Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating For Long-Term Weight Control

March 13, 2024

Intuitive Eating For Long-Term Weight Control: You may have heard the research. Up to 2/3 of people who lost weight on a diet plan not only regained the weight lost within a year, but many gained even more. In fact, consistent food restriction through dieting has been shown to be a risk factor for obesity and eating disorders. And yet, the diet industry continues to boom, and every year, millions of people make resolutions to start a new diet.

 This year, why not try something different? 

One of the most effective strategies for long-term weight loss and maintenance is not a diet or exercise plan. Rather, the key lies within your ability to identify and manage your hunger and satiety through lifestyle change. The practice is known as intuitive eating. 

What is Intuitive Eating

Let’s start with what intuitive eating is not. It is not completely letting go of all control over your food intake. It is not: eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Intuitive eating is an opportunity to honor your body and make peace with food. This means learning to understand your body and its needs and to enjoy your food. If this sounds of interest to you, consider taking a few weeks to discover intuitive eating. Its key principles are:

  • Reject diet mentality,
  • Honor your hunger,
  • Feel your fullness,
  • Rediscover satisfaction,
  • Cope with your emotions and triggers,
  • Respect your body,
  • Movement is your PAL, and
  • Focus on your health and wellbeing.

Getting Started – Identify Your Hunger

For many, the ability to identify hunger may prove challenging at first. There are different types of hunger, such as emotional hunger, taste hunger, experience-sharing hunger, and energy-seeking hunger. Physical hunger, or that gnawing feeling in your gut, is the most basic.  To retrain your brain to identify all of its hunger cues, you may want to enlist a Hunger Fullness Scale. Make a mental note of your hunger before eating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely hungry and 10 being painfully stuffed. After eating, rank your feelings again. Your goal is to aim for a neutral feeling or sensation of mild fullness within the middle of the range.  See the Hunger/Fullness Scale graphic to guide this practice.

Letting Go

Intuitive eating is an opportunity to let go and free yourself from the constraints of restrictive eating through dieting. When we stop dieting, we leave behind feelings of deprivation and subsequent urges to binge. With unconditional permission to eat, you are able to make peace with food and toss aside “food rules” like no dessert, no gluten, or no sugar. 

Food is Not Good or Bad

Dietary restriction often labels foods as good or bad. Often referred to as the food police, adherence to ideas of good vs. bad foods leads to anxiety, guilt, and distrust of the inherent feelings of hunger and satiety. When we accept that food is just food, it loses its power, and you are no longer tempted to set aside your positive behavior changes after indulging in a food you perceive as “bad.”

Feeling Your Comfortable Fullness

Many people struggle with identifying fullness or satiety, particularly frequent dieters or those suffering from eating disorders. Fullness, like hunger, has different levels. When we honor our body, we aim for comfortable fullness, or when feelings of hunger are gone but the body is still comfortable. A simple exercise to identify these feelings is to think of meals or snacks that allow for comfortable fullness. Try a snack of cheese and fruit or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.  After eating, notice how your body feels – neither hungry nor very full. 

Enjoy Eating

Yes, food should be enjoyable. Eating should make you feel good. Rather than focusing on the freedom to eat processed foods and desserts, think about the foods that give you the most pleasure AND make you feel healthy and satisfied. Yes, these foods may include sweets or salty snacks, but you are likely to favor more healthful options when you are focusing on how you feel. When you give yourself permission to eat what you really want, you may find that satisfaction comes much more easily.

Coping with Your Emotions

Feelings are often closely linked to eating. Learning to feel your feelings and address your needs beyond food can be challenging, but ultimately an important part of intuitive eating. Think of other areas of life that offer pleasure and satisfaction. Is this bag of chips what you really need right now? Are you masking your true feelings? Think for a few minutes before you reach for that snack, and give yourself permission to have what you really want.

Respect Your Body

In a perfect world, we would all appreciate all the wonderful things our bodies can do. Each one of us is unique. Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and no one is better than another.  Unfortunately, the world around us bombards us with ideals created to sell products (and yes, diet plans and drugs). Refocus on gratitude for your health, your body, and your unique beauty.  We are all worthy of love and admiration.

Movement is Your PAL

Movement can be as simple as the physical activity of living (PAL). The human body was designed to move. Our brains release chemicals when we move that make us feel better. Regular movement has been shown to improve depression and mood swings, lessen bone and muscle loss, and increase metabolism. Find your most joyful form of movement anywhere and at any time of day.

Focus on Health, not Perfect Nutrition

Rather than trying to eat only “healthy” foods, make room for a wide variety of foods. When food restrictions are lifted, you may find you prefer having an apple for a snack or a salad at lunch. This is evident when you focus on foods that make you feel your best. 

By taking this non-diet approach to eating, you are not only freeing yourself from self-imposed restrictions, but you are also embarking on a path toward self-awareness and self-care.

Karen Kruza, MPH RDN LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Owner of Kruza Nutrition.

Intuitive Eating


Karen Kruza, MPH RDN LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Owner of Kruza Nutrition, where she focuses on weight management and medical nutrition therapy for GI disorders for adults and children. Karen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and West Chester University, earning a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics, and a Master of Public Health Nutrition, summa cum laude. In addition to private practice, Karen is a professional grant writer and author of the food and nutrition blog, True Food Feed. She is a Trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Political Action Committee (PANDPAC).