Looking for an Intuitive Eating Coach but unsure where to start or if coaching is even right for you? I get it. It can be overwhelming! Intuitive Eating is a complex topic with many nuances. To further complicate the matter, everyone seems to have conflicting opinions on the subject, whether they understand it or not!
It can be hard to understand what Intuitive Eating is and even harder to know who to trust with so many conflicting opinions. Then trying to practice Intuitive Eating in a society obsessed with dieting just adds an extra layer of complexity!
A good Intuitive Eating Coach can help clear up the confusion and be a source of support and guidance on your Intuitive Eating journey.
In this post, I’ll cover what an Intuitive Eating Coach is, how to find a good coach, and everything in between!
Table of Contents
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet framework that works to heal your relationship with food and body by cultivating trust and awareness within your body.
It was created in 1995 by two Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s an evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and about 150 studies and counting.
Intuitive Eating is based on 10 Principles that work to either improve or remove obstacles of body awareness and cultivate sustainable habits that add to both your physical and mental health.
What is an Intuitive Eating Coach?
An Intuitive Eating Coach is an expert trained in Intuitive Eating who practices from a weight-neutral approach and will help you feel your best physically and mentally.
Despite the current belief, Intuitive Eating coaches are not anti-weight loss but instead are anti-pursuit of weight loss. This is because weight loss is primarily an uncontrollable factor, and focusing on weight loss can undermine other goals like improving health markers, enhancing dietary quality, or improving body image.
Focusing on weight loss typically results in an overconcern with bodyweight leading to increased body dissatisfaction, cycling between over-restriction and over-eating, and continual weight fluctuations.
In contrast, Intuitive Eating Coaches focus on a holistic approach that includes physical and psychological well-being as well as individual preferences, goals, and lifestyle. Intuitive eating focus on controllable behaviors.
Rather than rules, meal plans, and restrictions, Intuitive Eating Coaches help you use your body’s internal wisdom by adding nutrition and movement in a way that feels best for you.
That doesn’t mean that if you desire weight loss, you can’t work with an Intuitive Eating Coach, but more on this in a bit.
What Does an Intuitive Eating Coach Do?
So if an Intuitive Eating Coach doesn’t do weight loss diets and meal plans, what do they do? Here are some aspects of Intuitive Eating Coaches that differ from traditional weight loss coaches:
- We focus on Health Gain versus Weight Loss.
In our society, weight loss is synonymous with health. The primary construct is the bigger someone is, the more unhealthy they are, and the main way to improve health is to lose weight.
However, the truth is that health is far more complex than weight alone. Poor health can affect people of all sizes, losing weight doesn’t guarantee improved health, higher weight doesn’t always equal worse health, and you can improve health without changing weight.
When people desire weight loss, it’s usually a proxy for something else, such as having more energy, lowering blood pressure, or improving body confidence. Intuitive Eating Coaches dig into the true goal rather than masking it with a weight loss goal.
- Counseling vs. Telling.
Most people know what they should do or what they want to do, but actually implementing it and changing habits is SO much more than just knowing what to do.
Intuitive Eating Coaches don’t just tell you what to eat or give you a meal plan to follow. If that actually worked long-term, the next “big diet” wouldn’t keep coming out every few months.
Behavior change is complex. Intuitive Eating Coaches are typically trained in multiple counseling modalities to help you change your behaviors and habits sustainably, rather than just telling you what to do.
- You have autonomy over your choices.
With Intuitive Eating Coaching, you’re in the driver’s seat, and your coach is just navigating to help you find the smoothest path to your destination.
Ultimately, if there’s something you don’t want to do or doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to do it.
You’re the expert of your body. You know yourself and your lifestyle, goals, and preferences best. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. A coach can give you information and direction, but you know what works best for you.
- We’re not anti-weight loss, just anti-pursuit of weight loss.
As I said above, Intuitive Eating Coaches are not anti-weight loss. If you lose weight following Intuitive Eating, that’s likely what your body needed. We don’t shame that, but we also don’t praise it.
This is because bodies change naturally over a life cycle, and smaller isn’t always better. If you get praise for your smaller body, you may feel inclined to maintain that, even if it’s no longer healthy for you. It also keeps the focus on your body, and there are so many other qualities about you that are more important than how you look.
Instead, we keep it weight-neutral and focus on overall health-promoting habits and body acceptance. We strive to make an inclusive space for all bodies.
However, we would never judge you if you desired weight loss, and we don’t expect you to want to give up diets or a desire to lose weight automatically. How realistic is that in a society that values thinness and discriminates against fat?
Plus, as I said, we believe in body autonomy. If you’re educated on the risks and realities of pursuing weight loss and/or you’re not ready to work on body acceptance and Intuitive Eating, that’s perfectly acceptable and OK. We give you the tools to make the best decision for you and help you talk through it from all angles, but ultimately you decide.
