Intuitive Eating and Rethinking Nutrition by a Michigan Intuitive Eating Counselor

Updated: Aug 27


Intuitive Eating and Rethinking Nutrition by a Michigan Intuitive Eating Counselor

Nutrition is an important factor in improving health and preventing disease. However, a fixation on nutrition without a healthy relationship with food will not set you up for success. This is why the first eight principles of Intuitive Eating center around improving your relationship with food. Too much attention on nutrition too early can be reminiscent of a diet and that’s the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.


Intuitive Eating principle #10: Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition


It can be overwhelming to think about improving nutrition! As a holistic nutritionist and certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I see people who are confused by it every day. And no wonder! With the sensationalist nature of the news and diet culture, one magazine will report that a particular food will kill you one day and save you the next. It’s hard to know what to believe and how to make sense of everything.


We are going to start simple.


So far, you have worked hard on changing your relationship with food and focusing on how the food is making you feel, and honoring your hunger and fullness cues. You’ve learned that literally no food is off limits. You’ve practiced freeing yourself from counting calories and macros. (If you are still struggling with these skills, you may not be ready to pursue gentle nutrition- and that's okay! Go back to earlier principles and come back to this one later).


Gentle nutrition is not another form of dieting, nor is it restricting foods. In fact, it is more about adding more vitamin and nutrient-rich foods rather than forbidding any other foods. Since food is not “good” or “bad,” you do not have to be concerned about doing this “right” or “wrong.”


Focusing on nutrition means being attuned to how food makes you feel.

You do not give attention to any external validation. No calorie counting, no opinions from anyone else. Simply how the food makes you feel.


Realize you’ve gone a couple days without many vegetables? That’s totally ok. The creators of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (2020) assure us that “It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.229).” They later clarify that the published nutritional recommendations are NOT meant to be strictly followed daily, but rather are “intended to be an average over time (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.239).”


At this point, it could be helpful to recap that healthy eating:

  • Is not moral/has no good/bad designation

  • Does not involve emotion (no guilt, shame)

  • Does not have forbidden foods

  • Includes variety, moderation, and balance

Gentle Nutrition Respects Taste

Eating healthfully does not mean choking down brussels sprouts (or any other disliked food) “just because they’re good for you.” Part of working through the Intuitive Eating process is knowing that nutrition and taste are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Tribole and Resch (2020) emphasize that nutrition must consider taste!


Gentle Nutrition Involves Eating Enough Food

Intuitive eaters eat enough food. They are attuned to their bodies’ hunger and fullness cues. One tenet of gentle nutrition is that you must eat enough of what you need. However, that doesn’t exclude any food groups!


Gentle Nutrition Adds More Nutrient-Rich Foods

A goal of gentle nutrition is to increase vitamin intake so your body is fueled properly to do all of the amazing things that it does! This could look like bringing in more fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins, or carbs. Drinking enough fluids is also part of nutrition.


Gentle Nutrition Might Mean Working with a Nutritionist or Registered Dietician

Some people genuinely have to reduce or restrict certain foods because they impact their body’s functioning negatively. If you are impacted by Celiac Disease, Diabetes, GERD, Irritable Bowel Disease, or another medical condition, it would benefit you to work with a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist. Your certified Intuitive Eating Counselor can help you integrate the Intuitive Eating principles with your medical needs. Getting help can make this less overwhelming.


Gentle nutrition is a process.

As with the other principles of Intuitive Eating, gentle nutrition is not pass/fail. It occurs gradually. You add more whole foods in. However, you don’t feel any guilt if you want that boxed mac and cheese.


Overall, gentle nutrition is a way for you to stay attuned to what your body needs and to make informed food choices. And then you let yourself be satisfied with your choices. If you need to make different choices, then you observe that without judgment or guilt.


Creating a non-dogmatic view of nutrition can be difficult and confusing, but it is also so rewarding, liberating, and empowering! If you’d like some help in your process of integrating gentle nutrition, please reach out to our team. You deserve it!



 

References:

Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin's Essentials.





 

Michigan Intuitive Eating Counselor

Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.


Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.