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Vegan Intuitive Eating: Can They Coexist?

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You self identify as a ethical vegan, but are intrigued by this thing called “intuitive eating.”

Can the two coexist even though vegans avoid animal products?

What should vegans keep in mind?

Learn in this Registered Dietitian Nutritionist written article!

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Always talk to your doctor about any major dietary changes, health concerns, or supplements. See our Disclaimers for more details. Regarding the term “Ethical Vegan” we use this term to denote a individual who practices the vegan philosophy, as defined here. This means, the individual does practices a vegan lifestyle as practically as possible (not only the dietary aspect).

*Consumer Notice: This post contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner: (affiliate link*)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Intuitive Eating 101: What It is, What It isn’t

First things first! Lets define the thing.

Here is the definition of Intuitive Eating, as defined by one of the founders:

“Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and over 100 studies to date.
It’s a personal and dynamic process, which includes 10 principles:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Respect Your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition.”

Source: intuitiveeating.org

This frame work is not a diet, or temporary “fix.”

Furthermore, if your goal is to lose weight, you may not see results in that area – it certainly is far from the purpose of this framework!

And while mindful eating is often thrown around as the same thing, they are not. We could not find a official definition of “mindful eating,” but generally, it tends to focus on the meal experience. For example, limiting distractions, noting the senses as you eat, etc.

In contrast, intuitive eating is a frame work that goes beyond just being mindful at meals/snacks.

To learn the nitty gritty, check out actual book! (affiliate link):

How To Be a Intuitive Eater as a Vegan

Perhaps you read the book and are rearing to go!

Lets go through the 10 principles, and discover how if there are any points that ethical vegans uniquely may need to keep in mind.

*Consumer Notice: These sections may contain affiliate links that are marked in this manner: (affiliate link*)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

What typically sets apart a plant based diet apart from a vegan diet is the philosophy portion.

Vegans as practically as possible exclude animal products to reduce animal exploration, while someone who is plant based may include some animal products.

Rejecting the diet mentality means letting go of food rules related to loosing weight as the primary focus.

Since ethical veganism does not focus on these kind of food rules, veganism theoretically shouldn’t get in the way, however, some vegans (and non vegans as well of course) may have an underlying eating disorder.

Those individuals should seek help from a doctor, therapist, and Dietitian well versed in eating disorders.

2. Honor Your Hunger

This principle is about learning how to recognize your hunger. The Intuitive Eating book (affiliate link*) goes into more detail on this than we can cover in this article!

For many factors (including a society that largely promotes “diet culture” or an emphasis on moving or eating to lose weight), many of us are not in tune with, or may mistake our hunger signals until really late (anyone else been hangry?).

Since recognizing hunger signals has little to do with the vegan philosophy, we don’t have any points to make here that would be unique for ethical vegans.

3. Make Peace With Food

This one might might have many vegans wondering what to do!

Making peace with food is described by the book as granting permission to eat any (safely edible for your health) food, and observing how it makes you feel.

Certainly, ethical vegans would have some qualms with this one, because they avoid animal products based on their philosophy- so eating just anything is going to raise some flags.

However, if you think about it, ethical veganism is not about diet culture as the book seems to associate this uneasy feelings about food with.

For example diet culture talk may say “eat carrots instead of nuts because the nuts are more calorically dense.”

Instead, a vegan might view this principle as giving themselves permission to eat less nutrient dense vegan foods some of the time (just one example).

4. Challenge The Food Police

This principle is all about recognizing that voice that reinforces diet culture talk and food rules which can hinder your process to eat intuitively.

Again, this voice can occur in both vegans and non vegans (the thing that changes is the eating pattern)!

However, one way in which this the food police may be unique for ethical vegans is having a food rule about eating no animal products.

Lets face it – animal products and it’s depravities are so ubiquitous in our society! It’s easy to accidently purchase and consume a product you thought was vegan- but turned out not to be.

Perhaps part of challenging the vegan food police would be practicing compassion for yourself. No one can be 100% vegan (where the “as far as possible and practical” comes to play in the definition)!

5. Respect Your Fullness

Many of us (vegan or not!) may be so deeply disconnected from our body signals that we don’t know what comfortable (not over) fullness is.

Again, the Intuitive Eating book (affiliate link*) goes over this in detail.

We can’t really think of any unique things for ethical vegans specifically to note about this one. But it is worth noting that if you are eating plant based recipes full of fiber and protein, you might feel full faster than a less fibrous meal!

6. Discover The Satisfaction Factor

This principle discusses how to find pleasure in the eating experience. It discusses the environment, paying attention to your senses, etc.

I couldn’t think of anything to note here that would be unique for ethical vegans specifically on this principle.

7 Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

The title gives this one away! This section goes over identifying your feelings, and discuses ways to deal them that do not always involve eating.

Again, both non vegans and vegans may identify with a habit of turning to food first when dealing with emotions, so we aren’t sure how this would apply differently for ethical vegans.

8. Respect Your Body

Both vegans and non vegans may have unrealistic expectations about how their body should look. This principle is about respecting your body for what it can do, and appreciating the parts you do like.

Part of this involves letting go of comparisons- one aspect that might especially apply to you as an ethical vegan!

When you think of a “vegan” do you imagine someone who is stick thin? While this may be a stereotype within the community, know that vegans come in a variety of body sizes!

Becoming free from this pigeonholed version of what vegan people look like is a unique step in respecting your own body.

9. Exercise – Feel The Difference

But not just any exercise! As you recall, one main focus of intuitive eating is quieting the diet culture talk. In terms of exercise, this could mean only engaging in movement that burns calories for the pursuit of a thin body.

This principle discuses how to find exercise that you actually enjoy and makes you feel good. This can also be described as joyful movement.

10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition

Honoring your hunger doesn’t mean nutrition should be an after thought! This section focuses on making nourishing nutrition choices that include eating intuitively without making weight loss the focus.

While the book may make reference to animal products like lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as an ethical vegan, this might not sit well with you.

The good news is that we know a appropriately and well planned vegan diet can be healthy and meet nutrition needs as an adult.

We highly suggest checking out our article Vegan For Beginners to learn about nutrition on a vegan diet sans a weight focused obsession. It discuses nutrients to have on your radar, plant based protein, supplements and more!

What Vegans Should Know About Intuitive Eating (also in text).

Vegan Intuitive Eating: In Summary

Veganism and intuitive eating can co-exist! This is because veganism is a philosophy rather than merely a diet.

In regards to vegan intuitive eating, ethical vegans will want to keep in mind that it is possible for vegan “fun foods” to fit, know that vegans come in all sizes, and understand that vegans have unique nutrition needs (learn about them!).

If you need extra guidance, a Dietitian experienced in intuitive eating can help you apply these principles.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that disordered eating can affect both vegans and non vegans. These individuals need professional help. Seek out help from a doctor, therapist, and Registered Dietitian well versed in eating disorders if you or the people who love you are concerned.

And finally, if you are interested in the Intuitive Eating Book (affiliate link*) check it out here!

*Consumer Notice: The above link is an affiliate link. If you click and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you feel more equipped to practice intuitive eating as a ethical vegan? Let us know in the comments below!
And while you are here, why not poke around on our blog? We talk about all things fully plant based eating and going vegan! From How to Transition to Veganism to Is Vegan Gluten Free.
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