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The Differences Between Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating

The Differences Between Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating

diet & exercise on being vegan podcast Apr 21, 2023

Show Notes:

- Meet our online program My Brownble, our vegan cooking and lifestyle program with a non-restrictive approach meant to help support you in making more vegan choices while helping you heal your relationship with food with a big focus on the practices of mindful eating and intuitive eating

- Episode 83: The Mindfulness episode 

- Episode 177: Additional frameworks and practices that can go hand in hand with your intuitive eating journey 

- Episode 145: A q and a episode about mindfulness and stress reduction, along with many others

- The book "Intuitive Eating" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

- Some of the scientific research done to date on intuitive eating

Palouse Mindfulness course (free online mindfulness course)

- Our intuitive eating series of episodes


In today’s episode and post we’re going to explore the differences between intuitive eating and mindful eating, two practices that are those big pillars upon which we do all our work at Brownble, and that have been instrumental in my own journey with food, eating and body image.

Both mindful eating and intuitive eating are practices that promote a healthy relationship with food, but they have different approaches, origins and goals as well as many intersections, and the reason why they’re such a big part of the work we do at Brownble is that they both help you on this quest to achieve internally led eating as opposed to externally led eating.


Mindful Eating: Basic Practice, Origins and Health Benefits

Mindful eating is a practice that supports being present and aware of what you're eating, while also paying attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. This means taking the time to savor and enjoy your food, and being mindful of how it tastes, smells, and feels in your mouth. Mindful eating encourages you to slow down and appreciate the experience of eating, rather than rushing through meals or mindlessly eating without attention or appreciation. It is all about using the moment before, during, and after eating as a moment of connection and checking in with yourself.

Both mindful eating and intuitive eating have roots in the mindfulness movement, which emphasizes being present and aware in the moment. Mindful eating originated from the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which emphasizes paying attention to the present moment without judgment or what you’ve always heard me refer to as “kind attention”.

Mindfulness itself (and by extension, mindful eating) involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, and accepting them without trying to change or control them.


Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation practices, but it has been adapted and studied extensively in Western psychology over the past few decades and studies have shown that it can help reduce stress (and with that can aid your physical health in countless ways), help with anxiety, improve emotional regulation, aid in sleep, and enhance overall well-being.

When we talk about mindful eating, we're essentially carrying our mindfulness practice into the moment of eating, to achieve presence, attention and connection in this area.

If you want to learn more about this practice which has been hugely helpful in my life for years, I share all the basics and my own personal experience with it in the following podcast episodes:

- Episode 83: The Mindfulness episode

- Episode 177: Additional frameworks and practices that can go hand in hand with your intuitive eating journey

- Episode 145: A q and a episode about mindfulness and stress reduction, along with many others.

We talked all about those benefits when it comes to our mental and physical health, and in the context of eating, mindfulness can help you become more aware of your eating habits, it can teach you a kinder way to speak to yourself about issues surrounding food and your body and create a more positive relationship with food.

By paying attention to the present moment while eating, you can become more attuned to your body's hunger and fullness cues, and make more intentional choices and it can be so empowering, when you re-train yourself to listen to your own body and its cues.


It can also be extremely helpful for getting other emotional needs met, where if you’ve always relied on food when anxious, sad, bored or stressed as a means to self-soothe, or on the other end of the spectrum you’ve ignored your hunger signals and are also ignoring what those uncomfortable feelings are telling you, you can now, with kind attention notice and name what’s going on and get those needs met, filling up a figurative toolbox with many coping tools. Mindfulness can also help you navigate emotional eating and reduce feelings of guilt or shame around food, and it can also help you understand that it is absolutely normal to have an emotional connection to food, and that it is also a part of normal eating to sometimes eat emotionally. Once you have these tools it doesn’t have to feel that scary when you go through a moment of emotional eating, you learn from each one, and you can do so without the need to add guilt, shame or judgement.

A Common Misconception around Mindful Eating

Many people mistake mindful eating for a sort of ritual around food. I’ve heard many people talk about setting a nice table, lighting candles, looking at your food and eating small bites, and savoring it, and all these things can be a part of being mindful during the moment of eating, but mindful eating encompasses much more in that it brings awareness to the moment before eating, what your thoughts are, what your body is telling you, how hungry you are, what you’d like to eat, as well as during the moment of eating and after. I like to actually picture a spotlight we put over ourselves during these moments, just as a reminder to check in with ourselves and see what’s going on.