- We still discuss weight and your weight concerns.
Your body weight can impact everything from how you’re treated in society, the healthcare you receive, your weight control history, your body image, and more.
It’s vital to have these conversations and how to navigate different situations. As an Intuitive Eating Coach, we’re here to help you through any difficult situation with empathy and support, including your desire for weight loss.
- We do a lot of body image work with you.
Overvaluation of weight and shape is the underlying cause of many maladaptive practices. While working on relationship with food and exercise is important, body image work may take center stage with your Intuitive Eating Coach at some points in your journey.
Intuitive Eating Coach vs. Counselor vs. Dietitian vs. Therapist
So, what exactly is an Intuitive Eating Coach, Counselor, Dietitian, or Therapist, and what is the difference between them?
With a rise in popularity, it seems like everyone is an expert in Intuitive Eating (and has an opinion on it). However, a true Intuitive Eating professional has gone through the training and certification process with Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND and has become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.
Intuitive Eating Coach is often used interchangeably with Intuitive Eating Counselor since coach can be a less intimidating word than counselor. However, some people call themselves an Intuitive Eating Coach without being certified.
You can ensure that someone has gone through the training and certification process by checking the Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory. This is a list of all the health professionals who have gone through extra training to become Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors.
In order to qualify to become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, you must be an allied health professional, which entails having a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field and credentialing or licensing in a health-related field. That includes but is not limited to registered dietitians, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, etc. So, you may hear an Intuitive Eating Counselor go by their respective title, i.e., an Intuitive Eating Dietitian.
How to Choose an Intuitive Eating Coach
So you decided you want to try Intuitive Eating, but there are so many Intuitive Eating Coaches out there! How do you decide on the right one for you? Here are some steps you can take to ensure a good fit:
Step 1: Check Credentials
Many people are co-opting Intuitive Eating language since it is growing in popularity. However, just reading the book doesn’t qualify you to counsel other people. So, the first step to choosing a good coach is to check out the Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory to ensure they are adequately trained.
This is an essential step. Intuitive Eating has a lot of nuances and complexities. You may understand the principles, but actually implementing them in your life can be a lot more challenging. If you hit a sticking point, a coach can help guide you through it and be a support system.
Step 2: Choose the Type of Health Professional That Can Provide the Support You’re Looking For
Various health professionals are qualified to be trained in Intuitive Eating, from dietitians to psychotherapists. Intuitive Eating Counselors stay within the scope of practice of their respective fields, so choose the modality you seek help with.
For example, a Registered Dietitian can help with all things related to nutrition and diet, including medical nutrition therapy for disease management. An Intuitive Eating doctor can provide you with medical care using a weight-neutral approach. Ask yourself what type of help you’re seeking and which professional can best assist you.
Step 3: Check out Their Website and Social Media
The final step is to check out their online presence. What type of content are they putting out? Does it resonate with you? Can you get a sense of their coaching style from their content?
Take the time to research them and get to know them. Choose a coach that aligns with your priorities and values.
Check out if they have a screening process such as an application or free introductory call. A good coach doesn’t work with every single person or allow their schedule to fill up beyond capacity. It’s not just about making money for them.
They want to ensure that it’s a good fit for both you and them. They want to make sure they’ll be able to help you reach your goals. If they don’t feel equipped to help you, their schedule is full, or you’re looking for help outside their specialty, they may refer you to someone else in their network.
Similarly, they want to allow you a space to ask any questions without obligation to make sure it’s a good fit for you too. Working with a coach is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A good coach knows that and allows you the space to make that decision without pressure.
Should You Choose an Online Intuitive Eating Coach?
Over the past couple of years, online, or virtual, coaching has taken off. There are pros and cons to coaching online instead of in person. There’s no right or wrong answer, it just depends on what you’re looking for!
Pros and Cons of Working with an Online Intuitive Eating Coach
You can do your sessions from anywhere and save on drive time.
|Lack of person-to-person interaction |
Non-verbal cues (i.e., body language) can be important in nutrition counseling, and you miss out on this via telehealth.
|Increased Access |
Often you have access to messaging so if a question pops up, you can get it answered the same day rather than waiting until your next appointment.
|Internet, phone, or email connections are not always secure |
You will need to ensure your coach is using a HIPAA-protected system for record-keeping and communication if working online.
|You don’t have to live in the same state|
Telehealth opens doors to work with anyone in the world. Distance is no longer a barrier.
|Technology can malfunction |
Let’s be honest, technology does not always work the way we want it to!
|More ways to communicate |
You can talk via phone, video, text, etc. making it easy to get in contact with your coach.
|Telehealth may not be covered by insurance|
Telehealth coverage varies from state to state and some states don’t even cover nutrition therapy at all. If insurance coverage is important to you, this is something to look into.
