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Intuitive Eating: Q&A with Dietitian Evelyn Tribole

Today, I’m really excited to feature my interview with Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, award-winning dietitian and co-author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. I absolutely love this book and think it’s a must-read for everyone.

Nowadays, I think we’ve really gotten away from true healthy eating, and moved to being obsessed with food, fearing food or seeing it as a necessary evil. We’ve equated dieting with healthy eating, even though it’s ineffective and causes us to develop an unhealthy relationship with food in the first place – and to ignore our bodies’ true needs.

That’s why I love the concept of intuitive eating, which I think is a natural way of eating, a way that honors and respects your body. For anyone not familiar with intuitive eating, it’s a way of eating (not a diet!) that helps you create a healthy relationship with food, your body and your mind. Instead of looking to outside cues to eat – like following diet rules, counting calories, eating a salad because your eating plan calls for it, when you’d rather have a steak – you look inward, listening to your body’s internal signals of satiety and fullness.

These are the 10 principles of intuitive eating:

  • Reject the diet mentality.
  • Honor your hunger.
  • Make peace with food.
  • Challenge the food police.
  • Feel your fullness.
  • Discover the satisfaction factor.
  • Cope with your emotions without using food.
  • Respect your body.
  • Exercise – feel the difference.
  • Honor your health – gentle nutrition.

You’ll find a short explanation of each principle here, and the book devotes a chapter to each principle.

If you’d like to learn more about Evelyn and read her fantastic work, please check out her website.

Below, Evelyn talks about becoming an intuitive eater and debunks the various myths about intuitive eating. I’m so grateful to Evelyn for taking the time to answer these questions. I think you’ll find her responses incredibly informative! Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.

Many people think that if they stick to a “sensible diet,” unlike a crash diet, then they aren’t technically dieting. What are your thoughts on this?

A diet, is a diet, is a diet—no matter how “sensible” it claims to be!  (It’s frustrating to see commercial weight loss companies advertising their programs as “not a diet”). Whether you count points or eat pre-packaged low calorie meals—it’s a diet. Consequently, the repercussions are similar!

Several studies show that dieting predicts gaining more weight!  Not only does dieting not work, it creates bigger problems.

How can we become intuitive eaters?

An integral component of becoming an Intuitive Eater is the willingness to be still and listen to what your body is telling you.  (It’s very difficult to listen if you are multi-tasking, sleep-deprived and stressed-out). While there are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, there are three core characteristics:

  • Ability to eating for Physical Rather than Emotional Reasons
  • Reliance on Internal Hunger and Satiety Cues
  • Unconditional Permission to Eat

What are several misconceptions about intuitive eating? For instance, one I’ve heard is that intuitive eating is just another diet.

The first principle of Intuitive Eating is “Reject the Diet Mentality”—so no, it’s not a diet. But I have witnessed many people unknowingly turn it into rigid ideas, such as, “if you eat when you are not hungry, it means you are overeating.”

Intuitive Eating is a flexible set of principles, which teaches you how to be the expert of your own body.  After all, only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Probably, the biggest misconception about Intuitive Eating is that it promotes a “junk food” diet. I believe this perception arises from principle 4, Make Peace with Food, which is about having unconditional permission to eat.

This principle is part of the core of creating a healthy relationship with food, mind and body.  It’s the understanding that one food, one meal, one day does not make or break your health or weight. (There are exceptions, of course, if you have a lethal peanut allergy.)

While there is certainly a nutritional difference between an apple and apple pie, making peace with food is about being emotionally neutral—not associating your food choices with guilt or morality.

It’s not healthy to chronically worry about eating. Today, many people perceive food as something that will kill you or make you fat. (How can you really enjoy eating a food, if you are feeling guilty?)

When you have permission to eat any food, you really get to ask yourself for the first time, do I really want it?  Do I really want this food now?  It removes the “Last Supper” mentality, wherein you eat as much of the forbidden food as you can, because tomorrow there will be another diet.

There’s an area of research called habituation, which describes what happens when you have access to foods.  The more you are exposed to a particular food, it diminishes the desire to eat it.  This has been shown for a variety of foods, including chocolate, pizza and potato chips. However, when someone is chronically on a diet, they don’t go through this normative habituation experience.  Food remains exciting, especially when they go off a diet.

Unconditional permission to eat is not about choosing to overeat.  It’s about staying connected to the eating experience—taste, satisfaction, satiety. Initially, many people fear that if they allowed themselves to eat ice cream, for example, they would never stop and gain a tremendous amount of weight.  But guess what–it gets really boring to eat ice cream, every day, for every meal. (In fact, I had one person, who was shocked to discover that eating an ice cream sundae for dinner was a disappointing experience! It was not satisfying, because she was “meal hungry.”)

The surprising truth for many people is that it feels better to eat healthier meals most of the time.  And when you remove the “forbidden food” factor, those foods are no longer eaten in excess.


Thanks so much, Evelyn, for sharing your insight! Stay tuned for the rest of the interview tomorrow.

Today’s favorite post. Intuitive Eating” by Joy at One Year. 156 Fears. Life Changing. It’s a fantastic blog!

Vote! By the way, I mentioned this a few weeks ago: Evelyn has submitted an audition video for a health show on Oprah’s new television network. The top five audition videos will be finalists for getting their own television show! You can view her audition and vote here as many times as you like (the deadline for voting is July 3rd).

What are your thoughts on intuitive eating?

Intuitive Eating: Q&A with Dietitian Evelyn Tribole

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2019). Intuitive Eating: Q&A with Dietitian Evelyn Tribole. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2019
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