Does vegan intuitive eating exist? How do the two work?
If you self identify as an ethical vegan, but are intrigued by this thing called “intuitive eating,” keep reading!
Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Always talk to your doctor about any major diet or physical activity 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 by the The Vegan Society here.
*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.
This article was originally published on 4/7/22. The recent updated date is listed above.
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.Source: intuitiveeating.org
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.”
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’s certainly far from the purpose of this framework!
Some individuals lose, some gain, and some stay around their current weight.
And while mindful eating is often thrown around as the same thing, they are not. I 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.
It also tackles diet culture talk, and incorporates movement you enjoy and general healthy eating principles.
To learn the nitty gritty, you can read the actual book! You can find it on Amazon below (affiliate link*):
Intuitive Eating: Vegan Friendly or Not?
Intuitive eating can be vegan friendly.
While the book does talk about animal foods, like fish in the nutrition section, we know that fish is not required for a health diet!
And finally, if you have concerns or need help intuitive eating as a vegan, a dietitian can help! Some are even certified intuitive eating counselors.
You can check out my conversation with one of them on the podcast here!
How To Be a Intuitive Eater as a Vegan
Perhaps you read the book and are rearing to go!
Let’s go through the 10 principles and discover if there are any unique considerations that ethical vegans may want to keep in mind.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
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 of rejecting the diet mentality. However, there is a lot of “diet talk” in the plant based space.
Finally, some vegans (and non vegans as well of course) may have an underlying eating disorder that can make it hard to reject the diet mentality (this is not unique to vegans though).
Those individuals should seek help from a doctor, licensed 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 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, I’m not sure of any points to make here that would be unique for ethical vegans.
3. Make Peace With Food
This one 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.
Something unique to vegans is that they avoid animal foods. So eating foods that culture deems as acceptable doesn’t always sit right for vegans!
I’ve heard it said before that animal are not even seen as food, and therefore this is not an issue. Instead, making peace with food may be more about vegan foods.
For example diet culture talk may say “eat carrots instead of nuts because the nuts are more calorically dense.”
In this example, a vegan intuitive eater could view this principle as giving themselves permission to eat both foods because they are both nutrient dense and healthy foods (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 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)!
To learn more, check out this fun podcast conversation I had with a fellow vegan dietitian about Nuance within Veganism here!
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 goes over the environment, paying attention to your senses, etc.
I couldn’t think of anything to note here that would be unique to ethical vegans with 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 with them that don’t always involve eating.
Again, both vegans and non-vegans may identify with a habit of emotional eating.
8. Respect Your Body
Anyone can have unrealistic expectations about how their body should look, not just vegans. This principle is about respecting your body for what it can do, and appreciating the parts you like.
Part of this involves letting go of comparisons.
When you think of a “vegan” do you imagine someone who is stick thin? This is an unrealistic stereotype. In reality, 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
As you may recall, one main focus of intuitive eating is quieting the diet culture talk.
An example of “diet talk” around exercise is only engaging in movement that burns calories for the pursuit of a thin body – (aka: not a healthy mindset)
This principle discuses how to find exercise that you actually enjoy and makes you feel good. This can also be described as “joyful movement.”
The truth is: exercise provides so many benefits!
For me personally: I love how I feel mentally after a run. If running provided no other benefit, I’d still do it! Running is my form of “joyful movement.” What’s yours?
10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
Honoring your hunger doesn’t mean you should forget about nutrition! This section of the framework focuses on making nourishing choices free from fad dieting.
The good news is that we know a appropriately and well planned vegan diet can be healthy and meet nutrition needs as an adult(1).
Here’s a few tips to consider as a vegan reading through the nutrition section:
- Instead of cheese, consider calcium set tofu
- Swap milk for calcium rich plant based milks, like pea soy milk fortified with calcium.
- Instead of fish, know your high protein vegan sources! Examples include plant based foods like seitan and tempeh. Get adequate omega-3’s through foods like walnuts and ground flaxseeds in the form of ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid). Talk to your doctor if you are interested in taking a DHA supplement.
We highly suggest checking out our article Vegan For Beginners to learn about nutrition on a vegan diet sans a weight focused obsession.
Vegan Intuitive Eating: In Summary
Veganism and intuitive eating can co-exist! This is because veganism is a philosophy rather than just a way of eating.
Ethical vegans will want to keep in mind these extra things in mind:
- It’s possible for vegan “fun foods” to fit
- Vegans come in all sizes
- It’s important to learn about vegan nutrition. If you need help, talk to a dietitian!
Ready to start your intuitive eating journey? I’d highly recommend reading the Intuitive Eating book below (affiliate link*). 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.
I hope you found this article helpful! I’m curious, do you practice intuitive eating or curious about eating intuitively? Don’t head out yet because I’ve got something special for you!
In this episode, I chat with a fellow vegan Registered Dietitian. She also happens to be a Certified Intuitive Eating so she knows her stuff! You can listen or read the transcript here.
Don’t miss out on our other articles that go over important nutrition topics like Vegan sources of
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