What Is Instinctive Eating?


When you eat instinctively, you respond to your body’s needs for fuel and nourishment.


This is in contrast to overeating, when you eat due to habits or triggers, and restrictive eating, where you eat according to the rules of a diet.


The classic example of Instinctive Eating is a child. Children are born with the instinctive ability to know exactly when and how much to eat.


The good news is that we all started out this way.


You may eat instinctively if you:


  • Manage your eating effortlessly
  • Usually eat when you’re hungry (you just know when your body needs food)
  • Usually stop when you’re satisfied (even if there is food left on your plate)
  • Eat whatever you want (hopefully making healthy choices)
  • Live an active lifestyle (this may or may not involve a regular exercise program).



Applying the Mindful Eating Cycle to Instinctive Eating Patterns


If you’re not yet familiar with the Mindful Eating Cycle, it’s a series of questions we use to investigate food habits:


  • Why?
  • When?
  • What?
  • How?
  • How much?
  • Where?


Read about the Mindful Eating Cycle in more detail here.


Ok, now let’s use the Mindful Eating Cycle to explore Instinctive Eating.



WHY Do People Eat Instinctively?


The purpose of eating is to fuel and nourish your body.


WHEN Do People Eat Instinctively?


You typically eat when the physical signs of true hunger strike and the food you’re hungry for is available. You just know you need to eat.


WHAT Do People Eat Instinctively?


You select the food you’re hungry for or what you think is best and most satisfying from what is available. You may be conscious of nutrition and other factors when making your food choice (though not always).


HOW Do People Eat Instinctively?


You eat with the intention of feeling better when you‘re done than you did when you started, so you are attentive to food and your body. You’re more likely to enjoy your food in a calm, non-rushed, non-distracted atmosphere.


HOW MUCH Do People Eat Instinctively?


You eat until you’re comfortably satisfied; that may mean going back for seconds if you want, or it may mean leaving food on your plate.


WHERE Does The Energy Go When People Eat Instinctively?


Your energy goes toward work, play and exercise. Mental energy can be focused on daily tasks and goals; emotional energy can be focused on your relationships and feelings, and your physical energy can be directed towards your activities.


Any leftover fuel is stored until it’s needed.


Why Instinctive Eating is Beneficial


Instinctive eating allows for the body’s true needs to govern food intake. Instead of eating too much or too little, the body takes in just what it needs.


Once the fuel from food is depleted or stored, the symptoms of hunger develop, triggering a desire to eat, and the cycle repeats itself.



How To Eat Instinctively


The key to training your mind and body to rediscover instinctive eating is mindfulness.


Eating mindfully is not just about counting how many times you chew! It’s a holistic approach to food that includes everything that happens before, during and after each meal.


I would love to share this revolutionary approach with you in my Mindful Eating Program. Enrolments are now open! I invite you to join me in this 8-week transformative mindful eating workshop.



1:1 Mindful Eating Health Coaching


If you would prefer an individualized health coaching experience, I would love to invite you to a free 20-minute health breakthrough session to discuss your diet, lifestyle and goals. Book yours now.


Please feel free to reach out to me for guidance around mindful eating.


Read more about mindful eating on my blog.