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  • Writer's pictureJoy Shen, MS, RDN

Intuitive Eating

"I cheated on my diet."

"My problem is, I love food too much."

"I need to go burn off my big lunch at the gym."

"I try to avoid all the bad foods."

Do you ever have these thoughts?

My daughter Zoey doesn't. Granted, she's only 2. She hasn't yet been exposed to our diet culture. As her mom, I know I have to be ready to correct all the food rules out there that promote guilt, damage self-esteem, and actually create really unhealthy eating habits. Not to mention ruin the enjoyment of food.

Zoey is an intuitive eater. She hasn't "learned" which foods are "good" and "bad". She isn't expected to finish her plate (or even take one bite, if she really doesn't want to). She runs around because she loves running around, with zero awareness of what a calorie is. When she's hungry, she eats. When she's full, she stops.

The other evening, we were on our way home from the beach and stopped by Whole Foods for a quick dinner. Approaching the hot foods bar, I asked Zoey what she wanted for dinner.

"Chocolate ice cream!" she said.

"That sounds really yummy!" I replied. "But they don't have ice cream here. Let's get some later. We'll get something tasty here that makes you grow big and strong," I said, and added some of her favorite foods to our container.

True to my word, we stopped down the street for ice cream. Ice cream being a family favorite, we already had chocolate ice cream at home. But Zoey had never had a sundae before. I was excited to rock her world.

We sat at the counter at Ruby's Diner, ordered a chocolate sundae, and Zoey dug in...

And ate all of about seven bites. "I be excused?" She asked, as she always does when she's finished, already hopping off the swivel chair and heading towards something else to climb on.

"Did you like the ice cream?"


"Would you like any more?"


When we satisfy our cravings, knowing we can always have more later if we crave it again, we don't overeat. When we think of food as food, without being "bad" or "junk", we enjoy eating and move on to the next part of our day. When we use relationships, interests, and activities to cope with life's difficulties, we don't fall into the trap of binge eating.

Nutrition is complex. I love the biochemistry of it! But eating doesn't have to be complex, once you learn simple guiding (NOT governing) principles.

Confused about nutrition "rules"? Ready to shed the diet war? Make an appointment with me. You deserve guilt-free pleasure of eating!

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