Intuitive Eating:

“Intuitive” eating is a term used to describe when a person who is suffering from eating disorders should listen to, or rely upon, their hunger cues to intuitively know when to eat or stop eating and understand what they should eat based upon cravings. Up until recently, it had been hailed as one of the most effective ways to explain listening to the body’s hunger cues and attempting to regulate them again after the tumultuous trials of a body that has struggled with an eating disorder. The problem here, for example in my own experience, is when someone has been suffering from an eating disorder they have taught themselves, learned to push back, ignore, or otherwise no longer be able to respond to hunger cues that tell when to stop and start eating naturally. For me, this happened because I got so used to having an empty stomach, always being hungry, and always feeling a little bit faint. I never knew when I was hungry or when I was full (or too full). I always felt as if I was too full, thanks to a distorted image of myself and a disconnection from my own body. I had stopped listening to my body long ago and taken on my own, harmful, agenda that seemed to make sense and be “healthy” when I started.

Conscious Eating

Conscious eating, however is using knowledge and awareness to learn to listen to the body’s signals, incorporate education about nutrition, take in relevant health information, AND eat the foods you enjoy. The beauty of this approach is that ANYONE can be a conscious eater, even those on meal plans who are just starting recovery. Some helpful and clear guidelines to follow are listed in Carolyn Costin’s, 8 Keys to Recovering from an Eating Disorder:

  1. Be conscious of your hunger. Eat when moderately hungry and not famished.
  2. Eat regularly. Do not skip meals.
  3. Allow yourself to eat all the foods
  4. Eat what you want (being conscious of how foods make you feel & taking into account relevant health information)
  5. All calories are equivalent (a calorie is a calorie!)
  6. For meals, eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates
  7. Stay conscious of your fullness and satisfaction. Texture and taste of food is important for satisfaction.
  8. If you do overeat, it is OK to wait until you eat again. Just don’t wait too long
  9. Enjoy food and the pleasure of eating (You can enhance your dining experience with candles, nice dishes, flowers, etc.)
  10. Make conscious choices to avoid foods that make you feel physically bad after eating them. (Pg 134-135.)

Now, these things do not come right away naturally. The person with the eating disorder may come to these steps gradually, which is okay. We did not get sick and begin suffering from an eating disorder over night, nor shall we be cured so quickly.

However, having my own humble experience to go on, I can say that each one of these guidelines was a measurable way to notice growth toward healthy eating and relationships with food in my life and getting to the point where eventually, I triumphantly noticed somewhere along the way my hunger cues were back! I was again in tune to listening to my body. I now enjoy eating a variety of foods. I truly enjoy eating the foods that I want! That includes enjoying the textures of foods which add to an overall satisfaction. Being satisfied and full can be a beautiful experience! Everyone has to eat nutrients to survive. It’s a fact. But if that was all that mattered, we would probably all eat MRE’s or astronaut food as a friend once put it to me. No, food is an integral part of life and the human the experience! I remember the first time I learned to prepare food with other people, while talking and laughing, perhaps listening to music, and then we all sat down and enjoyed the tastes, smells, and textures of what was served. I tried out restaurants with friends I had never ventured to before, and perhaps sat out on the patio at sunset. I learned that food can be equated with overall wholeness and joy. What a wondrous change!


If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, know that recovery is possible. You’re not alone and we’re here if you’d like additional support in finding your own path to recovery. Call or text 210-502-7222 or send us a message here.