An Important Side of Mindful Eating Often Forgotten

Mindful eating is also very closely related to gratitude, and how one of the aspects of shining that spotlight on the moment of eating, other than tasting, looking, smelling, connecting and noticing "do I like this food?", "do I feel well when I eat it?", "do I feel satisfied?", "does it fill me up?", is on how that food got to your plate. What did it take for you to be able to enjoy this food that’s in front of you, from soil to seed, to plant to vegetable, to supermarket shelf to car to fridge to stove to table. This is a side of mindful eating that people often forget about, but it’s very much rooted in its Buddhist origins, and it’s also very important because for a moment, it can neutralize all the thoughts or judgement we could possibly be having about eating a particular food, about ourselves, about our bodies, and it reminds us of how lucky we are to have this source of nourishment.

I could go on and on about mindfulness and mindful eating and it’s one of the main pillars behind the work we do at Brownble, but it’s time to talk about intuitive eating.


Intuitive Eating: Basic Practice, Origins and Health Benefits

As I've mentioned, mindful eating and intuitive eating incorporate the principles of mindfulness. Mindful eating encourages you to be present and attentive before during and after eating, and intuitive eating also involves listening to your body's internal cues and being mindful of your hunger and fullness levels, so in a way, mindful eating is inherently present within intuitive eating, but intuitive eating gives us a full structure and framework around it and in doing so, expands it.

Intuitive eating is a nutritional framework that was developed by registered dietitian nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in the 1990s, as a response to the harmful effects of diet culture and the diet industry that they were seeing in their own practices with clients.

It is a framework that involves 10 principles all of which are designed to help you regain trust in your body, and practice internally led eating and finally find peace with food.


What do I mean by internally led eating? I mean eating that is based not on external rules of what, when, or how much to eat, usually designed by restrictive diets and also present in what we know as diet culture, (very much present in all of our minds whether we’re on a weight loss diet or not), but led by our own internal cues, our likes and dislikes, our preferences, our body's needs, all based on redeveloping interoceptive awareness, that inner listening of sorts that helps us reconnect to what our body's needs are at any given time.

Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body's internal cues, such as hunger and fullness, eating based on those signals, unlearning some of the good /bad categories we put food into, and understanding that eating that is health supportive can and should have a balance of both nutritious foods and foods for enjoyment and pleasure, and that ignoring the latter often puts us on overdrive to actually eat more of those foods.

It is a framework that can help you make peace with your body, learn how to appreciate it and treat it with kindness. It can help you develop a kinder voice towards yourself, a new relationship with movement and exercise that is not about punishment but that can be health supportive, and it was of course created by two dietitians, so the entire framework is evidence based with hundreds of studies to support it, and includes information so you can expand your knowledge on some of those basics of nutrition and what your body needs, not from a place of control or restriction but from a place of a new relationship with food that is internally led and that challenges some of the beliefs, perfectionism and rigidity we have around food. It encourages a non-restrictive, flexible approach to eating that honors your health, both mental and physical.

I share more about my experience with intuitive eating in our intuitive eating series of episodes of our podcast which are episodes 172-177 including common misconceptions about intuitive eating. I talk about its principles and share additional practices and frameworks that can also help support this journey.


Where can I Learn More about the Practices of Mindfulness, Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating?

The great news is that there are countless resources when it comes to both practices that are easy to access and learn from.

When it comes to mindful eating, we talk a lot about it within our courses at Brownble, and in our podcast, and one great place you can start is actually with mindfulness itself, and then bring what you learn from this practice into the moment of eating. A wonderful mindfulness online course that is free is the Palouse Mindfulness course, for me, it's the best place to get started. When it comes to intuitive eating, you’ve got to learn from the pros that created this framework, and that means getting the book Intuitive Eating.




What about Veganism? Can it Go Hand in Hand with Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating?

If you’ve seen our other content, know about our work or are a student of our online program or courses, you’ll wonder: "but wait, you eat vegan for animal rights reasons, doesn’t that include inherent restriction? Can that go hand in hand with these practices?"

When it comes to mindful eating, the answer is an absolute yes, in fact, veganism is very closely linked to the origins of mindfulness and mindful eating and the teachings and values that led to these practices (even though you can of course practice mindful eating no matter how you eat).

When it comets intuitive eating, the answer is yes, but with nuance, and I’ll share more about my experience and perspective on this intersection in next week’s video, post and episode.

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