How to find an Intuitive Eating Coach Near You
If you prefer working with an Intuitive Eating coach in person, you can find someone near you in the Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory. Using the directory, you can sort by location or name.
Intuitive Eating Coach Qualities to Look For or to Avoid
With so many different people claiming to be an expert or authority on a topic, it can be hard to distinguish who is credible and who isn’t. Here are some things to look out for in an Intuitive Eating Coach:
- Red Flag: They’ve co-opted anti-diet language to sell weight loss.
This is the biggest red flag. Intuitive Eating cannot be used for weight loss. The first principle of Intuitive Eating is to reject the diet mentality.
If someone is using Intuitive Eating for weight loss, they either don’t know what it is, or they’re trying to jump on a trend to sell their weight loss program.
- Red Flag: They use manipulative sales tactics.
You should never feel pressured into working with someone. You should not feel a sense of urgency or an impulse to purchase their service or product.
Typical marketing tactics rely on persuasive measures like social triggers or scarcity to shut down someone’s critical thinking when deciding on a purchase. It’s highly manipulative and definitely does not align with client-centered care.
Unfortunately, this type of marketing is everywhere because, to be frank, it sells really well. However, this type of marketing does not align with the values of Intuitive Eating. When making a big purchasing decision, you should be given the time, options, and space to think it through.
How do you spot manipulative sales tactics?
When you read through their marketing, does it make you feel bad about yourself? Do they present themselves as the solution to your insecurities? Do they create a sense of urgency, scarcity, or desperation? Do they cause you to compare yourself or your body to others in a way that makes you feel worse about yourself?
Marketing should never exploit insecurities or create an urgency to “fix” yourself. Rather, their content should add value to your life and point out societal problems rather than using them to their advantage.
- Green Flag: They are aware of their own biases.
Everyone has different privileges and biases. It’s important that your coach has done the work to unpack their own biases to show up with empathy and curiosity for all their clients and work from an anti-oppressive lens.
- Green Flag: They know their limitations and when to refer out
No one is an expert on everything. A good Intuitive Eating coach knows their limitations and knows when clients seek help outside their scope of practice. They have an amazing network of professionals and know when to refer out.
- Green Flag: They know that Intuitive Eating is one method, but not the only method.
Intuitive Eating isn’t the only method for living a healthier and happier life. Intuitive Eating may not be accessible to you currently, or you may just not be interested, and that’s OK. A good coach gives you the autonomy to make that decision and has other tools to help you live your best life in accordance with your values.
- Green Flag: They don’t avoid opposing views, and they can admit when they’re wrong.
A true expert is always evolving. They read research and talk with other professionals with opposing views to challenge their own ideals. As new research comes out, their opinions may change a little, and that’s a good thing! They can adapt and admit when they were wrong.
Who Should Work With an Intuitive Eating Coach?
Honestly, anyone can benefit from working with an Intuitive Eating Coach. Even if you’re not ready for or not interested in Intuitive Eating, an Intuitive Eating Coach can help you implement healthy behaviors in a way that feels good to you and fits your life and your values. An Intuitive Eating Coach can also help you work through weight and body concerns.
At the end of the day, an Intuitive Eating Coach is still their baseline profession (i.e., Registered Dietitian) and will help with their respective field. Intuitive Eating Coaches will help you with whatever you need assistance with. We just have some extra tools in our toolbox.
We practice from a place of empathy, inclusivity, and compassion and will never make assumptions about you or your health based on the way your body looks.
Although anyone can benefit from working with an Intuitive Eating Coach, people who are stuck in the diet cycle or are experiencing body dissatisfaction or disordered eating could benefit from Intuitive Eating the most. That can look like:
- Feeling out of control around food
- Chronic overeating or binge eating
- Emotional eating
- Constantly thinking about food
- Insatiable hunger
- Stress and anxiety around food
- Body dissatisfaction
- Constantly chasing a “better body”
- Avoiding events, activities, or clothing because of body insecurity
- Yo-yo dieting
- Slowed metabolism
- Digestive problems
- Low energy
- Thinning hair
- Poor concentration
Benefits of Intuitive Eating Coaching
There are many benefits of starting Intuitive Eating, but what are the benefits of hiring a coach? Is it even worth it?
It can be hard to implement Intuitive Eating on your own in a diet-obsessed culture. It can feel very isolating. Intuitive Eating also has a lot of nuances, so maybe you’ve read the book but aren’t quite sure where to start or what to do. That’s where an Intuitive Eating Coach can come in. Benefits of having a coach include:
It’s not easy implementing Intuitive Eating. You may have a lot of ambivalence, especially at first. You may hit some roadblocks along the way. An Intuitive Eating Coach can help you through the tough times.
