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Intuitive Eating & Mindful Eating: What Are the Differences?

Intuitive eating and mindful eating may appear similar concepts, but there is one key difference between the two when it comes to eating healthily.



There are thousands of food related books and tons of online resources, all trying to convince us how to eat. From the Mediterranean diet and Atkins to intermittent fasting and veganism, there are many dietary ideals people swear by for optimum health.


Truthfully, each one of us is unique, and while we all need the same basic nutrients to survive, our uniqueness extends to our taste and food preferences.


Perhaps you've heard of the buzzwords "intuitive eating" and "mindful eating" thrown around lately. Although these two concepts sound similar, and they do share some concepts, they do have one major difference, which we'll explore in this useful guide as we explain mindful eating vs intuitive eating.


What Is Mindful Eating?


Mindful eating stems from mindfulness which is a concept that teaches us to live in the moment but also to consider all factors that led to a particular moment. Similarly, mindful eating asks people to enjoy a meal or food in front of someone while also being mindful of how the food affects individuals and society.


Harvard Health breaks down mindful eating into several basic tenets:


• Eating joyfully and in the moment, without judgment, and becoming aware of why we eat what we eat.

• Focusing on the body's experiences and sensations when eating food.

• Paying attention to thoughts that come to mind when eating.

• Practicing mindfulness before and after the meal.

• Thinking about where the food came from, how it was grown, how it was prepared, and the cultural significance of the same.

• Noticing internal and external cues that affect how much food is consumed.

• Acknowledging how the body reacts and feels to the consumption of food.

• Expressing thanks for the meal.

• Pondering how food choices affect the world and the local area.


For example, someone might be consuming a meal of pizza. Mindful eating would include:


• How the pizza's texture and temperature feel in the mouth

• Your body's reaction to each bite

• Thinking about where the grains for the dough came from and the energy needed to produce the milk in the cheese

• Traditions behind pizza as a modern American food versus the original Italian dish


The overall goal of mindful eating is to put you in touch with your feelings associated with food to discover a deeper meaning behind what you eat, how you eat, and how much you eat. Studies have shown that applying mindfulness to eating can help someone mitigate the effects of negative eating behaviors, such as emotional eating and binge eating.


Mindful eating is a basic practice, and it's considered a subset of intuitive eating.


What Is Intuitive Eating?


University Hospitals explains that one goal of intuitive eating is for people to eat what feels right for them. Practitioners must be mindful of what they eat, but intuitive eating goes beyond that. The key to intuitive eating is to listen to your body's signals about when to start eating and when to stop eating. You also have to let go of eating for any other reason aside from satisfying your body's need for food. You shouldn't think of food as a way to gain or lose weight in order to alter your appearance. Rather, intuitive eating means consuming the best foods for your physical and emotional health.


Intuitive eating has three core principles:

• Eating for physical reasons and not emotional ones

• Unconditional permission to eat whenever, wherever, and whatever

• Using the body's internal cues for hunger and satiety


There are a few key ideas to keep in mind when eating intuitively. First, reject all diets because they are too restrictive and limiting. A dietary guide, book or medical expert doesn't know you or your body as well as you do.


Second, eat when you're hungry and eat nutritious foods that satiate your appetite. Choose foods that make you feel good and ones that taste good.

Third, be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat. Pause every few bites to gauge how your body is reacting to the food. Take time to enjoy the meal, and don't rush. If you reach a place where you are too full or too uncomfortable, that is a cue that signals you should probably not eat as much.


Lastly, respect how you feel when you eat food. There should be no shame, guilt, or judgment when you eat. Eating is natural.


What Is the Difference Between Mindful vs. Intuitive Eating?


The goals of mindful and intuitive eating are the same: to make us more aware of what we eat and why in order for us to eat healthier. However, how that happens is the one key difference.


Mindful eating focuses on the moment of food consumption. Intuitive eating is a framework for how to eat right for you, your mind, and your body, and mindfulness is part of that framework.


Now that you know what the difference is between mindful vs. intuitive eating, which one do you prefer? How will you incorporate these practices into your daily life?

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