Say goodbye to the diet roller coaster and hello to Intuitive Eating!
Intuitive Eating is a weight-neutral approach to eating that focuses on healing your relationship with food and body image.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the five stages of Intuitive Eating, so you can learn what to expect on your Intuitive Eating journey.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re already an Intuitive Eater, this post is for you. So let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, weight-neutral approach to eating that works to heal your relationship with food and body image.
What does that mean? Instead of a goal of weight loss, Intuitive Eating is about health gain.
Weight loss diets use restrictions and rules to change your body into something “better” and are typically driven by self-loathing and shame.
In contrast, Intuitive Eating is about tuning into your body’s internal wisdom to honor, nourish, and respect your body and is driven by self-compassion and values.
What are the Stages of Intuitive Eating?
As described in the book, Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN there are 5 stages you go through when learning to be an intuitive eater.
Before we dive into the stages, it’s important to not, that these stages are not linear. You may skip stages or go back and forth, and that it OK and normal.
There’s also no set duration for how long you should be spending in each stage or when you should progress to the next.
Everyone’s intuitive eating journey is different depending on how long you’ve dieted, your personal goals, past experiences and trauma, your support system, and more.
Ultimately there’s no one-size-fits all approach to intuitive eating. There’s no right or wrong way to practice intuitive eating; it’s a personal and individual experience.
Overview of the Stages of Intuitive Eating
- Stage One: Readiness – Hitting Diet Bottom You’ve reached a point of absolute dieting fatigue and desire to abandon constant weight loss pursuits.
- Stage Two: Exploration – Conscious Learning and Pursuit of Pleasure You experience heightened awareness as you begin to align with internal hunger cues and make peace with food.
- Stage Three: Crystallization Your Intuitive Eating practices solidify, leading to more instinctive and balanced eating habits.
- Stage Four: The Intuitive Eater Awakens Your food choices become natural and trusted, with a diminished focus on external appearance and more emphasis on inner values.
- Stage Five: The Final Stage – Treasure the Pleasure You fully trust your body’s signals, resist external diet pressures, and embrace the Intuitive Eater identity.
Stage One: Readiness – Hitting Diet Bottom
You’ve reached a place where you absolutely cannot go on another diet. You’re tired of fluctuating between extreme hunger and overeating.
You’re sick of thinking about food, daydreaming about foods you “can’t eat,” and feeling guilty or out of control if you eat those forbidden foods.
You hate the way you look and feel in your body, thinking you’ll be happier if you could just “stick to the plan” and lose some weight. At the same time, you’re done with chasing that elusive goal weight, knowing that you weren’t actually happier at that lower weight.
You’re ready to get off the diet roller coaster.
Stage Two: Exploration – Conscious Learning and Pursuit of Pleasure
In this stage, you’ll go through a state of hyper-consciousness as you begin to get in tune with your internal cues and make peace with food.
This stage will likely feel uncomfortable and awkward as you get used to Intuitive Eating.
You may start to eat large portions, especially of previously forbidden foods. This eating pattern won’t last forever as you begin to learn true taste preferences and the amount of food that feels best for you.
You may even realize that you don’t even like the foods you were previously avoiding!
Stage Three: Crystallization
Your Intuitive Eating skills begin to crystalize and feel more natural in this stage. You no longer feel obsessive or hyperaware of your eating choices, but rather they begin to feel innate.
You are able to feel your hunger and fullness signals and honor them as you begin to trust your body. You may still eat past comfortable fullness from time to time as you become aware of how much food your body needs. You may also still frequently choose previously forbidden foods, but you realize you don’t need as much to feel satisfied.
You become more aware of the occasions you were using food to soothe or distract from emotions like boredom or stress and begin exploring other avenues to fulfill your needs apart from food.
You realize that you never lacked willpower. Rather, it was deprivation and restriction that drove you to feel out of control around food.
Stage Four: The Intuitive Eater Awakens
In this stage, your eating becomes more comfortable and natural. You trust your internal cues to tell you what, when, and how much to eat. Eating becomes a satisfying experience.
You find it easier to stop eating when you’re comfortably full, and you begin to crave nutrient-dense foods.
Forbidden foods lose their allure as you realize you can have them whenever you desire. You feel more in control around all foods. You can enjoy and find satisfaction in eating rather than guilt.
You learn to show respect and care for your body, even when you may not comfortable with your appearance. You learn to appreciate your inner qualities and values more than your outer appearance.
Stage Five: The Final Stage – Treasure the Pleasure
In the final stage, you have cultivated trust with your body. You regularly choose foods that make you feel good and energize your body.
You exercise as an act of self-care because you notice the physical and mental benefits, not as a punishment or because you feel like you have to.
You can recognize the outside influences of diet culture without letting them affect you.
You have become an Intuitive Eater!
Final Thoughts on the Stages of Intuitive Eating
I hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of the stages of Intuitive Eating. Remember, everyone’s journey is different, so be patient and kind to yourself along the way.
If you’re interested in learning more about Intuitive Eating and body image, check out some of these other blog posts:
- Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss [Everything you Need to Know]
- Body Appreciation: A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivating Body Gratitude
- The Disadvantages and Dangers of Dieting [An Unbiased Guide]
- 100+ Intuitive and Mindful Eating Affirmations to Help Combat Negative Self-Talk
- Intuitive Eating Before and After [What to Expect When You Start Intuitive Eating]
- Looking for an Intuitive Eating Coach? Read this!
- Why Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work: An Expert’s Perspective
- The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating [A Complete Guide + Free PDF]
- Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale [+Free PDF]
- Why Do I Feel Guilty After Eating? Surprising Reasons & Solutions
If you’re looking for personalized support, I offer one-on-one nutrition and Intuitive Eating counseling services to help you find food freedom. My one-on-one services are tailored to your specific needs and concerns. We work to develop a plan together that will help you achieve your goals and fit into your life. Whether you’re looking to break free from the diet cycle, overcome emotional or binge eating, or stop hating your body, I’m here to help.
I am a Registered Dietitian, and as such, the information provided is accurate and evidence-based. However, I am not your dietitian, and nutrition therapy is highly individual. The information contained in this post is not intended to be a substitute for individualized nutrition advice or care.
The information provided in this blog post is intended solely for informational and educational purposes. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
If you suspect you may have an eating disorder or any other medical condition, consult with a qualified healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored treatment plan that’s appropriate for you. Always seek the advice of your qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
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.