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10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: Reject the Diet Mentality

This post serves as an introduction to the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating starting with the first principle: reject the diet mentality. The post ends with an exercise to help cultivate  self-compassion. 

Content warning: food and eating disorders

It’s the beginning of 2023, which means you’ve likely been scrolling past social media ads for miracle weight-loss pills, cleanses, and exercise programs. “New year, new you!” – the implication is clear: your body isn’t small or toned enough, and you should be on a diet. 

But have you ever stopped to wonder who benefits from this messaging? Spoiler alert: not you. And not us. By the end of this blog post, we hope you’re just as mad as we are. It’s time to reject the diet mentality once and for all.

Intuitive Eating

This post is the first in a 10-part blog series based on Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s Intuitive Eating research. Tribole and Resch introduced the concept of Intuitive Eating in 1995 and have since published more than 100 studies on the topic. Please note: Intuitive Eating is NOT another diet. Instead, it’s a concept that was created to help you heal your relationship with food by unlearning diet culture and gaining interoceptive awareness (i.e. listening to what your body needs).

Intuitive Eating is guided by the following 10 principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality (the topic of this post)
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  6. Feel Your Fullness
  7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Movement–Feel the Difference
  10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition

Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality

Let’s start with the most important takeaway: diets don’t work–at least, not sustainably. Not only do all diets eventually fail (leading to weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting), but going on a diet is actually a strong predictor of future weight gain.

How many diets have you experimented with? We’ve personally lost count. An estimated 45 million Americans diet every year and in 2022, nearly half of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions were based on fitness while 40% were based on weight loss. Moreover, the National Institutes of Health found that we spend over $30 billion on diet products annually.

That’s right–the diet industry makes money off of products that don’t work, then they somehow evade all blame. Pretty savvy business model, eh?

Dieting increases the risk of eating disorders and binge eating, while reducing self-efficacy and self-esteem. Dieting also contributes to weight stigmatization and body discrimination. 

So, if we know all of this, why do we continuously subject ourselves to food restriction? The answer is simple: Pervasive Diet Culture. This concept is well-defined by Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Food Psych podcaster, and author, Christy Harrison:

Diet culture is a system of beliefs that…

  • "Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin ‘ideal.’
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of ‘health,’ which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their physical and mental health.”

If you choose to begin (or continue) your Intuitive Eating journey, be sure to honor the loss that comes with acceptance. To reject the diet mentality also means to reject the fantasy that you’re only one or two cleanses, or weight-loss pills, away from meeting your “thin ideal.” Since diet culture has taught us to worship thinness, sit with your grief for as long as you need; it’s valid.

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Like most things, Intuitive Eating is not a pass-fail assignment, but rather a learning process. Research shows that self-compassion promotes happiness and builds initiative to change. It also helps folks overcome the biggest killjoys in life: shame, blame, guilt, and criticism. If you have some time, grab a pen and paper and consider taking a few minutes to complete the following exercise (adapted from Kristin Neff, with her permission, for the Intuitive Eating Workbook):

  1. Think about times when you were struggling with your eating. How do you typically respond? Write down what you typically do and what you say to yourself. Be sure to notice the tone of your thoughts–are they harsh and intense or gentle and kind?
  2. If you had a dear friend or loved one who was struggling with their eating, how would you respond? Write down what you would say to your friend. Also note the tone you would use with a friend or loved one–is it harsh or kind?
  3. Is there a difference between the way you would talk to your friend and the way you talk to yourself? If yes, what factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourselves and others so differently?
  4. How might things change if you responded kindly to yourself (like the way you typically respond to a close friend who is struggling)?
  5. Bullying and fear-mongering in the name of health do not work and may actually worsen your health in the long run. Do you use self-criticism and self-bullying as motivators for your eating issues? Reflect on a recent difficult situation with your eating or body. As you call the situation to mind, see if you can actually feel the emotional discomfort in your body. Describe how this feels.
  6. What compassionate words or phrases could you use to replace the inner bully? Think of a kinder, more supportive inner dialogue. It may help to think of what a caring friend would say to you when you are suffering. How does that make you feel emotionally and physically?



Intuitive Eating: A revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, Elyse Resch, MS, RDN

The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, and Tracy Tylka, Ph.D (Foreword) 

Therapist-recommended podcast:

Maintenance Phase by Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon

About the author: 

In addition to being a psychotherapist at Sage Therapy Chicago, Anna Todd, LSW is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.

*Sage Therapy Chicago is considering adding an Intuitive Eating workshop and/or group offering. If this appeals to you, please contact to express interest.