Intuitive Eating

By Julie Alvira, MD, MBA

Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Can you do that? It’s hard. But, like everything, it’s a skill that can be learned. Of course, it’s easier to try another diet that will work for the short term. If you’re lucky, it may last for the long term. However, the best way to lose weight is to stop the diet mentality.

Breaking out of the diet mentality helped me feel good about my body, connect to it, develop better eating habits, and achieve freedom from food. During my pregnancy 18 years ago, I gained almost 70 pounds. I wanted to lose all the baby weight to once again fit into my little shorts and jeans.

Even though I lost everything in six months by restricting myself and counting calories, it’s been hard to maintain the weight. Losing weight is not as hard as keeping it off. Through the years, I’ve experienced episodes of stress, emotional eating, and cravings due to everyday situations and life events. Add hormone fluctuations during my period and being in the years of pre-menopause to the mix and it’s been challenging not to gain weight. Can you relate?

Several years ago, I learned how to calibrate my body by connecting with it by recognizing true hunger versus cravings, becoming aware of my thoughts at a particular moment, and by learning to manage those thoughts and the emotions that are created by them. I didn’t know I was practicing intuitive eating, but with these efforts, I finally achieved freedom from food.

That is why I don’t do any diets. I don’t believe you have to restrict yourself from food. It’s better to develop the skill of making a choice of having something or not. And it’s fun! Often, individuals tend to blame themselves if a diet goes wrong and feel awful after deviating from the plan. After eating something they weren’t “supposed to,” they’ll beat themselves up. Usually the thought of “I failed” follows with intense feelings of failure, which activates a cascade of events.

You can develop a good relationship with food. Of course, if you’re intolerant or allergic to different ingredients or can’t eat certain foods because of a medical condition, be mindful. But make sure it’s a choice you do for you. If you want to eat foods like ice cream, cakes, etc., you learn to have the choice and give yourself permission to consume those foods. Not because you “can’t”, or it says somewhere that today that’s not on the menu you’re supposed to follow. We live in a society where most individuals are disconnected from their bodies. It’s time to get back to yourself and accept your body. Intuitive eating helps with this concept.

Mindful Eating vs. Intuitive Eating

I’ve written before on mindful eating, which is, among other things, paying attention to what you’re eating and the experience of that moment without judgment. Also, it’s good practice if you’re a multitasker because you have to stop doing everything and enjoy your eating moment. It helps you develop better habits and opens your senses when choosing food. You will see now that it gets a bit confusing because it overlaps with intuitive eating. Let’s see.

While intuitive eating includes some of the characteristics of being mindful, it’s more complete. You learn how to stop having the diet mentality, manage your emotions with being kind to yourself, and accept and respect your body as is. You’ll also develop the habit of being more active in terms of adding some form of exercise such as walking, etc. It also helps you become aware of your body in terms of hunger versus satiety; become aware of your thoughts at that moment helping the emotional versus physical component (mindful), while helping you to develop freedom around food.

It’s not a tool to lose weight, but if you practice the concepts that are involved, you may lose weight. If you eat only when you’re hungry and not because of an emotion that was developed by a thought, you won’t overeat because you’ll be more attuned with yourself. I will talk a bit more about overeating in another article.

Remember to always consult your physician before trying anything new related to your health.

“Fall in love with taking care of your body.”

Julie Alvira, M.D., MBA Healthcare Management, is the founder of Coach Dr. Julie, LLC – Physician Life and Weight Loss Coaching Services. You can find her on Facebook as Coach Dr. Julie or via email at