Can Intuitive Eating help with weight loss?

I’m going to do it, I’m going to attempt to tackle the number one question Intuitive Eating nutritionists get. And the one we least like to answer.


First things first, what is intuitive eating?

Intuitive Eating is a framework developed by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. It consists of 10 principles based on their work helping people with their relationship to food - the 10 principles are: reject the diet mentality, honour your hunger, make peace with food, challenge the food police, find the satisfaction factor, feel your fullness, cope with emotions with kindness, respect your body, movement - feel the difference and gentle nutrition.

How that links with weight loss - a HAES/anti-diet/weight inclusive approach 

HAES = Health at Every Size

One of the founding ideas of Intuitive Eating is that weight is not correlated with health, this is part of the HAES approach. There are five main HAES principles: Weight inclusivity, health enhancement, eating for well-being, respectful care and life-enhancing movement. All very much in the same ethos as Intuitive Eating.


The first principle of Intuitive Eating itself is to ‘reject the diet mentality’. And, fun fact, if you’re an intuitive eating counsellor (which I am) you can only use the Intuitive Eating logo if you agree to not promote weight loss and diets. 

  • It’s rejecting looking a certain way.
  • Rejecting a constant preoccupation with food. 
  • Rejection of food making you feel guilty. 

The list goes on… any you can add?

This principle focuses on recognising and accepting the damage dieting causes to your body, your mind, your life. This is because dieting disconnects you from your body and often leads to a cycle of guilt and shame. It is seen by the body as a form of starvation - albeit in the short time (six, eight, 12 weeks whatever your diet lasts for) so your body reacts.

The phenomenon of weight cycling 

Dieting leads to weight cycling - yo-yo dieting up and down. It has been shown that people who lose weight dieting gain it back again. With the added benefits of shame and guilt for “not being motivated enough” (or whatever reasoning you tell yourself). 

So if you enter into Intuitive Eating to lose weight and treat it like a diet you may enter back into weight cycling… 

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t - but that’s not the point.

Ultimately I can’t predict anything (if I could you’d read my name on the recent lottery winners list) so I can’t say if you will/won’t but as you move through your Intuitive Eating journey, weight loss slowly becomes less of a goal. Slowly your weight becomes a smaller and smaller factor in your life. I can’t promise it’ll never be something you focus on - we still live in diet culture.

Some have commented that: 

  • Intuitive Eating helps you tune into hunger and fullness, so you are more likely to finish eating before uncomfortable fullness.
  • Intuitive Eating may help you with binge eating or emotional eating.
  • Intuitive Eating incorporates gentle nutrition which may improve the nutrient density of your intake.
  • Intuitive Eating may help you find a form of movement you love so you practice it more.
  • Intuitive Eating removes the restriction of diets so your body is no longer in a semi-starvation mode.
  • Intuitive Eating removes the morality from food and so the mental effects of this may mean less stress eating.

This and more mean that you may lose weight… but aren’t they all amazing achievements in themselves?

A couple of studies

I couldn’t find any really on Intuitive Eating and weight as it’s not a focus of the principles.

  • Artilest et al 2019 - Mindful/Intuitive Eating could be a practical approach to weight control (however a limited, unbalanced study cohort and no long-term effects studied).
  • Camilleri et al 2016 - Higher Intuitive Eating scores were associated with lower odds of being “overweight”.

Body positivity: What are we aiming for?

One of the principles of Intuitive Eating is respecting your body - and I often have this discussion with clients as they struggle to ‘love their body’. It is about meeting your body’s needs and accepting it as it is - whatever weight you’re at. It’s making sure it’s nourished, moves in a way you enjoy, that you sleep/rest enough etc. 

You may find that rejecting the diet mentality means you slowly start to move away from the ‘thin ideal’ and notice the array of body sizes out there rather than what you think you ‘should’ look like. Body image is hard, and we all have bad body image days but slowly you learn to ride the wave.

Ask yourself, what’s more important to you - health or weight?

And can you disentangle those two statements? Because there are plenty of thin people who are unwell, and healthy people living in larger bodies. Have you ever had a cold/flu or just felt absolutely terrible so maybe you don’t eat as much - and someone compliments your weight loss? Living proof that often we don’t see health, we see weight.

So ask yourself - is it worth making me unhealthy to be slim? And can I work on accepting a larger body/heavier weight if it means I am my ‘healthiest’ self?

  • What was your earliest memory of describing something as “healthy”?
  • Did your parents/guardians/teachers often talk about “healthy” and “unhealthy” explicitly?
  • The next time you see a stranger, notice your internal judgment - do you think of them as unhealthy/healthy based on how they look?

“But I'm not ready to let go of weight loss as a goal….”

This is something I hear so so regularly because it’s something you may have been striving for most of your life. I’m not going to force you to (don’t worry) however I would recommend if you want to start your Intuitive Eating journey we put it in the list of many goals - and maybe it’s effect diminishes as you work through the programme. And if your weight goes down, I won’t compliment you on it, we’ll talk about weight neutrally. If you say “I’ve lost ___” I’d ask how you’re feeling in terms of energy, rest and in general. How your physical and mental health has been affected by your new approach.

Want to work together? Visit my profile and book a discovery call with me.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
London, Greater London, SE21
Written by Kacie Shoulders, ANutr
London, Greater London, SE21

Kacie Shoulders is an associate nutritionist and yoga teacher based in South London. She takes a HAES approach to working with clients and focuses on Intuitive Eating and movement.

Show comments

Find a nutritionist dealing with Intuitive Eating

All nutrition professionals are verified

All nutrition professionals are verified