxiety.[3] Even though intuitive eating can take some time to get used to, it's worth it in the end.

So there you have it: the benefits of intuitive eating in a nutshell! Friends and family may be initially skeptical, but they'll likely come around once they see the benefits of intuitive eating. If they don't, it is essential not to let them prevent you from doing what you know works best for you.


Frequently Asked Questions About Intuitive Eating

Even though I've highlighted the benefits of intuitive eating above, that might not be enough for some people. You might be surprised at the number of questions you get from your friends and family about your new approach to eating. Here are some of the most common questions and answers you might encounter.

Q: Isn't intuitive eating just another fad diet?

A: Intuitive Eating is not a diet; it's a way of eating that honors your body's natural hunger cues. The thing that differentiates intuitive eating from a diet is that the focus is not on equating thinness with health and moral virtue, as you'd see with diet culture. Instead, health is seen with intuitive eating as far more holistic and not determined by a person's size, weight, or shape.

Q: Won't I gain weight if I eat whatever I want?

A: Not necessarily. You may naturally gravitate towards healthier eating when you listen to your body's hunger cues. Further, we eat more than we intend because we constantly restrict our food choices. Once we start doing the opposite, we often find the cravings that we often feel towards certain foods lower as we're not permitting ourselves to eat them.

Q: But what if I start craving unhealthy food?

A: There's no need to deny certain foods unless you have an actual food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity to that food. If you do have a craving, try to satisfy it healthily. For example, take a bite of that French fry you've been craving. Instead of quickly eating it, let it sit on your tongue before you chew. Let your body savor the taste, the flavor, and the texture of that food before you swallow it. You will be amazed how much more satisfying and how little you will eat certain foods become when you bring your full awareness to eating at that moment.

Q: Isn't intuitive eating just an excuse to overeat?

A: No! Understanding your body's hunger cues is about learning to eat when you're hungry—not eating for the sake of it. Furthermore, many people eat more than they intend when they first start intuitive eating because they've been so restrictive. Once you learn to reconnect with your hunger and fullness cues, you'll become better able to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're becoming full.

By keeping these FAQs in mind, you'll be better prepared to answer any questions that come up—and continue on your journey to intuitive eating.


There You Have It!

Intuitive eating is different for everyone. For example, some people must completely overhaul their relationship with food to make intuitive eating work. In contrast, others find that making minor tweaks helps them develop better intuition about their body needs.

Therefore, giving your friends and family some grace as they learn to navigate what you're already learning is a more sustainable approach to food. Instead of seeing their skepticism as a threat, look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity not only to share how intuitive eating has worked for you. But, a chance for you to recognize that this lifestyle approach isn't for everyone. And that's okay!

I also know that you might be brand spanking new to intuitive eating or frustrated that you haven't figured out how to make this work for you. If you're curious about trying out intuitive eating, I have a quiz to help you find the right approach for your unique situation. So what are you waiting for? Take the quiz and start living life by your own rules!



  1. Teich, J. (2021, January 29). The Unbearable Weight of Diet Culture. Good Housekeeping.
  2. Carbonneau, E., Bégin, C., Lemieux, S., Mongeau, L., Paquette, M. C., Turcotte, M., Labonté, M. È., & Provencher, V. (2017). A Health at Every Size intervention improves intuitive eating and diet quality in Canadian women. Clinical Nutrition, 36(3), 747–754.
  3. Logel, C., Stinson, D. A., & Brochu, P. M. (2015). Weight loss is not the answer: A well-being solution to the "obesity problem." Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 9(12), 678– 695.