Mindful eating vs. intuitive eating, which is best for you? That is a question that many people are asking, and one that I asked myself after spending years hopping from one diet to another.
The idea of taking a mindful or intuitive approach to eating was something that both interested me and terrified me:
- Firstly, I was interested in how I could make this work for my lifestyle when every diet I have ever tried had failed.
- Secondly, I was terrified about how I could make either style of eating work without gaining back all the weight I had lost.
While I have certainly seen many articles speak to the first point, it's the second point that I notice few people talk about.
That is unfortunate because it's a concern that when not addressed can prevent people from moving away from harmful dieting approaches that can result in (1):
- Lowered metabolism,
- Fatigue and nutrient deficiencies,
- Reduce fertility,
- Weakened bones, and
- Lowered immunity.
If you're currently experiencing any of the above, you know all too well that continuing to do what you've been doing is only going to make matters worst.
I will not pretend that either is a magic pill, they both can certainly help you create healthier eating habits that will allow you to achieve your health and wellness goals.
While there are some similarities between the two, there are also some very clear differences. Those differences will really determine if you're right for one or the other.
That's why in this post, I'm sharing with you the differences between mindful eating and intuitive eating, and how to know which is best for you!
What is Mindful Eating?
According to the Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating helps us (2):
- Bring full attention and awareness to one’s food choice and the experience of eating, without judgment,
- Become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations related to eating,
- Reconnect to our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.
In other words, mindful eating is primarily focused on awareness, which is achieved by being present while you are eating.
What is Intuitive Eating?
- Reject the Diet Mentality - Letting go of the idea that there is a new or better diet for you.
- Honor Your Hunger - Keeping yourself feed with adequate energy by honoring your biological signals.
- Make Peace with Food - Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.
- Challenge the Food Police - Challenging the thoughts in your head that certain foods are either good or bad.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor - Discovering the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in eating.
- Feel Your Fullness - Trusting that you will give yourself the foods that you desire.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness - Finding ways to cope, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues.
- Respect Your Body - Accepting your genetic blueprint so you can feel better about who you are.
- Movement (Feel the Difference) - Getting active and feeling the difference.
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition - Making food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good.
Essentially, intuitive eating is focused on honoring your health which is achieved by listening to what your body needs physically and psychologically.
What are the Similarities?
What mindful eating and intuitive eating have most in common are:
- Being present when you're eating: Whether you have a history of working while you're eating or you struggle to stop eating before you're full, being present when you're eating is essential for developing healthier eating habits.
- Eating without judgment: Taking the morality out of your food choices is crucial for both mindful eating and intuitive eating because it allows you to use food for what it's intended - nourishment and satisfaction.
- Trusting yourself with food: Learning that you can trust yourself to make the best food choice for you at that moment is an important step in helping you have a healthier relationship with food and your body.
What are the Differences?
The key differences between mindful eating and intuitive eating are:
Key Difference #1:
- Mindful eating is rooted in an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations related to eating.
- Intuitive eating is integration between our mind and body as it relates to our overall health.
In essence, mindful eating specifically focuses on eating whereas, intuitive eating takes a more holistic approach that is focused on your overall health.
Key Difference #2:
- Mindful eating is a weight-inclusive approach that discourages mindful eating practitioners and teachers from making assumptions about a person's health based on their body or shape (4).
- Intuitive eating is a weight-neutral approach that encourages people to liberate themselves from the prison of diet culture and weight obsession.
Intuitive eating takes a very strong anti-diet stance focusing on the person liberating themselves from the clutches of diet culture. Whereas mindful eating narrows in on how health professionals can take a more non-stigmatizing, body-affirming approach to health services.
Key Difference #3:
- Mindful eating is about bringing your full attention and awareness to the moment in which you are eating.
- Intuitive eating is about removing the obstacles and barriers that keep you from getting your physical and psychological needs met.
Essentially, mindful eating is about being more aware of your food choices. In comparison, intuitive eating is about establishing a healthier relationship with food.
Which is Best for You?
Now that you know the similarities and differences between mindful eating and intuitive eating, here's how to figure out which is best for you:
- What are you struggling with right now: There are immense benefits to both approaches, so it's important to understand what you're currently struggling with and how one approach might benefit you over the other.
- Do you consider yourself more weight-inclusive or weight-neutral: Neither approach looks at weight as a determinant of health, but there are some nuances between weight inclusivity and weight-neutrality that you might want to consider when choosing an approach.
- Where are you in terms of trusting yourself with food: Having a healthy relationship with food is essential. If you're someone who struggles to be present with your food, you likely will resonate more with mindful eating. In comparison, if you find that you have a love/hate relationship with diet culture, intuitive eating will likely resonate with you more.
There you have it - mindful eating vs. intuitive eating! I hope that this has helped you not only learn more about these eating approaches but given you some insight in deciding which approach might be best for you!
When you're ready for support to help you start eating more mindfully, book a complimentary Clarity Call today!
- Petre, A. (2017). 5 ways restricting calories can be harmful. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/calorie-restriction-risks.
- The Center for Mindful Eating. Mindful eating. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org.
- Tribole, E. (2018). What is intuitive eating? https://www.intuitiveeating.org/what-is-intuitive-eating-tribole.
- The Center for Mindful Eating. Position statement on weight inclusivity. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/Position-Statements
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