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Mindful Eating or Intuitive Eating: Which Should I Choose?

A few months ago I wrote about the differences between mindful eating and intuitive eating. Now that the dust has settled from your mind being completely blown by the fact that they’re two different (but related) concepts, you might feel like you’ve been left wondering which you should choose.

When I was first drafting this post, I thought I had a clear-cut answer, but reading Lilia Graue‘s very nuanced comparison of mindful eating and intuitive eating really threw me in for a loop. Like Lilia, I will start with my own biases:

My introduction to weight-inclusive work came from the intuitive eating framework. The Food Psych® podcast served as the catalyst for me to shift toward this paradigm, and I have received additional training as a certified intuitive eating counselor. In contrast, I don’t have any formal training in mindful eating, but would say I have a fair amount of knowledge from The Center for Mindful Eating, my yoga teacher training, and in researching for The Mindful Eating Workbook. Though I recognize the Buddhist roots of mindfulness, my own understanding of mindfulness and mindful eating definitely comes from a secular place.

I will also note that in her article, Lilia distinguishes between “intuitive eating” (a more general framework) and “Intuitive Eating” (as outlined in the book). I would say while I draw a lot from the book, as well as authors Evelyn Tribole’s and Elyse Resch’s other work, the way I share intuitive eating with my clients is probably more like lower-case intuitive eating, and I flow between it and mindful eating in my day-to-day without really distinguishing between the two.

How to Decide between Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating

As I wrote in my previous article, both practices are similar in that they are both weight-inclusive practices that emphasize using our internal cues (versus external rules) to help us make decisions around our eating. To add to the confusion, I personally believe that intuitive eating is impossible without some degree of mindfulness. There is definitely more similarities and overlap between the two approaches, which is what makes this difficult as a “choice.”

If I had to present these as a choice (which I guess I forced myself into by writing this post in the first place), I feel that intuitive eating offers more structure through its 10 principles. It is also more explicit with some of its goals, such as rejecting the diet mentality, and making peace with all foods. By contrast, mindful eating puts more emphasis on curiosity, compassion, and being in the present moment.

With that in mind, if you have specific struggles that can be addressed through intuitive eating, like letting go of food rules or internalized diet talk, and you want them to be addressed in a more specific, structured way, then intuitive eating would be the place to start. On the other hand, if your concerns aren’t specifically targeted by intuitive eating, or you are interested in a more reflective, less structured way of learning, then mindful eating might be more for you. Again, that’s not to say that once you start one, you’re stuck there; most people intuitively and mindfully figure out the concepts from each that work best for them. (See what I did there?)

Do you practice intuitive eating and/or mindful eating? If so, how did you decide which to choose, or where to start? If not, why not? How would you describe your current eating pattern, if at all?

4 Comments

  • Susan on May 21, 2019 Reply

    Very clear & easy to understand. My question is about how to use intuitive eating &/or mindful eating when you have Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Lori on May 09, 2019 Reply

    Insightful as ever. Thank you for that. When I first rejected the diet mentality and was intentional about accepting my body I spent a lot of time in online communities around both intuitive eating and mindful eating. What I’m currently working on is a wacky hybrid of all of the above. I’m working on living my whole life being mindful and present, not just eating. Intuitive eating makes sense, except when it doesn’t. And it still makes sense to me to limit certain things when it comes to food. I don’t feel the need for a label and whatever I decide today I can undecide tomorrow if it’s not working for me. I’ve never felt so in charge of my diet and my relationship to food. I’m not where I want to be with it, but I’m not where I was. Progress, not perfection. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Vincci Tsui on May 21, 2019 Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lori!

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