Mindful Eating vs. Intuitive Eating: What’s the difference?

It’s common to hear people using mindful eating and intuitive eating interchangeably though they are not, in fact, the same thing. There are important distinctions between the two that are helpful to understand if food freedom is your ultimate goal. 

Today we’ll be breaking down the differences between them, how they interact with one another, where things can get tricky, and what to know if you’re practicing both on your journey to heal your relationship with food.

If you’d rather tune in over on the pod, we’re diving in a bit deeper on this week’s episode as well. You can listen to that here:

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is defined as paying attention to food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgement. It’s an approach that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food. 

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is a weight-inclusive, self-care, eating framework which integrates instinct, emotion and rational thought. 

mindful eating

The two can be complimentary. And mindful eating, when used appropriately, is an important tool within the broader intuitive eating framework. 

When someone eats mindfully, they are practicing eating with non judgmental awareness. Tuning into the senses, the taste, texture, temperature and experience of the food. This is important for collecting data and uncovering personal insights around our relationship with food and bodily awareness. 

It’s easier, for instance, to feel our fullness when practicing mindful eating. Our satisfaction is often increased when practicing mindful eating. And it’s easier to catch the harmful narratives ingrained in our minds, a.k.a. “The Food Police”, when we’re eating mindfully. All important on the road to diet recovery. The more we can notice all that happens in regard to the eating experience, the better.

It’s an important part of the intuitive eating process. 

In stage two specifically of intuitive eating, the exploration and discovery phase, you’ll go through a time of hyperconsciousness that helps to reacquaint you with your intuitive signals of hunger, fullness, taste preferences and satisfaction. It’s incredibly helpful to grasp the subtleties of our body’s signals through mindfulness when doing so. 

Where Mindful Eating Gets Tricky

On the other hand, mindful eating can, and often is, used as a diet. 

mindful eating

People may adopt the practice of eating mindfully in order to try to eat less and to lose weight. The mindful eating diet is a common weight loss attempt, especially among those who have started to wake up to the fact that more straightforward dieting doesn’t work. There are many books about mindful eating for weight loss. 

But true intuitive eating directly conflicts with intentional weight loss attempts, dieting and the mindful eating diet because, in order for it to work as designed, weight loss cannot be the goal. All food choices would be impacted by the desire to lose weight and therefore not honestly based on the body’s cues and needs. Intentional weight loss interferes with the process of returning to and honoring the body.

Early on in our intuitive eating coaching program, we teach and emphasize the importance of mindful eating within the broader framework because it can be a crucial tool in helping to heal from dieting. This process is one of discovery, learning and unlearning and the path is lit by thousands of unique, personal insights that only you can uncover for yourself. But those insights require a level of mindfulness around food you may not have practiced before. You just can’t try to use those insights to further control food and override your body’s signals.

Mindful eating is a powerful tool if we’re using it for the right project. But as a diet, it will likely continue to leave you feeling frustrated, conflicted and out of control around food. 

If you’re on the path of intuitive eating to achieve food freedom in your life though, it can make all the difference in healing. 

If you want to dive deeper into this and get some support, book a free Breakthrough Session to see if we can help. 

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