- Not feeling so alone
Embarking on a weight-neutral approach can feel so isolating, especially when everyone around you is dieting. Having a coach can help you feel less alone on this journey. Plus, they may know a community of like-minded people, so you have even more people to lean on.
- Having someone to explain the nuances
There are many nuances in Intuitive Eating, and everyone’s journey will look slightly different. There are no hard and fast rules. This makes it very freeing but can also make it confusing at first. Having an Intuitive Eating Coach can help clear up the confusion.
- Guidance on how to implement
There are 10 Intuitive Eating Principles, but they don’t have to be implemented in order. In fact, some principles may not even be appropriate for you and your life. Having an Intuitive Eating coach can help you incorporate Intuitive Eating in a way that fits your values, goals, and lifestyle.
What is an Intuitive Eating Coaching Program?
Intuitive Eating takes time to implement. It typically can’t be learned in just one session, so many coaches offer an Intuitive Eating Coaching program. A coaching program may include multiple sessions, support between sessions, tools to implement, and more to help you be successful when you’re starting out.
For example, my Intuitive Eating Program includes:
- An initial deep dive coaching session to explore and evaluate your relationship with food and body
- Every other week coaching calls and goal setting to explore and implement the principles or work on body image
- Weekly check-ins and journal review for extra accountability
- Unlimited messaging to answer all your questions as they arise and provide added support
- The official Intuitive Eating book and workbook with guided support as you work through it
- Access to a recipe library and meal planning tools
- Exploration of gentle and enjoyable movement with a flexible plan, as needed and desired (I am a personal trainer in addition to being a Registered Dietitian)
- Access to a private client portal with PDF downloads, worksheets, tools, reflections, and resources
How much Does an Intuitive Eating Coach Cost?
The cost of an Intuitive Eating Coach will vary depending on many factors, including but not limited to:
- The type of Intuitive Eating Coach you work with (dietitian, doctor, therapist)
- If they accept insurance
- Their years of experience and training
- The duration of the program and anything extra that’s included
- The level of support (one on one, group coaching, membership)
In general, you can likely expect to pay anywhere from $125 – $250 per individual session. If that is out of your budget, many coaches either accept insurance, offer payment plans, or work on a sliding scale. Most got into this profession to help people, and money shouldn’t be a barrier to getting the help you need, so they will work with you to set up a plan.
How do you become an Intuitive Eating Coach?
To become an Intuitive Eating Coach, you need to complete the extensive training offered by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the original Intuitive Eating professionals.
Types of Intuitive Eating Certifications
There are two official types of certifications. However, one is more limited in scope of practice.
- Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
This is the original Intuitive Eating Certification. To become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, you must be a Registered Dietitian or other allied health professional. You must have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, licensing in a health-related field, and already have extensive training and knowledge in your respective field.
A Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor has more scope of practice than a Certified Intuitive Lay Facilitator. If you’re looking for coaching, you’ll want to ensure your coach has this certification.
- Certified Intuitive Lay Facilitator
You do not have to be a health professional to obtain this certification. This is for anyone looking to learn more about Intuitive Eating and help educate on the topic without spreading misinformation.
While anyone can get this certification, the scope of practice is limited to just disseminating information. Meaning, a Lay Faciilitor can coordinate support groups or teach individuals the basics of Intuitive Eating but would need to refer out to a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor for anything else. If you’re looking for Intuitive Eating Counseling and help beyond just understanding the basics, it’s best to choose a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor to work with over a Certified Intuitive Lay Facilitator.
How to Become Certified
There are three core requirements to become certified in Intuitive Eating:
- Completion of the Helms Publishing Self-Study Intuitive Eating Course and passing the examination.
- Completion of the Intuitive Eating PRO Webinar Series with Evelyn Tribole.
- Completion of three supervision/coaching sessions with either Evelyn Tribole or Elyse Resch.
For Certified IIntuitive Eating Counselors, to maintain the certification, they need to complete at least three supervision sessions with Evelyn or Elyse every five years.
Becoming an Intuitive Eater is such a freeing experience, but it can be hard to go it alone. An Intuitive Eating Coach can offer support, guidance, accountability, and knowledge. If you’ve tried it on your own and are feeling stuck, have patience and self-compassion, and seek the support and guidance you need.
I hope this article helped if you’ve been considering working with an Intuitive Eating Coach. I know it’s a big decision that can’t be rushed. It has to feel right for you!
If you’re interested in exploring Intuitive Eating and starting the process of healing your relationship with food and body image, but you’re not quite ready for an Intuitive Eating Coach, check out my free Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating.
Looking for a little more support and guidance? Check out my Intuitive Eating services. I provide virtual Intuitive Eating Counseling from anywhere in the world!
Kristin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics with a concentration in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has experience conducting systematic reviews and writing and evaluating scientific literature in peer-reviewed journals. She has a goal of making evidence-based nutrition information accessible and easy to understand.