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How to Become an Intuitive Eater

4. Practice mindful eating. There you are, in front of the fridge at 9 p.m., noshing on leftover Chinese right out of the container, with no recollection of how you got there. It’s called “eating amnesia,” where the unconscious, hand-to-mouth action of feeding yourself becomes so automatic that, before you know it, you’ve wolfed down a whole box of cookies. Become fully aware of the act of eating. Always put your food—including snacks–on a plate. Then sit down at the table, remove distractions like television, and observe your plate. Notice the colors, textures, shapes and smell for 30 seconds to a full minute before you take the first bite.  As you eat, notice the chewing action of your jaw, the taste of the food, how it feels moving down your throat and into your stomach. It’s such a pleasant practice, it will soon become second nature.

5. Be in your body. Many of us walk around all day in a state of half-awareness, not really present in the room, on the earth, in our bodies. And when we’re not in our bodies, we can’t tell if we’re hungry or when we’re full.  How often are you aware of your body? Tune in right now, as you read this, and check in, starting your toes and moving up through your body. Pause at your stomach, and notice how it feels. Is it empty, or satisfied? Does it feel rigid and tense? Numb or dull? Or is it soft and relaxed?  Once you become intimate of your stomach’s sensations, you can begin to identify true hunger.

6. Pause. When you experience a craving for food, just stop and observe it. Don’t try to make it go away, but don’t indulge it. Sit with the discomfort of the craving. It may become intensely distressing, even painful; that’s okay. Stay with it, and notice what comes up. You’ll often find a vast ocean of emotions like fear, anxiety, even grief, under the craving for food. It’s a powerful exercise—but quite illuminating, and sometimes life-changing.

7. Be happy now. Maybe you’ve been postponing your happiness until you lose ten pounds, give up sugar or eat more greens. But the happier you are now, the more likely you’ll be to stick to your eating goals. The “do-have-be” mindset tells us that success breeds joy when, in fact, it may be the other way around. Once you’re able to accept yourself exactly as you are, you’re more likely to achieve your dietary goals, and less likely to eat from stress, depression or anxiety.   And anyway, there’s no point in postponing joy. Be happy now; the rest will come.


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Lisa Turner

Lisa is a chef and nutritionist with more than 30 years of professional experience and formal training in food, nutrition and product development. She’s written five books on food and nutrition and is the creator of The Healthy Gourmet iPhone app, and has been a featured blogger for many national sites, including Huffington Post and Whole Foods Market. Lisa is a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and also teaches food and nutrition classes and workshops to individuals and corporations. She's a black belt in Ninjutsu, an active volunteer in the Boulder Valley school lunch system, and an avid wild food forager.


+ add your own
8:47AM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Interesting thoughts, especially the bit about putting everything you eat on a plate, even snacks. It's easy to forget the things you graze on whilst standing in front of an open fridge. (It would probably help if I weren't eating chocolates whilst reading this article.)

1:36AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

Excelent article!

11:03AM PDT on May 3, 2011

Thank you a lot for this article. I have quite a problem with my eating habits, there's very often stress underneath my hunger and it's very hard to help and overcome it, because I don't know a different way to deal with it. I upsets me.

10:53AM PDT on May 2, 2011

Excellent article and advice. Now, where's my notebook?

10:08PM PDT on May 1, 2011

now that was fabulous info! finally something that "speaks" to me and my fat body, YAY!

also, you did not chop up the article into wee bits and pieces so i could go back and forth and didn't have to spend an hour extracting it from the clutches of my dial up dis-service.

you're the woman!!!

3:18AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

Interresting information,

4:30PM PST on Dec 28, 2010

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. To Anthony P: so when you crave chocolate, you know it's the chocolate you're craving. That's great. Eat it, in small quantities, with great awareness of eating it (which it sounds like you already do...) But for some people, that examination gets really interesting. They crave a cookie, but for them, eating cookies causes emotional distress, physical discomfort, and so forth. So they stop and ask: am I really hungry for a cookie?

Sometimes, even often, the answer is no. And when it is, going underneath the craving can be richly rewarding, in terms of discovering other needs, desires or craving. It's a deep practice, and you have to be up to it, but it's pretty cool when it happens...

3:08PM PST on Dec 28, 2010

I'm going to give this a try, thanks!

3:46PM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

Good advice. People would be surprised, I think, to find out the difference in following some of these simple guidelines can make in their lives.

2:40AM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

You are really nice and that is why you have provided so nice, effective and useful information over here. I will definitely utilize the information that you have shared over here and I am sure that other people will also like to utilize this information as it is so effective.
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